Contributor Post Created with Sketch. God, Guns, and the Washington Post

 

shutterstock_340508300The Washington Post has a piece up by Rob Schenck, which argues that you cannot be pro-life and pro-gun. Schenck has observed that his fellow evangelical Christians are some of the biggest supporters of gun rights. He believes this must change, and has assembled a number of terrible arguments in support of his position.

While I would normally prefer to ignore such a low quality piece, it has become apparent that many Christians hold similar views, and interpret the Bible as a document of pacifism. Like Saint Nicholas, I have come to chew bubblegum and punch heretics, and I’m fresh out of bubblegum.

Schenck writes:

For most of my adult life, I agreed. I believed that we had a God-given right to defend ourselves. I also believed that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms, and that anyone should be able to obtain a gun.

I sense a “but” coming.

Then, I saw the after-effects of gun violence firsthand. In Pennsylvania, I visited the families of five murdered Amish schoolgirls, as well as the family of the shooter. And I watched as a mass shooting unfolded at the Washington Navy Yard, across from where I lived at the time. These experiences, followed by careful theological and moral reflection, left me convinced that my family of faith is wrong on guns.

Schenck spends surprisingly few words attempting to make a truly biblical critique of the right to self-defense. He prefers to make vague and ephemeral statements, which carry no real meaning when analyzed, but sound compassionate and reasonable if you are busy making a grocery list while taking them in. A rather large helping of strawmen round out his rhetorical style.

But I disagree with my community’s wholesale embrace of the idea that anyone should be able to buy a gun. For one thing, our commitment to the sanctity of human life demands that we err on the side of reducing threats to human life.

Since no serious Second Amendment advocates argue for violent felons to be legally allowed to purchase guns, we will pass right over this first sentence. I can agree that we should “err on the side of reducing threats to human life,” but how shall we accomplish this? Surely not by reducing the amount of privately owned firearms.

gun_ownership_vs_homicide_rate_0_1449575519

Additionally, anyone using a gun for defense must be ready to kill. Such a posture is antithetical to the term “evangelical,” which refers to the “evangel,” or gospel. The gospel begins with God’s love for every human, and calls on Christians to be more Christ-like. At no time did Jesus use deadly force. Although he once allowed his disciples to defend themselves with “a sword,” that permission came with a limitation on the number of weapons they could possess.

This is a particularly delicious paragraph, as it contradicts itself quite openly. After claiming that a willingness to kill in self-defense is antithetical to the teachings of the gospel, Schenck goes on to admit that Jesus told His disciples to carry swords. Presumably, anyone using a sword for self-defense must be ready to kill. Such a posture, by definition, cannot be antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.

Schenck’s attempt to make an argument that Jesus was pro-sword control is also rather hilarious. There is no limit placed on the numbers of swords the apostles were told they could carry. After Jesus told them to buy swords, they happily pointed out that they already had two.

They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:38, NASB)

That Schenck interprets this as a limitation on the number of weapons that people should own is laughable. Thankfully, Jesus never ate at an Olive Garden or else Schenck might have interpreted the amount of grated cheese that Jesus allowed to fall on His plate before saying “enough” as the limit that any human being should consume at a meal.

Numerous Bible passages, such as Exodus 22:2-3, strictly limit the use of deadly force. Unfortunately, too many evangelicals ignore this.

Stealing a line from Ricochet’s own James of England, I was not aware that evangelicals had elevated the film Mad Max 2: Beyond Thunderdome to the level of scripture. Does Schenck really believe that most evangelicals don’t think there are strict limits on the use of deadly force? Is he capable of confronting real arguments, or merely caricatures of his ideological opponents?

To me, turning from Christian to secular sources on a paramount moral question indicates a failure in faith. The words of Cruz, Palin and Falwell seem to contradict those of Jesus Christ, who commands believers to “bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

Let us turn then to Christian sources to answer the questions at hand. Christianity is not a religion of pacifism. Arguments to the contrary are simply wrong.

There is no doubt that the Old Testament contains a right to self-defense. We’ll begin with Exodus as we might as well dismantle every argument Schenck makes.

