Who Would Jesus Shoot?


Hello, Friend. It's Tribe Tuesday.

I'm present to my sadness, my anger, my frustration, my cynicism, my hope, my ache, and my prayers around gun violence, and violence in general. 

In a Facebook post with his usual brilliance, my friend, Vincent, posited: 

"The Christian response to bearing arms should be this question; If Jesus had a gun, who would he shoot? If your answer is anything remotely like governments or terrorists or criminals, then you clearly did not read the gospels." 

Now, I'm not here to defend the inerrancy of Scripture or strongarm you into being a Christian, because the invitation, in my mind, extends to humanity. So journey with me, if you dare, as I examine this question, myself, and the questions around this question. This is not the full, comprehensive conversation, but a rupture, a beginning. 

With that in mind...


Let’s examine some of the words ascribed to Jesus, shall we?

“Those who live by the sword die by the sword.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Enough of this!” (said after one of Jesus’ disciples cuts off an ear of an attacker).

All of this tells me, from a merely surface-level reading of the canonical gospels, that Jesus was not “pro-gun.” It seems to me, in fact, that though the words of this 1st century rabbi far precede the enlightenment, democracy, and the Second Amendment, that a fair and modern application of these ideas does not reinforce packing heat, but suggests a radical relinquishment of the things (such as tools for violence) that protect us from (or rather, help us cope with) fear.

I am still radically inspired by the words, the life, the message(s) of Jesus. This is something that many of my Christian friends have not understood. Because so much of what modern Imperial Christianity says is directly contrary to the gospels (and much of the apostle Paul, more on this another time), the messages of disruptive peacemaking, social engagement, anarchy, trans-tribal community, and subversion of allegiance to the powers of this world are distorted, ignored, and made to be about how you can “save your soul” and “watch the world go to hell in a handbasket.” These voices are quick to point out that there will always be violence (in other words, they don’t trust their founding teacher about an alternative ethic of Kingdom), that people need guns to protect other people and to promote law and order (I wonder, what does a man who died as a heretic and a criminal have to say about law and order?), and that peacemaking REALLY looks like “peace-keeping,” (meaning the police, responsible arm-bearers, and the military are enforcing a status quo that is to be desired).

To echo Jesus, “ENOUGH OF THIS.”

O, that I would be totally fed up with my violent appetites, that WE would collectively address the propensity towards isolation, division, fear, and oppression. O, that we would hear the rupturing invitation of Jesus to a barefoot way to live, take the invitation of ahimsa and dare to imagine a world (meaning the human systems and structures) that are mindful of other, cooperative and collaborative, dynamic, responsible and responsive, caring for the thriving of our whole planet and all peoples not just those who look like us. O, that we would beat our swords into plowshares, that we would dare to dream and do differently. O, that we would move from the justification of our fears into the feeling and dissolution of them.

I used to think that I could appeal to Christians with the words of Jesus, but now, I recognize that those who hear the invitation to peace, to presence, to dropping their sidearm and risking a cross…. Many (if not MOST) of those people are not within the walls of Christendom, and they may not even name Jesus as an inspiration, but the way they relate to God/Source/Other/themselves and the way they inhabit the world invites something beautiful, something disarming, something dislocating and yet grounding at the same time.


I would appeal to you, Friend and Fellow Human, to drop your allegiance to the flag, but I recognize that we all play the game of “serving two masters” in our own way, and you are free to continue that game with your guns, your politics, your allegiance, your citizenship and privilege of this world and your desire to keep it that way (as I do in my own). 

The very stories that were, I believe, written to incite insurrection and connection are instead the source texts of imperialism, of self-justification, and condemnation.

Who would Jesus shoot? No one.

And that’s frustrating.

Part of the gap between Palm Sunday and Good Friday is that Jesus doesn’t meet our superhero expecations and meet out justice like the “justice league.” The violence we want to see happen to THOSE PEOPLE doesn’t come, doesn’t happen, and the teacher has the audacity to hit on all of our sore spots while inviting us to consider and inhabit differently. Then he dies. He failed to deliever on the expecation of deliverance. Just like most of our saviors, our politicians, our isms, our programs and structures. “You either die the hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Jesus was villainized and died as no hero, a mocked king, our dashed hopes, and so we clung to the status quo. We resisted our potentiality for beauty and subversive goodness and instead clung to our propensity for joining hands with others around those we have murdered. Scapegoating brings us together, and gives us a sense of power and order. Jesus exposes our violence, our self-justification and how our own enslavement is built into the systems and structures we co-create that enslave others. We don’t want to see this. We want Jesus to be a just (and Superhero) king, saving us and destroying the world, bringing the ultimate VIOLENT end to the world and quenching our own appetite for destruction, while letting us keep our unevolved ways of being in the world.

Who would Jesus shoot?

No one, yet the sword has pierced my heart, has it pierced yours also?

The sense of loss: the loss of stability and ultimate order. The loss of attachments. The loss of a clear actionable plan that we superimpose from the top-down. The fallout of not being in control, not having the right answers, and my even using non-violent philosophy as an attachment that can get me off the hook of my complicity and culpability.

At best, I have a hope. A possibility. A trajectory. For thriving, for generous sharing, participation, enoughness and abundance that is holistic and embodied by each and all.

The hope that love wins, that love engenders love and love and love. That no other means will reach the end, and yet, that our fluffy and comfortable idealizing of love fall short of this dynamically and holistically embodied way of being.

This isn’t just about “gun control.” This is about opening our hands, our hearts, exposing ourselves and allowing our bodies to experience risk, and examining our relationship to power and how that has contributed to the suffering of others (and ourselves).

“In short, the problem is this: far too few who believe in the risen Christ actually believe in his revolutionary ideas. There is a sense in which we create religion as a category to keep Jesus from meddling with our cherished ideas about nationalism, freedom, and war.”

Brian Zahnd, A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

Who would Jesus shoot?

May we take the revolutionary ideas of Jesus seriously, whatever our stripe and affiliation, to move from fearing and possessing one another to living freely and generously in humble love.

May we go and [be and] do likewise.