Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

Bible and Rifle Church

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636e879250e927f1435cd14775ae1e93An old sign on a country road in the middle of Kansas reads “Bible and Rifle Church” and that’s why I think the church should stay out of politics.

But Beecher’s Bible and Rifle Church in Wabaunsee Kansas is not what it sounds like. Not exactly, anyway. What makes Beecher’s Bible and Rifle Church different is that it is not making a statement by that. They aren’t rednecks and damn proud of it by design. They happen to be rednecks, but that name is actually a badge of progressivism.

You see, back before the civil war Kansas was poised to be the newest state, and It’s addition would break the tie that was upheld in the Missouri compromise finally deciding whether the nation had a majority of slave-states or free states. It all depended on what kind of state Kansas decided to be, and that depended on who moved there.

Suddenly Kansas was flooded with jayhawkers and bushwhackers all trying to settle the land in greater numbers than their political opponents. Each side saw the other as the embodiment of moral evil and was greatly concerned about the numbers possessed by the other. They settled in towns according to their allegiance and conspired against one another. This led to no small amount of raiding and eventually, killing. This is how the bloodiest war in American history began.

Wabaunsee was a free town, settled by progressives who made great personal sacrifices to try and ensure the country would not make the wrong decision. They were small and underpowered, they were settlers not a militia, they were in danger, they needed Guns! But there was no way boxes of rifles for Wabaunsee Kansas were going to be allowed through slave territories unmolested, so the enterprising Jayhawks came up with a plan.

ed563ad7b72549cf80b9c63d1ed6768dInspired by Reverend Beecher, they began to receive guns in crates labeled “Beecher’s Bibles” which then then proceeded to use to kill the other settlers. Yaaaay!

That model rifle became popularly known as a Beecher’s Bible throughout the civil war and Beecher’s side went on to win, so a church was erected in commemoration of the place where it all began. A reminder of the Christian call to take up arms instead of Bibles and shoot to kill the people who you feel are immoral.

No, I’m not exaggerating, here is a quote.

"He believed that the Sharps Rifle was a truly moral agency, and that there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles”

Over time the Kansas territory became more and more conservative, but Kansans still love their Bibles and their guns, and send many of their young people overseas to use them on our nations enemies. So the Bible and Rifle church continues to represent standing up for what you (politically) believe in using violence, under the banner of Jesus.

But if they had been reading a Non-Beecher’s Bible they would have seen Jesus say “"You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

There is something that makes me deeply uncomfortable with the Beecher’s Bible ideology. It isn’t that it is to liberal or too conservative, it’s both and neither one is the problem. The problem is that it is wrong. Morally wrong. Theologically wrong.

shutterstock_141375874-638x425Further, it isn’t just the killing. The killing makes the point stand out enough to make me notice it, but it would be just as bad if Beecher thought we should put down our Bibles for knives or wet willies or pink slips. It is about trading in the truth of God for something else.

That’s the problem with theologizing your politics. You make an idol of Christ, and you make an enemy of your neighbor. You love none of them authentically.

I fear when I say that I think the church should stay our of politics people think I am making a statement of neutrality, as if the sides are tied. Or ambivalence, as if I don’t know or care. Or perhaps they think I am speaking practically, and afraid to scare away potential members by supporting what is morally right. But I just don’t think pastors should encourage parishioners to put down their Bibles and pick up their rifles. Ever.

I think Jesus offers a way that is wholly different from the dehumanizing political contest. A way that confronts evil directly, but not destructively. A way that loves instead of legislates, that inspires instead of incarcerating. A way that dies rather than kills, but never dies and lives eternally.


Written by RyanGaffney

April 29, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Insert [neutral comment that will most ruffle your feathers, which you can best choose to interpret about being something other than the clearly stated point, and allow you to ask a series of questions you’re not interested in having answered] here.


    April 30, 2015 at 6:10 pm

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