I can understand a church’s desire to protect its’ people. We’ve seen far too many massacres at churches (or anywhere, for that matter). But, despite that reality, threatening more violence in reaction to violence doesn’t even remotely approach having anything to do with the teachings of the faith.
When relating the story of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemene, Matthew 26:52 tells us that when a disciple sought to defend Jesus from those arresting him:
…Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
Martin Luther King, Jr, rephrased it like this:
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
-from Martin Luther King Jr. (1967). Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?. p. 67.
Threatening to do violence to a stranger as a means of defending oneself, or ones’ church, violates the basic tenets of our faith, making it a lie, and cannot achieve the desired goal. This is magnified in the case of the notice I show here, from “The River at Tampa Bay Church”, which not only threatens violence, but does so within the context of being an important function of the church itself; and one it is determined to carry out.
…Violence begets the very thing it seeks to destroy: instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
You can murder the hater, but not the hate.
As Christians we are called to reduce violence and hate in this world, not increase it.
We are called to bring Peace, not Death, to our neighbors.
And, everyone EVERYONE is our neighbor – even gun toting men filled with hate and malice towards us and all we represent.
Stop the insanity. Being more capable of violence than your neighbor does not make you a good neighbor, and provides no benefit of any kind for you – or for your neighbor.
Put your sword away and let the stars come out again; that our emptiness may be filled, our fear banished, and that we may have peace again.
Copyright (c) 2017, Allen Vander Meulen III.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.