Behaving Badly

I confess: I live in the country and drive a lot. I know that’s a sin against the environment. But my real guilty secret is that while doing all that driving, I sometimes listen to the local Christian talk radio station to check out what a large percentage of my neighbors are hearing.

One day early this year I heard something new. It was an advertisement for a gun dealership and shooting range, and the announcer’s voice was a fairly decent impersonation of our recently inaugurated president. The gist of the message was that he—the faux president—intended to outlaw firearms soon, so you’d better stock up on assault rifles and ammo while the getting was good.

A few months later, an evangelical Christian church in the same metro area decided to honor Independence Day by hosting an “Open Carry Celebration.” This “bring your gun to church” day, held on a Saturday, was not billed as a worship service. Still, the imagery of a church filled with pistol-packing parishioners was disturbing.

But not nearly as disturbing as the image that emerged this summer of an Arizona citizen with an assault rifle strapped to his back outside a hall in which the president of the United States was speaking. Or of the guy in New Hampshire who, again outside a presidential appearance, held a sign saying, “It is Time to Water the Tree of Liberty!” and had a large pistol strapped to his hip. The sign was, of course, a reference to Thomas Jefferson’s statement that, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” In saner times that could have been interpreted as an actionable assassination threat.

Also this summer, public opinion poll data came out showing that a majority of Southerners and nationwide Republicans answered “no” or “not sure” when asked if Barack Obama was born in the U.S.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2010
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