When Do You Stand Your Ground?

By Mark RodgersEarlier this month another senseless school shooting stole the future from young lives.  The political responses to the mass shooting in Oregon ranged from the Lt. Governor of Tennessee calling on “serious” Christians to arm themselves, to President Obama pressing again for the enactment of his gun control agenda.oregon_picWhether the gunman singled out Christians, or simply inquired into their faith, one thing is certain -- many of them stood their ground.  Gun-related violence is on the rise in the U.S and religious persecution is on the rise throughout the world, especially in the Middle East.  In fact, some observers believe that there have been more religious martyrs in recent years than ever before in history.Whether and when to respond to violence with violence has been a vexing issue for Christians since Peter used his sword in the garden to defend Jesus, who in response healed the wounded soldier and told Peter to “put your sword back in its place...for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”  It may not be a surprise that Jesus healed and avoided physical confrontation with his captors, but it is a surprise that his disciples “packed” and it doesn’t appear that Jesus told them not to.I have written about the film Silence that we have helped produce that deals with the Christian response to persecution in 17th century Japan.  The film doesn’t release until fall of 2016, but another film we are supporting releases this week.silenceThe Armor of Light is a documentary directed and produced by Abigail Disney, the daughter of Roy Disney, Jr., about my friend The Rev. Rob Shenck as he personally and pastorally and explores the “dialogue” between the Second Commandment and the Second Amendment.  His attention is on Biblical principles rather than public policy, although Stand Your Ground (which, some argue has replaced one's duty to retreat) is implicated in the story as told.Rob confronts his own lack of reflection as a pastor on the limits and uses of violence, and his conclusions are nuanced and needed.  But sadly our nation doesn't have the patience for nuance, and the response from our friends has not been entirely unexpected even though neither of us has called for more gun control.One story Rob tells is of a pastor who conceal carries when he preaches, and told Rob that if someone threatens him during a sermon he would “take him down.”  And WWJD?One of Rob’s conclusions is that Christians are too driven in our culture by fear, and that not only is fear not a Christian virtue but in fact can be a vice.  This is the same conclusion that Marliynne Robinson came to in her recent New York Times article on the violence in our culture and the Christian response. guns01We are helping Abigail and Rob because the Evangelical community needs a more serious conversation about gun violence than has been permitted in the past.I am not a pacifist.  There are times that violence is needed to restrain evil.  But I like to think that if needed, I might be like Batman, who eschews lethal response whenever possible, and in fact has only been portrayed as using a gun seven times in comic history.As we remember the Oregon victims, many of whom were asked about their faith and were willing to confess it before being killed, let us remember that thousands of people who we will never know their names who have done the same. And let us pray for the thousands more who be facing the decision of how to respond to violence that may result in their ultimate sacrifice.  image via BBC