If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. (Exodus 22:2-3a, NKJV)

If a man breaks into your house at night, it is dark and you cannot know his intentions. Therefore, if you killed him, it was a reasonable instance of self-defense. If he breaks in during the day, it is more likely that you can interpret his intentions. If he is there to steal, it is not a crime that is worthy of death. If he is there to harm you or your family, you remain justified in killing in self-defense.

Old Testament verses that support this interpretation are so numerous that I will not bother citing them all here. The open question for Christians becomes whether or not Jesus changed the nature of the Law in regards to self-defense with His teachings.

We have already established that Jesus told His disciples to carry swords. Some have argued that He meant “sword” metaphorically. This argument falls flat when Jesus does not correct His disciples when they present to Him real swords. His followers often misinterpreted His words, and on more than one occasion He must clarify His real intentions to them. Instead He tells them that their current quantity will suffice.

We next move to the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus makes one of His most famous statements.

But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:39-42, NASB)

Here Jesus provides a list of petty grievances and advises not retaliating to any of them. This is not a command to allow Hitler to conquer the Earth, it is our primary tool for dealing with everyday evils.

Someone smacked you on the cheek? Don’t escalate the situation. Someone sued you and is after your possessions? It’s only stuff. Any self-defense teacher worth his salt will give you the same advice. Violence is a last resort. It is an extreme response for extreme threats.

What of Peter’s defense of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane? Did He not tell His disciple that those who live by the sword die by the sword?

He did, but He also said some other things that give us better context.

And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? “How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:51-54, NASB)

That is not a call to pacifism, it is a call towards not preventing the salvation of the human race. This is a tense moment where weapons are drawn. Jesus tells His disciples that if they try to make this a fight, they will die. He further explains that He must be taken so that the scriptures be fulfilled. If not, He could call on His Father to deliver Him from this evil far more effectively than His disciples could. That He had not done so, and had been preparing them for this moment for some time, should have signaled to them that what was coming must happen.

If you want to interpret this passage as meaning that no Christian should ever take up a sword, you’ll need to square it with this passage.

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” (John 2:13-16, NASB)

Jesus literally used a whip to drive people from the temple. Not the actions of a pacifist by any definition of which I am aware. Are we to believe that all who take up a sword will die by a sword, but those who take up a whip are doing God’s work? Or shall we take both sets of verses in their proper context?

Schenck ends his piece by arguing that we should love those who intend to do us harm. He is right, of course, but one does not need to allow a rapist to take your wife and daughter in order to show God’s love. God’s Word puts no such requirements upon us, misinformed preachers notwithstanding.

There are 62 comments.

  1. RightAngles Member

    Here Jesus provides a list of petty grievances and advises not retaliating to any of them. This is not a command to allow Hitler to conquer the Earth, it is our primary tool for dealing with everyday evils.

    Someone smacked you on the cheek? Don’t escalate the situation. Someone sued you and is after your possessions? It’s only stuff. Any self-defense teacher worth his salt will give you the same advice. Violence is a last resort. It is an extreme response for extreme threats.

    Exactly. A great post. I wonder if they’d publish yours underneath his. And I hate that he says “pro-gun” instead of “pro-2nd Amendment” or “pro-Self Defense.” What a nimrod.

    • #1
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:01 PM PST
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  2. Doctor Bass Monkey Inactive

    Schenck reads more like an excuse not to act against evil than anything else. Following his logic, one would stand there and watch a murder happen or watch a rape happen lest one has to intervene too far resulting in the death of perpetrator. This is similar to the example of the Pharisee and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Would he also disallow Christians as policemen, security forces, or military combatants? This sophomoric thinking very quickly gets exposed as nonsense when you start parsing out its real life consequences.

    • #2
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:02 PM PST
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  3. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    It is only religious persecution we are commanded to endure passively. If someone slaps you for being an [expletive], turn the other cheek because you probably deserve it on that one as well.

