Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter, the gun-huggers fallacy, and Tony Cornish

cross-posted from the MN Progressive Project:
Back on the 20th of March, the Big E wrote here about the assertion by Tony Cornish on Jesus and violence, with Cornish apparently positing that Jesus would come down on the side of the gun huggers and vigilante violence. The gun huggers believe that Jesus would have defended his family and followers with violence.

Now, Tony Cornish claims to be a Missouri Synod Lutheran, a very conservative branch of the Lutheran denomination with which I'm familiar. I'm the product of a 'mixed marriage', being brought up a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran (the other extremely conservative branch of Lutheranism) from my mother's side of the family, but my father's side of the family were Missouri Synod Lutherans. My two god children were brought up Missouri Synod; to be allowed to be their godmother, I had to demonstrate proficiency of knowledge of the synod doctrine and the Bible, so I have some basis for presenting an informed opinion. I still vividly remember my own confirmation rite-of-passage, which involved a question during an oral examination in front of the congregation, designed to show a knowledge of the Bible, specifically a question that involved Malchus .

As a good Missouri Synod Lutheran, Tony Cornish believes the Missouri Synod teachings - if his beliefs are consistent with the doctrinal positions of his faith, which you can read here on their official web page - then he believes the Bible is the inerrant word of God, which means he cannot make up his own variations on the Bible. The Missouri Synod does not allow 'cafeteria' Christianity, where you pick and choose, make up your own interpretations, or otherwise branch out on your own on theological matters. Your all in, or you're out. The inerrant, literal aspect of the Bible is their first and most foundational premise:
Of the Holy Scriptures1. We teach that the Holy Scriptures differ from all other books in the world in that they are the Word of God. They are the Word of God because the holy men of God who wrote the Scriptures wrote only that which the Holy Ghost communicated to them by inspiration, 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1: 21. We teach also that the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is not a so-called "theological deduction," but that it is taught by direct statements of the Scriptures, 2 Tim. 3:16; John 10:35; Rom. 3:2; 1 Cor. 2:13. Since the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, it goes without saying that they contain no errors or contradictions, but that they are in all their parts and words the infallible truth, also in those parts which treat of historical, geographical, and other secular matters, John 10:35.

2. We furthermore teach regarding the Holy Scriptures that they are given by God to the Christian Church for the foundation of faith, Eph. 2:20. Hence the Holy Scriptures are the sole source from which all doctrines proclaimed in the Christian Church must be taken and therefore, too, the sole rule and norm by which all teachers and doctrines must be examined and judged. - With the Confessions of our Church we teach also that the "rule of faith" (analogia fidei) according to which the Holy Scriptures are to be understood are the clear passages of the Scriptures themselves which set forth the individual doctrines. (Apology. Triglot, p. 441, @_ 60; Mueller, p. 284). The rule of faith is not the man-made so-called "totality of Scripture" ("Ganzes der Schrift").
According to the City Pages, Cornish believes that Jesus would arm himself. I find that odd, given that clearly Jesus had every opportunity to arm not only himself, but his disciples and other followers, and did not do so. Beyond that, the Bible is very clear that arming oneself was an aspect of war for the common defense, and that for private defense, one could hire an armed guard - essentially an extension of civil authority. We know that the extreme conservatives differ from the accepted biblical texts, having re-written the Bible to contort and distort it to conform to their ideology, but that is not the traditional Bible texts accepted by the Missouri Synod, and that kind of alternative text is what that group most emphatically rejects, despite the self-description of being 'conservative'.

Rather what we do know, specifically from the teachings of the events leading up to the revelations of Easter are that Jesus repudiated violence, specifically when his disciple Peter took a sword and chopped off the ear of one Malchus in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. This is the same Peter who later became the biblical St. Peter, the only figure ever associated with the title of pope who was not rejected by the Missouri Synod as the Anti-Christ; (only the actual disciples of Jesus, and Saul/Paul are saints in this denomination). Instead of engaging in violence, Jesus rebuked Peter, picked up the ear, and in a minor miracle tacked it back on, healing the man Malchus; this text is widely used to demonstrate the aversion to violence expressed by Jesus.

