This week, a friend sent me a link to a video from Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas titled "Taking the Hill." I thought it might be a political video encouraging conservative Christians to go to Washington to lobby against health care or some such thing. Actually, it was much worse. "Taking the Hill" is a bizarre call to evangelize depicting Christians as "soldiers" in a war for souls under their "real" commander-in-chief, Jesus. It reveals almost pornographic-religious obsession with guns and violence that should be deeply disturbing for any faith community.
The "Taking the Hill" campaign was launched last month at the seminary. According the September 17 edition of The Baptist Press, President Paige Patterson kicked off the project:
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--Dressed in camouflage and stationed as the gunner in a Chenowth Desert Fast Attack Vehicle, Paige Patterson stormed onto the chapel stage.?? After firing a round of blanks from a .50-caliber Browning machine gun, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's president took his place behind the pulpit and initiated operation "Taking the Hill."
... Patterson lifted his Bible, pointing out that God has armed believers with His Word, along with prayer and proclamation. Then, reading 2 Corinthians 5, he urged believers to testify to the Gospel of Christ, reminding them of Paul's motivation: the "terror of the Lord," the righteous judge of all men and women, and the "love of Christ," who died to save all who believe.
... Lifting his left hand, Patterson saw that it was covered with blood -- the blood of a woman who died without hearing the Gospel although she lived less than a mile from the seminary. His right hand was covered with the blood of a man who took his own life because Patterson did not witness to him at God's prompting.
I know that it is a free country, and that we have both religious freedom and certain rights to own guns. But when these two rights interweave -- as they are doing -- it is dangerous to both church and state. Any church that advances such a crusading and violent vision is far from its founder's vision, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for theirs is the Kingdom of God." And the state that fails to understand that people with guns who believe that God has armed them are dangerous isn't serving the good of a peaceable society.
Although weapons and religion may have been natural partners in the Middle Ages or on the American frontier, isn't it time to recognize that we live in the twenty-first century? Guns and grace don't go together. Shouldn't true religion -- genuinely transformative faith -- call God's people away from violence and toward passionate peacemaking?
Diana Butler Bass is pretty much a postmodern progressive. In addition to blogging here, she also blogs at Progressive Revival and is the author of the new book, A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story.