    • #3
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:04 PM PST
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  4. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    John Piper makes a much more thorough (but still just as wrong) case against Christians arming themselves. He makes the very same mistakes by arguing against a strawman when he says:

    The issue is not primarily about when and if a Christian may ever use force in self-defense, or the defense of one’s family or friends. There are significant situational ambiguities in the answer to that question. The issue is about the whole tenor and focus and demeanor and heart-attitude of the Christian life. Does it accord with the New Testament to encourage the attitude that says, “I have the power to kill you in my pocket, so don’t mess with me”? My answer is, No.

    He summarily dismisses the real substance by saying too much ambiguity exists then goes on to tackle the argument no one is making. It’s better written and argued, but still just as wrong.

    • #4
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:12 PM PST
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  5. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    This “argument” is the latest fashion among liberals. You can try to engage them on the merits of the religious arguments or you can simply do what I do, and that’s turn it around 180°.

    If all pro-lifers must be anti-gun, then all pro-gun control folks must be anti-abortion. If pro-life means anti-killing, then anti-killing must mean pro-life.

    So, I ask them, do we picket the gun store in the morning and Planned Parenthood in the afternoon or vice-versa?

    • #5
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:18 PM PST
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  6. Arahant Member

    EJHill: So, I ask them, do we picket the gun store in the morning and Planned Parenthood in the afternoon or vice-versa?

    Fantastic!

    • #6
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:20 PM PST
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  7. FightinInPhilly Thatcher

    I just want to tip my hat to any theological discussion that includes a thoughtful reference to Olive Garden and grated cheese.

    • #7
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:28 PM PST
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  8. billy Inactive

    I don’t understand Schenck’s complaint here. If his Christian convictions compel him to be a passive victim in the face of an aggressor, then fine. That does not compel the rest of us to do so, however.

    • #8
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:30 PM PST
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  9. Done Contributor
    Done

    billy:I don’t understand Schenck’s complaint here. If his Christian convictions compel him to be a passive victim in the face of an aggressor, then fine. That does not compel the rest of us to do so, however.

    Sure. I would say that there is fairly good evidence that we are commanded to protect others however. I don’t see how a true pacifist can be in compliance with this command if he is not willing to use violence against evil men who would harm others.

    • #9
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:32 PM PST
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  10. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Frank Soto: If a man breaks into your house at night, it is dark and you cannot know his intentions. Therefore, if you killed him, it was a reasonable instance of self-defense. If he breaks in during the day, it is more likely that you can interpret his intentions.

    The traditional Jewish understanding is even stronger. It’s not that you don’t know, you have a presumption of the theif’s willingness to kill. Here’s Rashi (11th century, from Troyes.) Rashi’s words are outside the square bracketed interpolations:

    he has no blood: [This signifies that] this is not [considered] murder. It is as though he [the thief] was [considered] dead from the start. Here the Torah teaches you [the lesson]: If someone comes to kill you, kill him first. And this one [the thief] has come to kill you, because he knows that no one [can] hold himself back and remain silent when he sees people taking his money. Therefore, he [the thief] has come with the acknowledgement that if the owner of the property were to stand up against him, he [the owner] would kill him [the thief]. (Sanhedrin. 72a)

    A nocturnal thief, who breaks in while the residents of the dwelling are sleeping, is presumed to be prepared to kill. He knows going in that the owner would resist the theft. He is much more brazen than the daytime thief. Self defense is explicitly permitted.

    • #10
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:40 PM PST
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  11. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EJHill:This “argument” is the latest fashion among liberals. You can try to engage them on the merits of the religious arguments or you can simply do what I do, and that’s turn it around 180°.

    If all pro-lifers must be anti-gun, then all pro-gun control folks must be anti-abortion. If pro-life means anti-killing, then anti-killing must mean pro-life.

    So, I ask them, do we picket the gun store in the morning and Planned Parenthood in the afternoon or vice-versa?

    I once again call upon the need for a Triple Dawg Like button.

    • #11
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:48 PM PST
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  12. Layla Member
    Layla Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thanks, Frank–I really needed this. A FB friend from high school just posted a (suspiciously) similar “faith-based” gun control article (from HuffPo, by a Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, director of something called the Center for Peace and Spirituality, titled “People of Faith Can Help Cure Spiritual Sickness of Gun Violence“) with the commentary, “Not all religious Christians are Jerry Falwell, Jr. :::shudder:::”

    Speaking of straw men…. Sigh. So thanks for a well-reasoned rebuttal. :)

    • #12
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:51 PM PST
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  13. Hammer, The Member

    Yup. Well done, Soto.