Like the mistaken idea of Rush Limbaugh that Congressman Lewis should have been armed when he was attacked on a civil rights protest march, in order to prevent the brutality that caused him to suffer a concussion, Tony Cornish misses the essential point. Both the Biblical Jesus and the modern day civil rights figure COULD have armed themselves, had they wanted to do so. Despite modern Jim Crow prohibitions to the contrary, there were armed black men in the south; at one point Martin Luther King himself owned a gun, for self-protection, but voluntarily got rid of it. Not to be armed, not to give in to the temptation to respond violently when harmed by violence in the course of protests, the very Biblical essence of turning the other cheek, was the foundation of peaceful resistance and civil disobedience.

Similarly, the pro-violence, pro-vigilante shooting gun huggers like to misrepresent and distort the teachings of Gandhi, who supported the arming of Indian citizens to join with British forces, but himself refused to own or use a gun, and who ONLY ever supported the arming of civil authority and military forces. Not surprising from such a violent group, when I wrote about Guns and Gandhi here, I received death threats from gun huggers who objected to being confronted with facts that did not support their co-opting Gandhi's core message. The attribution to Gandhi that he said "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians." was debunked by Snopes here, but there does seem to be some justification for Gandhi selectively supporting the non-violence aspect of Biblical teachings of Jesus, which further argues against the false interpretation by Cornish of scripture to support Jesus or the disciples taking up arms, and by extension, arming anyone in modern times.

Missouri Synod Lutherans believes some other stuff that might surprise more mainstream Christians from other denominations, like the belief the Pope is the Anti-Christ.
Of the Antichrist43. As to the Antichrist we teach that the prophecies of the Holy Scriptures concerning the Antichrist, 2 Thess. 2: 3-12; 1 John 2:18, have been fulfilled in the Pope of Rome and his dominion. All the features of the Antichrist as drawn in these prophecies, including the most abominable and horrible ones, for example, that the Antichrist "as God sitteth in the temple of God," 2 Thess. 2:4; that he anathematizes the very heart of the Gospel of Christ, that is, the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins by grace alone, for Christ's sake alone, through faith alone, without any merit or worthiness in man (Rom. 3:20-28; Gal. 2:16); that he recognizes only those as members of the Christian Church who bow to his authority; and that, like a deluge, he had inundated the whole Church with his antichristian doctrines till God revealed hirn through the Reformation these very features are the outstanding characteristics of the Papacy. (Cf. Smalcald Articles. Triglot, p. 515, @_ 39 to . 1; p. 401, _ 45; M., pp. 336, 258.) Hence we subscribe to the statement of our Confessions that the Pope is "the very Antichrist." (Smalcald Articles. Triglot, p. 475, @_ 10; M, p. 308.)
(Michele Bachmann used to belong to a Wisconsin Synod church, but left after being challenged about the teaching of that Synod, which also accuses the Pope of being the Anti-Christ.)

But the other core belief espoused by the Missouri Synod that Mr. Cornish should revisit is this one, that he as a legislator should remember - the strong separation of church and state. The Missouri Synod clearly disapproves of the use of religion to justify civil or criminal law, and also clearly advocates for a peaceful and peaceable life rather than individual violence. Apparently Tony Cornish slept through Sunday School classes, Sunday Sermons, and his confirmation classes, if he so poorly understands the core precepts of his own faith.
Of Church and State

34. Although both Church and State are ordinances of God, yet they must not be commingled. Church and State have entirely different aims. By the Church, God would save men, for which reason the Church is called the "mother" of believers, Gal. 4:26. By the State, God would maintain external order among men, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty," 1 Tim. 2:2. It follows that the means which Church and State employ to gain their ends are entirely different. The Church may not employ any other means than the preaching of the Word of God, John 18:11,36; 2 Cor. 10: 4. The State, on the other hand, makes laws bearing on civil matters and is empowered to employ for their execution also the sword and other corporal punishments, Rom. 13:4. Accordingly we condemn the policy of those who would have the power of the State employed "in the interest of the Church" and who thus turn the Church into a secular dominion; as also of those who, aiming to govern the State by the Word of God, seek to turn the State into a Church.
Shame on Mr. Cornish; we can only hope and pray that if he attends Easter services, he might learn something, and achieve a better enlightenment.

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