President Obama speaks from the Oval Office during prime time, seeking to calm a jittery nation following terrorist attacks abroad and in California. I questioned the wisdom of devoting so much of a speech on national security to domestic relations with our own Muslim neighbors …until this morning I watched Jerry Falwell, Jr., President of Liberty University, urging his students to apply for conceal-and-carry permits so that they could “end those Muslims.”
The media describe Liberty University as “a leading evangelical Christian college” in Virginia. It’s not. It’s a poor excuse for a university or college, a right-wing fundamentalist school led by the son of Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, an arch-conservative fundamentalist religious-political movement to take back the country from liberals… you know…people like Jimmy Carter.
Three days after telling his students to buy guns and on the eve of President Obama’s Sunday evening address to the nation, Falwell tweeted that his reference to “those Muslims” was meant only for those Muslims who commit acts of terror. But Jerry, Jr. is not stupid. The deafening applause from the Liberty auditorium was still ringing in his ears.
President Obama and President Falwell both know we are shivering. Only the non-preacher President represented the spirit and ancient counsel of Baruch: “Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God” [Baruch 5:1-9; 2nd Century BCE].
We can freeze ourselves to death wearing living in the garment of sorrow, affliction, and fear. Or we can take it off to put on the warm garment of beauty – the glory of God shining in mutual consolation, hope, and steadfast determination to live in peace with our neighbors.
If you can imagine Jesus telling his students (disciples) to apply for conceal-and-carry permits, pack some heat, and put an end to anyone, you’re making that Jesus up. You don’t get to make Jesus up in your own image.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong. If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends. So you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” – Jesus, Sermon on the Mount, Gospel According to Matthew 5:43-48, NCB.
- Gordon C. Stewart, Presbyterian minister, would-be disciple of Jesus, Chaska, MN, Dec. 7, 2015