Christian Nationalists and the Holy Gun Crusade
Following each mass shooting in this country we have a brief moment where we talk about guns in use and the need for gun control. And then quickly the gun lobby, conservative politicians, Second Amendment absolutists and the like find every other conceivable thing to focus on, starting with “thoughts and prayersand move on to hardening school buildings. The mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where the shooter used an AR-15 type weapon he purchased from the Daniel Defense arms company, followed the same pattern.—but with a recognition that love of the AR-15-style weapon is not just about “freedom” or Second Amendment absolutism. It is also about Christian nationalism.
Daniel Défense had, on May 16, posted a now-deleted Tweet announcing the same type of weapon that the shooter from Uvalde had purchased:
This is a screenshot of a now-hidden tweet from Daniel Defence, the maker of the assault rifle the Uvalde shooter used during his massacre at Robb Elementary.
He uses the photo of a small child and a Bible verse to sell weapons of war. pic.twitter.com/2CmckN4A6X
—Ashton Pittman (@ashtonpittman) May 27, 2022
The line used is Proverbs 22:6, and this phenomenon, the use of biblical passages to sell guns with an explicitly Christian context, is widespread in the United States. And it shouldn’t be surprising—as Brad Stoddard writes here on RD“AR-15s are also increasingly the firearm of choice for Christian gun owners arming themselves – in their minds, at least – to defend themselves against both tyranny and evil. And from there, that AR-15 love goes to all sorts of places.
One of these contexts is apocalyptic. The Iron Rod Ministriesan offshoot of the Unification Church who believe the AR-15 to be the Iron Staff of Revelations, uses them in liturgical ceremonies, and their founder, Pastor Sean Moon, put it on their flag and keeps a gold plate on his desk when he preaches his doomsday QAnon-influenced sermons. While they’re the most high-profile group to do so, they’re certainly not the only ones. Retired Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin made headlines in 2014 for saying that:
The Lord is a warrior and in Revelation 19 it says that when he returns, what does he return? A warrior. A mighty warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a white robe stained with blood… I believe the blood on this robe is the blood of his enemies because he returns as a warrior carrying a sword.
He added to this claim that the sword in question was the AR-15 and that the Second Amendment as a concept came from Jesus. It’s not just a church, and if the idea still seems marginal – thankfully – then we should look at the most common idea: the gun as a religious weapon.
While Daniel Defense sells its weapons using Bible verses, other companies have a much closer affiliation. A Florida gunsmith, Spike’s Tactical, manufactures an AR-15 style rifle they call the “Crusader”. The name is chosen deliberately and carefully, and the company knows exactly what it is selling. As their website says:
Spike’s Tactical has created a reliable and balanced rifle that would provide a great combat rifle for people of all abilities and resources. Every man’s battle rifle.
We named it Crusader and engraved Psalm 144:1 on the lower receiver to raise the flag of our faith and make a statement, reminding our customers that we are with you. The war is here. We have a duty to defend our homeland and our way of life.
Is the war here? Psalm 144:1, separated from any other context and stamped on this gun, reads:
“Praise be to the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for battle. He is my God of love and my fortress, my fortress and my liberator, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues the peoples under me.
It’s getting worse.
The rifle-who is popular with the far right– features a Templar shield logo engraved opposite the Psalm, and has three settings, presumably safety, single fire and semi-automatic, but named, “Pax Pacis, Bellum and Deus Vult”, or “Peace, war and God wills it”, the battle cry of the first crusade popular with contemporary white supremacists. And as a corporate spokesperson said in 2015“This ensures that no Muslim terrorist will ever pick up this weapon and use it to harm another person. This is actually my favorite part of the rifle.
This, of course, is nonsense –Muslims are not vampiresJesus is a prophet in Islam, Bible verses do not burn people on contact– but this idea, that this weapon, named after the holy wars waged by Catholics against Muslims, Jews, “pagans” and other Christians from 1096 until they finally ended in 1798is both a weapon for Christians to “raise the flag of our faith and make a statement” and apparently anti-Muslim kryptonite – it’s a whole mess of Islamophobic Christian nationalist ideas in one weapon.
It’s not unique, and that’s the saddest part. There is a gun store that chose the name “Templar Rifle Company.” Hodgdon Powder Company Mission Statement begin, “Hodgdon Powder Company operates on biblical principles to honor God.” Etsy has a full page of bullet rosaries—yes, rosaries made of bullets—described in Patheos as “the rosary of the ultimate spiritual weapon”.
And then there are the big moments, like the Trijicon ACOG scandal, where the company inscribed New Testament verses on all of its sights sold to the US military for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. The company’s website say again“We believe America is great when its people are good. This kindness has been based on biblical standards throughout our history and we will strive to follow these moral values..” This idea is everywhere – guns and God, hand in hand.
This is however not insignificant. This is the level of Christian nationalism that the United States has deemed acceptable and normal in the firearms industry. But it’s not a slippery slope, it’s a direct path from these kinds of ideas – sacred weapons, anti-Muslim verses added on weapons, prayers on bullets – to the violent language scrawled all over the guns of the Christchurch shooter. We are already on this path when the former president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., post pics of him holding a firearm that not only features After images of crusaders but an image of Hillary Clinton in prison in the magazine.
The link between Christian nationalism and political violence is already clear—we have already had an insurrection aimed at preventing the legitimate transition of power on these lines– and he did not soften. Between Jericho Steps and the repeated use of medieval and explicitly Christian calls to violence, America is already there. Once you have decided that violence is the appropriate course of action to maintain theocratic rule, the weapons you have sanctified and stockpiled become a threat.
It is radicalization. And for eachlone wolf“A story that makes you vomit every time there is a politically and religiously motivated mass shooting by a far-right white Christian in this country, we know better. There is a whole apparatus pushing hatred and violence. And they branded themselves with rhetoric and iconography, and they branded themselves with sacred weapons – perhaps not the Holy Spear of the First Crusade, but coming closer and closer to the Staff of Iron of their own desired apocalypse.