Members of the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary held a controversial ceremony in which worshippers renewed wedding vows while clutching AR-15 rifles. The incident was met with protesters who felt the ceremony was inappropriate given the AR-15 was used by the shooter in the recent Parkland school shooting, and a nearby school even canceled classes.
The church defended its decision, arguing the right to bear arms is a "right given to them by almighty God... to protect one another." But protesters argued the ceremony was "scaring people in the community."
The church, which has a worldwide following, believes the AR-15 symbolizes the "rod of iron" in the book of Revelation, and encouraged couples to bring the weapons. An AR-15 was used in the Florida high school massacre on Feb. 14.
The Rev. Sean Moon, who leads the church, prayed for "a kingdom of peace police and peace militia where the citizens, through the right given to them by almighty God to keep and bear arms, will be able to protect one another and protect human flourishing."
According to Pew, gun ownership is higher among white evangelicals than the general population.
The 41 percent of white evangelicals that own a gun surpasses the 33 percent of white mainliners, the 32 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.
White evangelicals are also twice as likely to belong to the NRA and are bigger proponents of gun-rights advocacy groups. The NRA often uses language implying the "God-given" right to bear arms, and other appeals specific to Christianity. To many, gun ownership is not only Christian, it is a central tenet of the faith. Christians believe the Second Amendment is approved by God, and it is a violent and corrupt society that is responsible for gun violence, not the guns themselves.
But many argue is it hypocritical for Christians—who purport to be nonviolent and pro-life—to be pro-gun. As Lisa Miller argues in The New York Times, it's difficult to imagine Jesus turning a blind eye to the thousands of innocent victims of gun violence every year. Given Christians' staunch anti-abortion stance in the name of protecting the unborn, shouldn't Christians be just as concerned about those who have already been born?
How do such Christians reconcile their stalwart commitment to the Second Amendment with their belief in a gospel that preaches nonviolence? The Christian Lord allowed himself to be crucified rather than fight the injustice of the death sentence imposed on him... The Bible is mute on the matter of guns, of course, but it is impossible to imagine that Jesus would find anything good to say about them.
Newtown saw 20 first-graders slaughtered at the hands of "a madman with an assault rifle," yet "59 percent of white evangelicals" continued to oppose stricter gun laws in the wake of the shooting. Miller states "Jesus identified with the weak, not the strong," so shouldn't Christians identify more with the victims of shootings than the rights of the shooter?
Jesus identified with the weak, not the strong; with the victims, not the shooters (or the people with the guns). More than 500 children were killed in accidental gun deaths in 2011. As the Rev. Gary Hall preached at Washington National Cathedral last week, “If we want to stand with Jesus and Martin Luther King, we’ve also got to stand with those who, like them, die by means of violence. . . . That may sound like a hard truth, but for a Christian, there’s no way around it.”
While Christians increasingly blame a secular, corrupt society for gun violence, cozying up to weapons of war at church just seems antithetical to fundamental Christian values.