    • #13
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:52 PM PST
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  14. Trinity Waters Inactive

    Thanks, Frank! Wonderful post and insightful comments. My other cheek sports a .40 cal S&W. I’ve always contended that pacifists are often better understood as cowards, although that’s a strong word. The strong, silent men of the night who enable unrealistic pacifists to spout their ideas deserve thanks. Weakness was never part of the Gospel.

    • #14
    • December 31, 2015, at 1:56 PM PST
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  15. Autistic License Thatcher

    Exactly, exactly, exactly!

    A related thought: during the San Bernardino shootings, those poor souls did not die instantly. Hearing the danger coming their way, I doubt that any of them said, “thank goodness I’m unarmed.”

    • #15
    • December 31, 2015, at 2:03 PM PST
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  16. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Frank Soto: That Schenck interprets this as a limitation on the number of weapons that people should own is laughable. Thankfully, Jesus never ate at an Olive Garden or else Schenck might have interpreted the amount of grated cheese that Jesus allowed to fall on His plate before saying “enough” as the limit that any human being should consume at a meal.

    Love this paragraph. Too funny!

    • #16
    • December 31, 2015, at 2:10 PM PST
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  17. Profile Photo Member

    Another useful idiot.

    Where are the secular leftists willing to publish op-eds in national newspapers arguing that opposing guns requires opposing abortion?

    • #17
    • December 31, 2015, at 2:10 PM PST
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  18. Ben Sears Member

    How many straw men can dance on the head of a pin?

    • #18
    • December 31, 2015, at 2:11 PM PST
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  19. Blake Anderton Member

    Great points.

    He did, but He also said some other things that give us better context.

    +1000, so much quasi-biblical nonsense can be countered by reading the full chapter/full passage/etc that a verse is in. Context is key.

    • #19
    • December 31, 2015, at 2:19 PM PST
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  20. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A few years ago we had Jeff Seif come to our church as a guest speaker. Seif is from Texas and had worked in law enforcement. His message was about acceptance, forgiveness, and turning the other cheek. At one point he stopped to clarify and said something along the line of, “Now I want to be clear. If someone breaks into my house where my wife and kids are sleeping, he is leaving in a body bag.”

    Protecting innocent people from murderers and rapists is hardly anti-Christian behavior.

    • #20
    • December 31, 2015, at 2:36 PM PST
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  21. Seawriter Member

    I got the following graphic from Powerline:Screen-Shot-2015-12-21-at-3.02.42-PM

    Notice every time new gun control laws go into effect the homicide rate goes up, and as guns become more available they go down.

    So, here is my question: what type of Christian do you have to be to advocate policies which lead to higher homicide rates? Is that not leading others into temptation?

    Seawriter

    • #21
    • December 31, 2015, at 2:51 PM PST
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  22. Robert McReynolds Inactive

    Much like any other Democrat if this guy wants to come to my property and demand that I hand him my weapons, I will be glad to, starting with all of my bullets.

    • #22
    • December 31, 2015, at 3:01 PM PST
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  23. Dave of Barsham Member

    Robert McReynolds:Much like any other Democrat if this guy wants to come to my property and demand that I hand him my weapons, I will be glad to, starting with all of my bullets.

    Reminds me of John Wayne’s take on theives.

    • #23
    • December 31, 2015, at 3:12 PM PST
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  24. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Others may prefer the Olive Garden line. This is my favorite:

    While I would normally prefer to ignore such a low quality piece, it has become apparent that many Christians hold similar views, and interpret the Bible as a document of pacifism. Like Saint Nicholas, I have come to chew bubblegum and punch heretics, and I’m fresh out of bubblegum.

    LOL, thanks for the giggles, Frank.

    I apologize for the quality of the video, but here’s the best explanation of “turn the other cheek” I’ve ever heard.

