Jerry Falwell, Jr., did the unthinkable at Liberty University’s student convocation on Saturday: He urged all of his Christian students to get guns so that they could take out any Muslims with guns.
“If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now …,” he said while being interrupted by louder cheers and clapping. “Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” he said, chuckling.
“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he says, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he said, “and killed them.”
“I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course,” he said. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”
A Christian leader, at one of the most influential evangelical colleges, told a basketball arena full of 18–22 year olds to get guns and carry them around in their back pockets in order to take on any radical Muslims that might make their way down to Lynchburg, Va.
Insane. Lord, have mercy.
We don’t need radicalized religious zealots to take up arms to take on other radicalized religious zealots with guns. What we need in this moment are people of good faith and good will to bridge their religious and political divides and work for the common good.
Islam is a religion of peace. That’s the very essence of the word Islam.
Christianity is a religion of peace. That’s the very essence of the man we know as Jesus who came to preach good news of peace and died for his peaceful, subversive teachings at the hands of an Empire and religious structure hell-bent on so-called redemptive violence. Jesus literally gave up and lost everything for a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Now, both Islam and Christianity can become horrible nightmare bastardizations of themselves when interpreted by wayward individuals, communities, and states that have no faith in the real movement of God in our time or for love and the common good.
No militarization. No concealed carry. No glory in a hail of more bullets.
And yet, people of faith too often give up on their faith and seek to take control in their own violent hands.
We’ve seen this with the tragic events at the hands of Daesh (ISIS) and their supporters and fanatics in recent months. We’ve seen this with the tragic events of our own country’s history, with its bastardized belief structure in a Christian story that allows for white hoods, burning crosses, and lynchings.
Radicalization is not an Islamic problem and it is not a Christian problem. It is a human problem that knows no boundaries, doctrinal barriers, or creedal absolutes.
We need leaders from all religious communities — and especially conservative Christian and Muslim communities — to ratchet down fearful rhetoric and deescalate any further call to stockpile arms and be ready to commit violence.
As a Christian pastor, I know full well the myriad of Bible verses that command us to seek the common good with whomever wants to roll up their sleeves and join in — religious or not.
But today I take inspiration from the Qu’ran, and its mandate to all peoples of the Book to do good.
"We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you. Had God willed, He would have made you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good." (Surat al-Ma’ida, 48)
May it be so, and may it begin with me.
This post originally appeared at Medium.