Last Thursday, Trijicon, a Michigan based company announced that it would stop inscribing Biblical references on gun sights for the military. This came after many groups, including the Interfaith Alliance and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, condemned the practice. These inscriptions gained attention after ABC News aired a story about the weapons, referred to by some as “Jesus guns,” with references to New Testament passages.
The obvious discomfort with this practice stems from the military’s policy against proselytizing and also from the reaction by people in predominantly Muslim countries to the idea that a gun used against them had Biblical references. In addition, there is the fact that Muslims in the US military, as well as Iraqi and Afghan soldiers who are being trained by the US, may end up using these weapons.
My interest in this issue stems from the reactions to the story. As I have reiterated in many of my past posts, there is always a problem of associating a religion with violence. Obviously, Islam is the main target right now, but this kind of story highlights the way that Christianity is used the same way.
In a Fox News segment on the topic, a commentator paralleled these inscriptions to terrorists yelling “Allahu Akbar” before detonating a bomb. Of course, this comparison is problematic because the issue in question is not what that individual thinks he is doing in the name of religion but that the United States has emphasized repeatedly that the current wars are not religiously based. Groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations highlight that this will end up fueling the idea that these confrontations are part of a war on Islam.
I always get frustrated by the assumption that the phrase “Allahu Akbar” is inherently bad. It’s not. In fact, it states something that I am sure is shared by many faiths: God is great. The point, however, is that putting religious scripture on a weapon that kills or invoking God before an act of violence both really go against the spirit of Christianity and Islam; thus, both should be rejected.
Initially, the army said it was not aware of these inscriptions and one official compared them to the reference of “In God We Trust” on US currency. Again, a problematic comparison. Referring to God in general is very different than references to specific verses from a religious texts. Moreover, that example really misses the point, which is the fact that there is a danger when religion and violence are brought into such close proximity. Giving someone a dollar with “In God We Trust” will not result in injury or death.
As I mentioned in my posts these past two weeks, there is something frustrating about these stories. Christianity and Islam, as faiths, share a great deal and Muslims and Christians live together in many places peacefully. The problem occurs when religion is manipulated to serve specific goals. Again, its time to acknowledge the differences and find common points of intersection to prevent more violence.
What do you think about this story? Please share your comments below.