    It’s not pacifism. It’s an aggressive spiritual throw-down. Sort of a “Is that all you’ve got?”

    As a woman and mother, I find it the work of the devil when Christian “men” advocate for pacifism. Lord keep us from having our “defense” decided by these bliss ninnies.

    • #24
    • December 31, 2015, at 3:13 PM PST
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  25. Scott Wilmot Member

    Perhaps Mr. Schenck needs to talk to a few Catholics. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraphs 2263-2267 justifies the use of legitimate defense:

    2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

    Oh, and we also have our own patron saint of hand gunners.

    St. Gabriel Possenti, pray for us.

    • #25
    • December 31, 2015, at 3:17 PM PST
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  26. Brad B. Inactive

    It is arguments like these that perfectly encapsulates the rot within post-modern religion. Here in the comfortable West, where one need not fear violence for the practice of their faith, people are free to believe in the most asinine and self-destructive things like this. The religious Modern Man, fearing not predator or persecution, happily disarms himself and thinks everyone else should similarly dress the part of a sheep.

    And yet, their own brothers in the faith in places like Syria (who do not live in Make-Believe Land) are desperately trying to arm themselves to stave off extinction. Just yesterday, 16 Syriac Christians were murdered in Qamishli. So as the pacifists hammer their swords into plough shares in America, teenage Christian girls are fighting in the trenches of northern Syria against an army of child rapists. A starker contrast between stupidity and survival I can’t imagine.

    • #26
    • December 31, 2015, at 3:18 PM PST
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  27. James Madison Member

    This is very well done!

    Horatio sums it up above with “post-modern” religion or religion that is relative. Relativism is not religion. It is the opposite of religion.

    The gun control gang can’t win at the Supreme Court, unless and until Hillary appoints 3 judges. They can’t win at the ballot box, so the anti-gun candidates pretend to go hunting two weeks before Election Day in full regalia dragging the camera crew with them. They can’t win at the legislature. So, it’s time for them to move to the pulpit with a moral argument based upon caring, fairness and God’s word, relativized.

    I believe that the Supreme Court is in the balance and after winning over 900 Democratic gubernatorial, state legislative, and national offices over the past 6 years, the GOP is on the verge of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory in 2016. If we nominate a divisive candidate – and it looks like we will – we run the risk of losing the White House and the Senate. I also believe that if we yield this election to Hillary to make our own a statement with Cruz or vent our frustrations with Trump, we will invite a revision of the Second Amendment by judicial fiat. It will be the first thing to go.

    In which case such good rebuttals as this one will be for naught.

    • #27
    • December 31, 2015, at 3:35 PM PST
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  28. Done Contributor
    Done

    Western Chauvinist: Lord keep us from having our “defense” decided by these bliss ninnies.

    “Bliss ninnies” shall henceforth be my preferred term for pacifists.

    • #28
    • December 31, 2015, at 4:04 PM PST
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  29. Lying, Dog-Faced Brony Soldier Coolidge
    Lying, Dog-Faced Brony Soldier Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Layla:Thanks, Frank–I really needed this. A FB friend from high school just posted a (suspiciously) similar “faith-based” gun control article (from HuffPo, by a Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, director of something called the Center for Peace and Spirituality, titled “People of Faith Can Help Cure Spiritual Sickness of Gun Violence“) with the commentary, “Not all religious Christians are Jerry Falwell, Jr. :::shudder:::”

    Speaking of straw men…. Sigh. So thanks for a well-reasoned rebuttal. :)

    You know a person is not serious about ending the epidemic of violence when he uses the phrase “gun-violence.”

    As Rush Limbaugh once said, “Would [he] be happier if they had been stabbed?”

    • #29
    • December 31, 2015, at 4:47 PM PST
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  30. Saint Augustine Member

    Well done, Frank Soto!

    Frank Soto:

    That is not a call to pacifism, it is a call towards not preventing the salvation of the human race.

    Also: Why should we presume that someone who uses a sword once in a blue moon to protect the innocent is one who “lives by the sword”?

    • #30
    • December 31, 2015, at 6:29 PM PST
    • 1 like