Do Bible Verses on Rifle Scopes Represent Christianity? - updated 9/21/11

Sheila Musaji

Posted Sep 21, 2011      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Do Bible Verses on Rifle Scopes Represent Christianity?

by Sheila Musaji

Mikey Weinstein, the President and Founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), was the first to bring the now infamous “Jesus Rifles” to light publically after he received complaints from members of the foundation.  A NYT article  notes that:  “Michael Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said that several of the group’s members, who are active-duty military personnel, had contacted him in recent weeks to complain about the subtle religious references on their weapons and that he had alerted ABC.”

An ABC news story on Jan 18 was the first to report this story in the mainstream media.  The ABC story notes:  “The company’s vision is described on its Web site: “Guided by our values, we endeavor to have our products used wherever precision aiming solutions are required to protect individual freedom.”    “We believe that America is great when its people are good,” says the Web site. “This goodness has been based on Biblical standards throughout our history, and we will strive to follow those morals.”

Voice of America News reports that  “U.S. officials say no one in the military leadership noticed the references, which are on plates that also contain serial numbers and other information” and “Among the senior officers expressing anger at the insertion of the biblical references is General David Petraeus, who commands all U.S. troops in the Middle East and Central Asia.”

CAIR called the presence of the markings “a potential recruiting tool for anti-American forces” and a Muslim Public Affairs Council official said they provided “propaganda ammo to extremists who claim there is a ‘Crusader war against Islam’ by the United States.”

There has been a lot of discussion, some of it not very reasonable.  Robert Spencer (ever on the alert for jihad, but oblivious to crusades) is among those who think that there is no problem with these sites and those who think there is a problem are whining.  TPM Muckraker reports that Fox’s Steve Doocy came out with a new defense of the controversial U.S. military rifle scopes, saying that “if anyone made America’s wars about religion, our Muslim extremist foes started it!”  This article includes a link to video of the Doocy program.

John Knefel at True Slant has an excellent summary of the issues that doesn’t pull any punches.  After quoting a military spokesperson who found no problem with these sites, Knefel notes:  “Yes, how could those dumb Mooslems think that numerous wars of aggression against Muslim countries, one of which a sitting president specifically called a Crusade – complete with daily briefings that included Bible verses – possibly could be religiously motivated?  It’s absurd to think that religious fanaticism is alive and well in America just because Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater – a company who still enjoys perversely close ties with the US government – considers himself to be on a Christian crusade literally to rid the world of Muslims.”

Trijicon, the company that makes the rifle sites issued a press release on January 21 saying that they will remove the references.   

Mikey Weinstein made the following statement after learning about this decision:  “Its about time!  Trijicon’s outrageous practice of placing bible verse citations on military-issued gunsights for weapons was an unconstitutional disgrace of the highest magnitude to our military and an action that clearly gave additional incentive and emboldenment to recruiters for our nation’s enemies.  It is nothing short of a vile national security threat that, despite our nation’s efforts to convince the Muslim world we are not pursuing a holy war against them, our military and its contractors time again resort to unlawful fundamentalist evangelical Christian practices, even on the battlefield.  It has been said that ‘civilization is a race between education and catastrophe.’ We can now only hope that the United States Congress and The Pentagon will comprehensively investigate how this catastrophe and countless other examples of military religious extremism infiltrates every branch of our honorable armed services.  But for now, at least we can take solace in Trijicon’s affirmation that it will expeditiously remove the bible verse citations from its scopes.  We only hope that the damage from their actions is not yet beyond repair.”

MPAC and CAIR also issued press releases.  The MPAC press release says in part:  “The Pentagon is to be commended for doing the right thing and acting swiftly to correct this violation of the Constitution and of U.S. military rules,” said Washington, DC Office Director Haris Tarin. “We applaud the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and ABC news for bringing attention to this issue, and hope this is a step toward greater military oversight of contractors.” and Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR said “This is a responsible move by Trijicon that will help reduce or eliminate a potential danger to our nation’s military.”

The MRFF is now calling for a congressional investigation, according to Mikey Weinstein: “We can now only hope that the United States Congress and The Pentagon will comprehensively investigate how this catastrophe and countless other examples of military religious extremism infiltrates every branch of our honorable armed services.”

