The company has apparently inscribed Bible verses on its weapons for two decades, but the issue has only now come to light because soldiers have complained through the US Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). The BBC reports that as Muslim infantryman emailed MRFF about the verses, while secular and Christian soldiers are concerned about what would happen to them if they were captured with such a weapon in their possession.
Many citizens of the US and UK were angry and confused when George W. Bush and Tony Blair said that they relied on prayer and God’s guidance to start the war in Iraq. Bush used the language of ‘crusade,’ which was hardly a sensitive choice of words given the circumstances. If Muslims in Iraq or Afghanistan needed any further evidence that at least some people in the US and UK thought of their military intervention as ‘holy,’ this weaponry provides just that.
Westerners sometimes take the all too easy route of characterising Islam as violent and militant, overlooking examples of Christian militancy like this in their own backyard. As the ‘Virtual Methodist’ asks:
But what kind of a world do we live in where a Christian sees this as appropriate? The crusades finished around 650 years ago, and they didn’t do much good for the promotion of the gospel in the Muslim world… And what about the verses in the Bible about spears being beaten into pruning hooks etc?
Well, one answer is: that kind of world is alive and thriving in some (not all) parts of the United States, where there is a belief among a substantial segment of the population that America is essentially a Christian nation, that it has been blessed by God, and that it is God’s instrument for good in the world. Political events, wars, etc. are seen as part of a cosmic battle between good and evil, in which God will essentially assist Christian people.
It’s an old trick, blending religion and nationalism –people on this island don’t need to take any lessons from Americans on that.
But for Christians, the mixing of religion and national identity should be especially disturbing. After all, Jesus practised non-violent resistance to the Empire of his day. He encouraged the Jews to cross boundaries and enter into relationship with their enemies, the Samaritans. When one of his followers, Peter, did something violent by cutting off the high priest’s servant’s ear, Jesus healed the servant.
Unfortunately for those of us who think that religion possesses some of the most powerful resources for peace available to humankind, episodes like ‘putting god on guns’ damage the ability of religion to be used for reconciliation rather than war.