Falwell’s remarks about guns, 'Muslims' spark debate
    December 8 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

    It was a volatile spark for the nation’s gun control debate: Jerry Falwell Jr. revealed he carries a concealed weapon, and urged students (age 21 and up) to do the same at Liberty University, where he is president. Falwell referenced “Muslims” and the terrorist attack that left 14 people dead in San Bernardino, Calif.
     
    “Let’s teach ‘em a lesson if they ever show up here,” Falwell said during convocation at the Virginia university Friday, two days after the horrific shooting Dec. 2 at a San Bernardo center for developmentally disabled people.
     
    Falwell’s remarks were reported by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News, CNN and an array of media across the country. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe called Falwell’s comments “rash and repugnant.” People in leadership positions, “whether in government or education, must take care to remember the tremendous harm that can result from reckless words,” McAuliffe said, according to media reports.
     
    But Falwell was speaking biblically, a Liberty professor wrote in a commentary on the university’s news website.
     
    “It is sometimes claimed that Jesus never told his followers to arm themselves, but that is patently untrue,” Daniel Howell, professor of biology and one of the administrators in the department, wrote.

     
    12-8-15falwell.jpg

    Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, encourages students to get concealed-carry permits in Dec. 4 convocation comments.

    “In Luke 22:36, Jesus told his disciples to buy themselves swords even if they had to sell their cloaks to afford them,” Howell wrote. “Of course, the sword was the ‘arms’ of their day, as the gun is for us today. The disciples possessed two swords and Peter used one of them to injure a man when Jesus was being arrested. Jesus rebukes Peter and this is offered as proof that Christians should not use weapons (despite the fact that Jesus just told them to acquire them).
     
    “However, Peter was rebuked not for using a sword in self-defense but for interfering with God’s plan of redemption,” Howell wrote. “We know this because Jesus said it plainly: ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’ (John 18:11).”
     
    Part of Falwell’s brief convocation comments never made it from the Lynchburg, Va., campus to the news wires, when he spoke of Liberty University reaching out to help the family of Mike Madden, the courageous police lieutenant who rushed from a lunch break and was first on the scene, and Michael Wetzel, one of the 14 fatalities and father of six children.
     
    Then Falwell referenced the nation’s gun debate.
     
    “It just blows my mind when I see the president of the United States say that the answer to circumstances like that is more gun control. I mean, if some of those people in that community center had had what I got in my back pocket right now,” he said, gesturing the pulling out of his .25-caliber handgun, and quipping, “Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” to spontaneous applause across the audience.
     
    Falwell then stated, “I’ve always thought if more good people had conceal-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walk in and kill us.” More applause. “I just want to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course. Let’s teach ‘em a lesson if they ever show up here.” More applause.
     
    A university news story added a qualifier that Falwell had issued to the media and on social media – “that when he referred to ‘those Muslims,’ he was referring to Islamic terrorists, specifically those behind the attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino.”
     
    Falwell, speaking to the Associated Press the next day, referenced the 2007 mass shooting of 32 people at Virginia Tech, also in the southwest part of the state. “What if just one of those students or one of those faculty members had a concealed permit and was carrying a weapon when the shooter walked into Virginia Tech?” he asked. “Countless lives could have been saved.”
     
    Liberty University policy was revised in 2013 to allow faculty, staff, visitors and students age 21 and up to above to carry firearms with a concealed-weapon permit on campus, including classrooms but not residence halls.
     
    The free four-hour gun permit class Falwell referenced in his convocation remarks is taught by Liberty University’s police department. More than 100 students called to sign up for the class after the convocation, Falwell told The News & Advance local newspaper.
     
    Falwell, 53, is the son of the late Jerry Falwell, who founded Liberty University in 1971 and, earlier, Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg and the “Old Time Gospel Hour” TV and radio broadcast. Jerry Falwell Jr. became Liberty’s president after his father’s death in 2007.
     
    Liberty University is one of the ministry partners of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia state Baptist convention. According to Liberty’s website, 14,500 students are enrolled on campus with 95,000-plus students online.
     
    The San Bernardo shootings were executed by Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, both in their late 20s with a six-month-old daughter, who were subsequently killed by police in a street gunfight. The couple is now being investigated for how they were radicalized to commit the massacre. Farook was an environmental health specialist with the San Bernardino County health department. The couple’s attack of 65 to 75 rounds from an assault rifle occurred at a holiday party for county employees around 11 a.m. Dec. 2.
     
    Howell, the Liberty biology professor, had noted in his commentary, “Christian antagonists often use Scriptural misinterpretations to lambast self-defense in general and gun ownership in particular. When unbelievers in his time tried to ensnare Jesus with his own teachings, Jesus replied, ‘You are mistaken because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God.’ I believe the same can be said today of Christians and non-Christians alike who misuse scripture to deride self (and national) defense.
     
    “Unbelievers and others lacking knowledge about the true character of God sometimes refer to Christ’s moniker as the Prince of Peace to conclude Christianity must be a wimpy, defenseless teaching,” Howell wrote. “Of course, this is one of many titles for Jesus, another being the Lion of Judah.”
     
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

    12/8/2015 11:24:19 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 2 comments
    Filed under: gun control, Islam, Jerry Falwell Jr.




Comments
Mark Corbett
I am planning to send our daughter to Liberty next year. I felt uncomfortable when I saw the news stories about Jerry Falwell, Jr, President of Liberty University, encouraging students to get concealed weapon permits so they can carry guns and help stop any potential attacks on campus. I later watched the video of him speaking, and it did not ease my discomfort.

I actually agree that good people having legal concealed weapons could help stop terrorist attacks. That is not the problem.

The minor concern I have is that asking young people, who are still maturing, to carry guns is a bit risky. But that’s a relatively minor concern.

My bigger concern is that Falwell’s short remarks taken by themselves, as seen in the video and as reported widely in the news, present a very unbalanced and distorted view of the Biblical response Christians should have to Muslims, including those who are terrorists.

It is true that Jesus told the disciples to get swords the night before His crucifixion, and that His intent may have been to allow the disciples to defend themselves so that they would not be taken or harmed along with Him. But this needs to be balanced with the fact that there is not a single positive example in the New Testament of a believer using force of any kind to defend themselves. I’m not saying it is not allowed, just that it is not what God emphasizes.

What does God emphasize? Sacrificial love. Loving our enemies. Even those who persecute us.

I would much rather the news have picked up a story about Christians being encouraged to love their Muslim neighbors at this time. To not withdraw from them. To be kind to them. Most of them are not terrorists. But some are. And the Bible teaches that we should be willing to face danger and even death in order to share the love of Christ with them. This includes loving those who live here in the US. And it includes sending our sons and daughters around the world to love people in dangerous places, knowing that some of our sons and daughters will not come home.

I suspect that Falwell would agree with all that I have written. But from the news stories and the short video clip, the impression is given that Falwell believes our main responsibility as Christians is to “shoot them before they shoot us”. I don’t believe that is what Liberty teaches and I know that is not what the Bible teaches.
12/9/2015 5:12:03 PM

Johnny Childers
Professor Howell twists the scripture. Jesus told the disciples to acquire swords in order to fulfill the prophecy that "He will be counted among the transgressions" and to give the Romans reason to arrest him as an obstructionist. Howell is clearly proofreading.
12/9/2015 11:39:38 AM

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