Liberty University, the nation’s largest Christian university, has recently announced that it has at least a million dollars to blow.
As people who profess to follow Jesus and teach young men and women to do the same, one would expect having an extra million dollars to spend could be put to some good causes that Jesus highlighted. For example, in Matthew 25 Jesus said that he would eternally condemn those Christians who professed Christianity in word, but did not welcome immigrants, feed the hungry, or clothe the naked.
That seems like a really good starting point to me.
But alas, no. Liberty University will be spending that extra million bucks on… a shooting range.
The University recently updated their policy so that their young students– students whose prefrontal cortexes (the part of the brain needed for complex problem solving) won’t finish developing for a few years– can now carry concealed weapons, even in their dorms. It goes to figure then, that these gun slinging Jesus-followers would need a shooting range to practice.
Thus, Liberty will be shelling out some big bucks to make it all happen, as they recently announced the construction of their 13,000 square foot shooting range.
The move behind this development is pretty straight forward: Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr has stated that he doesn’t want the school to be a gun free zone since that’s what terrorists look for (not true), and has stated that he doesn’t want Liberty to be a place where people don’t fight back.
Which is really interesting because of… well, Jesus.
You see, Jesus lived under a horrible military occupation where people were routinely nailed to trees and left to rot on the side of the road. Everywhere he went, there would have been signs of the violent culture he lived in– signs of oppression, threats of violence, and death.
And yet– here’s where it gets really funny: Jesus didn’t teach people to fight back with violence. In fact, he taught the opposite.
In Matthew 5 Jesus specifically taught his followers that when they are accosted by an “evildoer” that they were not to respond with “violence in kind.” Instead, Jesus said that his followers must love their enemies, that they are to do good to them, and even serve them. This, Jesus said, was the evidence that one was a “child of your father in heaven.”
Instead of teaching these young Christians at Liberty University that the way of Jesus is the way of radical, self-sacrificial enemy love, the leadership of Liberty University is both encouraging and training them to specifically not obey Jesus in this area of their lives. Kinda reminds me of how Jesus said such people would be considered “least in the Kingdom of Heaven” but I digress.
Every time I see a story like this from within American Christianity, I can’t help but see the irony. Gun-slinging Christians like Falwell are often first to point to LGBTQ affirming Christians as being “compromised” and people who have caved to shifting cultural norms instead of sticking to the truth of the Bible.
By encouraging and training these young Christians to gun down their enemies instead of loving them, all while accusing other Christians of compromising the authority of Scripture, is a classic case of pointing a finger only to have four pointing back at you.
Jesus quite explicitly taught his followers to love their enemies. He specifically condemned responding to violence with violence on more than one occasion. Furthermore, he lived a life of nonviolent enemy love– and the book of 1 John reminds us that the only true evidence that we are God’s people is if we model our lives after the behavioral example of Jesus himself.
But Liberty University, and so many Christians in America, have abandoned the call of Jesus. They have dismissed his teachings regarding enemy love as being too costly to obey, and to insane to be true.
They trade the teachings of Jesus for the idolatrous, false-security of having a gun in their back pocket.
And so, they claim to love Jesus with their lips, but express utter contempt for what Jesus actually taught.
May the continuing developments at Liberty University remind us that there are two types of Christianity: one being a religion that is rooted in following the teachings of Jesus, and one being a secular, nationalistic religion that simply uses the name “Christianity.”
Spending a million dollars on a gun range when Virginia’s homeless population is largely found right outside the doors of Liberty University, shows us which religion Liberty is actually promoting.