Shadows are gathering, or, a queer ex-evangelical talks about the guns & god crowd
First, big news today out of New York: New York attorney general seeks to dissolve NRA in suit accusing gun rights group of wide-ranging fraud and self-dealing .
The chief executive of the National Rifle Association and several top lieutenants engaged in a decades-long pattern of fraud to raid the coffers of the powerful gun rights group for personal gain, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the New York attorney general, draining $64 million from the nonprofit in just three years.
In her lawsuit, Attorney General Letitia James called for the dissolution of the NRA and the removal of CEO Wayne LaPierre from the leadership post he has held for the past 39 years, saying he and others used the group’s funds to finance a luxury lifestyle.
She also asked a New York court to force LaPierre and three key deputies to repay NRA members for the ill-gotten funds and inflated salaries that her investigation found they took.
Lots of headlines are going to focus on the ‘dissolve the NRA’ part, but note that if she proves the executives in question of unlawfully pilfered the NRAs coffers for personal gain and gets any of it back, it will go to the contributors who will be free to use it to immediately form a new organization if they want.
But because I have already seen some people distort and over-react to this news story, I realized this was a good opportunity to finish and post about a related topic: How is it that people who claim to follow the Prince of Peace are so enamored with guns and unwilling to take any reasonable efforts to stop mass shootings in schools.
Before we get to the meat of the answer, one digression: the phrase “God, guns, and gays” is frequently (and falsely) attributed to various Democratic politicians as a disparaging description of the values of conservatives. Wrong. It actually came from the 1994 campaign of Republican Senator Jim Inhofe. He didn’t mean it disparagingly. It repeated the phrase again and again to enflame the fears of his Oklahoma constituents that the libruhls were going to take away their guns, outlaw their religion, and force them to live next to and work with gay people—all so they would ignore the economic and environmental polices of the Republicans that were destroying their livelihoods. And it’s the same kind of reasoning that has Trump claiming the Biden is going to “hurt the Bible.”
But back to the guns and why a certain type of Bible-thumper thirsts for weapons that can massacre dozens of people in short periods of time.
An important component of the evangelical fundamentalist self-identity is being under siege. In their worldview they are constantly under attack from the forces of evil in the form of depraved sinful people (who they generally define as anyone who doesn’t believe exactly as they do). Even they have control of an entire political party and often the entire government of their home state, they see themselves as the victims or a vast and powerful empire of evil. An empire they believe will eventually literally take over the world under the leadership of the anti-Christ. They interpret several verses of the Bible as a specific call to arms for them to resist that looming evil.
And because they insist that every word in the Bible is literally factual and also the inerrant word of god, those cherry-picked verses mean they believe it is their duty to be prepared to literally go to war.
Then there’s the eternity issue. Because they see our mundane mortal life as nothing but an entrance exam to try to qualify for an eternity in heaven, they don’t see suffering and death in this world as being anything more than a test. This gets further complicated because many of them also adhere to one of the variants of the Just World Fallacy. Because god controls the world, see, bad things happen to people either because they are being punished by god, or because they are being tested by god. I’ve written previously that one aspect of this before that often plays out as, “Bad things happen to you because you’re bad. Bad things happen to me because god is testing me.”
This contradicts their other belief that the devil is alive and well and causing a lot of evil, but that doesn’t bother them, because it just gives them another reason to rationalize their decisions about which things to take action about, and which to just let happen. “Bad things are happening to some people I care about because the forces of evil are attacking us,” or “This bad thing has happened to me and/or people I care about because other people under the influence of evil are causing it.”
Besides, all the deserving people who die are just going to heaven, so if they happen to have been hurried along because someone which a semi-automatic rifle shot up their school, it’s not really a tragedy. True, some of the teachers and kids might be godless atheists or otherwise bound for hell, and that is sad, but it’s really their own fault for not inviting Jesus into their heart before someone decided to massacre half the school.
Some of them will even come out and say it!
They ultimate truth, as far as they are concerned, is that all the right-thinking “good” people will get to spend eternity in mansions in heaven built especially for them by Christ himself. And this imperfect world is eventually going to be destroyed in that great and glorious war, which they may get to fight in, and if they have stockpiled enough weapons so that they can kill more of the unrighteous people than anyone else, maybe god will give them a special medal. Or a better mansion.
None of that is official theology of any of the denominations I’ve familiar with, and most of them won’t say all of that bluntly out loud, but it’s what many of them believe.
So to sum up, in their minds Jesus is the Prince of Peace only in the sense that there will be peace for eternity for those who are in heaven, after all the rest of humanity is purged and thrown into hell. And the sooner that war to end the world happens and they all get their to the heavenly reward, the better.
(Part of the title of this post comes from the hymn, “Softly and Tenderly (Jesus is Calling),” by William L. Thompson. It was hymn number 236 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal. The lyric occurs in verse three, “Shadows are gathering, Deathbeds are coming. Coming for you and for me.”)