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Bible References on Rifle Sights in Iraq and Afghanistan Reflect Badly on Christianity

If the Apostle Paul wrote today that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12), would he have been thinking about a fundamentalist Christian whose corporation inscribes biblical references on weapon sights?
 

A corporation with a $660 million contract with the Marine Corps and another contract with the U.S. Army qualifies by any measure as one of the “powers” in our world. Placing biblical references on rifle sights in war zones certainly raises questions about the company as part of the dark side. And when the company CEO goes hunting with the CEO of Focus on the Family, one wonders about the spiritual righteousness of both weapons maker and gospel proclaimer.

 

According to ABC News on Monday, Trijicon Inc. has inscribed New Testament textual references on the sights of its high-powered rifles and has a contract to provide 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps.

 

ABC News provided photographs of two such inscriptions on rifle sights: 2COR4:6 and JN8:12.

 

In the King James Version of the Bible, 2 Corinthians 4:6 reads: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The same biblical version records John 8:12 as, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

 

Any doubt about the Bible code is set aside when one reads the Michigan-based company’s core value statement on morality that says: “We believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on biblical standards throughout our history and we will strive to follow those morals.”
 

Furthermore, a company spokesman said the inscriptions “have always been there” and defended the practice, claiming the inscriptions were neither wrong nor illegal.

 

ABC News rebutted that assertion: “U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious ‘Crusade’ in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.”

 

Biblical references on the sights of U.S. military weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan reinforce a mistaken perception that American Christianity has a crusade against Muslims – both a public and a stealth war. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have rightly sought to dispel the notion of a religious war between Christianity and Islam.

 

Nonetheless, the religious war narrative is fed repeatedly by Christian fundamentalists who speak hatefully about Islam, as Franklin Graham recently did.

 

Some Americans are obsessed with a crusade mentality. Some placed the name “New Testament” on an M1A1 Abrams tank barrel. Others preached in Baptist churches about the war against Christianity. Still others put Bible verses on cover sheets of intelligence reports for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

 

Such twisted misuses of Christianity reflect badly on Christianity. We may not be able to stop some Christians from using their faith to justify hate and to validate violence. But their words and actions ought to guard us from being self-righteous about our faith and to challenge us to seek publicly a more authentic way, a way that seeks the welfare of our Muslim neighbor.

 

Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.