This is not the first time that religion has been brought into this war.  Back in 2007 the Pentagon announced that it would not be delivering “freedom packages” to our soldiers in Iraq, as it had originally intended.  These packages were to contain Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” and were put together by packages were put together by a fundamentalist Christian ministry called Operation Straight Up who had also planned a troop entertainment tour called “military crusade”.  As Reza Aslan and Mikey Weinstein pointed out at that time this was only one of an increasingly disturbing, and indeed unconstitutional, relationships being forged between the U.S. military and private evangelical groups:  “The extent to which such relationships have damaged international goodwill toward the U.S. is beyond measure.”  And what they said in relation to the former incidents applies equally to this most recent incident of what some are calling “Jesus rifles”.

This story was incredibly fast moving.  It only took three days from the time the story broke on ABC news to the time that Trijicon made their press release.  There is another side to this story that still requires public scrutiny, and that is the “religious” dimension of this story.  There are a number of New Testament passages referred to on the gun sights.  Two of these are:  2 Corinthians 4:6 “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.” and John 8:12, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  Do bullets that kill and maim really bring the light out of the darkness?  Are guns and wars truly the way to follow Jesus?  Does this represent the attitude of mainstream Christianity?  These are questions that will need to be answered by Christians.  As I have previously noted in an article quoting a number of Christian pastors and their views about Islam, Christian brotherly love seems to be difficult for some to obtain.

Perhaps another verse from John would have been more appropriate - “God help us all, because God’s help is the ONLY Help which can truly help us AND SAVE US!”  (John 14:6.) 

Or perhaps any of the following:
- “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”  (Isaiah 2:4 & Micah 4:3)
- “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.” ( Mt 5.44 , Lu 6.27 ,  Lu 6.3 ) 
- “Do not use force against an evil man.”  ( Mt 5.39 ) 
- “Do not resist evil with evil.” “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” (Lu 6.37 ) 
- “Do not be anxious about your life.”( Lu 12.22 ) 
- “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.”  ( Mat 26.52 ) 
- “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Mat 7.12 )
-  “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God. ” (Mat 5:9)
- “Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Mat 23:12)

UPDATE 4/3/10

These rifles are still being used in Iraq and Afghanistan and it may take up to a year to fix this problem.

Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation forwarded an email he received from a combat soldier about this problem.

I am a United States soldier currently deployed to Afghanistan. I am a practicing Baptist and my wife is too. My cobat unit is currently engaged in major combat operations in the southern provinces of Afghanistan. I am of junior enlisted rank and my fellow soldiers (most of them to my knowledge being Christians, too) and I are at the bottom of the chain of command. Many, many native Afghan civilians and especially the Afghan military members here are well aware of the “Jesus rifles” controversy which was covered aall over the place by the news services back in the middle of January of this year. It makes them very, very mad at America and our military. They constantly ask us if we are still using these “Jesus rifles”. They ask us to see for themselves what is written on our gunsights. Wherever we go these same questions come up almost immediately. Not all the native Afghans ask them but enough of them do that my fellow soldiers in my company and even my battalion have asked our military chain of command about what we’re supposed to say to them when asked. This has been a mess. We’ve been told to “shut the fuck up” and to “tell them that it’s none of their damn business ‘cause we’re there to save them from Islam (yes, ISLAM!)”. We’ve even been told to explain Christianity to them and use it as “an opening to enlighten them.” Yes, those exact words! We all heard that there were supposed to be “100 kits” which the company that put the bible references on our gunsights were going to be sending to the military right away to “fix” the “problem”. When my fellow soldiers and I have asked our chain of command about this fact, we’ve been told that “that was just to shut up the traitors in the media and the bleeding heart groups”. Our chain of command really hates the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and blames it for all of this mess in the first place. If any of them knew that any of us were talking to the Military Religious Foundation about this problem here, it would be over for us and our families immediately.  It’s not just embarrassing to have these “Jesus rifles” with us but it’s also a serious security threat to all of us. When we walk into an Afghan village trying to determine whether it’s “friend or foe” regarding the Taliban etc. and they ask us right off the bat if we are using the “Jesus rifles” it is a VERY BAD way to start out considering our combat mission. We want the bible stuff off of our gunsights. We feel it makes us targets. We want them off now! When are we EVER going to see one of those “100 fix kits” which were supposed to be sent out? None of us here feel we can even raise the subject again with our chain of command because we risk being identified as a “problem child” and when you’re fighting a war like this one here that can get you in alot of trouble; it can get you killed.  (name, rank, combat specialty identifier, and combat unit withheld)

UPDATE 9/21/2011

There is now a company called Silver Bullet Gun Oil (SBGO) which is marketing a gun oil that contains pig fat wo American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Engy Abdelkader, a human rights attorney has an excellent article What’s Pork Got To Do With It  discussing this.  She says in part

p>More recently, I found myself sitting outside a local police academy where I was scheduled to give a presentation on American Muslim and Arab American culture, respectively, to a local county board. I had arrived early and the event was not going to start for another 40 minutes.

Deciding to catch up on some reading, I pulled out the current issue of the Intelligence Report, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and was immediately drawn to an article titled, “Mystery Company Markets Pig Fat Gun Oil To Deny Paradise to Muslims.”

Incredibly, this company boasts of bullets for automatic weapons which are made of 13 percent liquefied pig fat. It brags that Muslims killed with their products will not be permitted to enter heaven as a result of the fat.

The pig fat gun oil merchant’s website contains a quote allegedly taken from the Quran, the Islamic holy book, which Muslims regard as the literal word of God. The supposed company falsely claims: “According to the Koran, Allah states, ‘any of my followers contaminated by swine at the time of his death will be denied entry to my paradise forever, I HATE THE STENCH OF SWINE.’

The Quran, in reality, contains no such verse. Yet, plug that fabricated quote into Google and it pops up on countless more blogs.

On the subject of pork, the Quran states: “He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine…” (Chapter 16, Verse 115). Pork is described as “unclean” and therefore unfit for human consumption along with other types of meat, such as carrion, the carcass of dead animals (Chapter 6, Verse 145).

Notably, a similar description and injunction can be found in the Old Testament: “And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven footed, yet he cheweth not the cud; he [is] unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch; they [are] unclean to you” (Leviticus 11:7-8).

While the Quran renders pork impure for consumption, some Islamic scholars have opined that if changed into another form, then it can be allowed. For example, a replacement heart valve or medication derived from swine would be permitted even if other non-porcine options were available.

Claims made that any hint of swine will prohibit you from entering heaven must seem ironic to a Muslim living with a porcine heart valve.

But the aspect of the anti-Muslim, pig fat gun oil bullets scam that strikes me as most shameful is that it is being pitched to U.S. soldiers and Marines being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Even more than other Americans, military families are confronting increased financial pressures, including mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures, defaults on auto loans and mounting debts. Yet, this pseudo-patriotic snake oil salesperson seems to have no qualms preying upon our troops with such outlandish claims.

Since that phone call from 2004, I have often read media accounts about similar incidents such as individuals smearing pork on the Quran or spelling out hateful messages with bacon in front of a mosque. Muslim students have had pork products shoved in their face at school and a pig’s head was thrown into a mosque in Maine.

This apparent use of pork as a weapon of sorts is not entirely a new phenomenon, however.  For example, following the Reconquista in Spain when Muslims (and Jews) were forcibly converted or expelled, they were required to consume pork as proof of their conversion.  Today, American Muslims are victims of the intolerance with which they are often associated. 

See also:

America’s Image article collection
America’s Moral Decline and the Rise of False Christianity,  Karen Horst Cobb
Armageddon Theology: The Most Dangerous Cult in the World 
Ashamed of American Christian abandonment of their faith, Ray Hanania
The Bush Crusade, James Carroll
Bush: God told me to invade Iraq, Rupert Cornwell
Bush, Mideast Wars and End-Time Prophecy
Christian Extremism, Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood
Christian Extremism and Terrorism - article collection, Sheila Musaji
Christian Extremists Within the U.S. Military - Myth or Reality?, Habib Siddiqui
Christian Evangelicals and U.S. Foreign Policy
Christian Fundamentalism, the Global Crusade and Muslims, Yoginder Sikand
Christian Fundamentalism, Mark Robinson
Christian fundamentalists are driving Bush’s Middle East policy, George Monbiot
Christian Holy Warriors Set Sights on Iran, Bill Berkowitz
A Christian jihad?, Khaled Diab
Christian Jihad, Deborah Caldwell
Christian Militancy Corrodes American ideal, Mary Ellen Schoonmaker
Christian Rage and Muslim Moderation, Christopher Dickey
Christian Zionism: An Egregious Threat to U.S. - Middle East Understanding, Council for the National Interest
Christian Zionism: Terror in Jesus’ Name, Yoginder Sikand
Christianity and War: Readings in the Age of Empire, Doug Bandow 
Christianity and the War,  Laurence M. Vance
Stephen Colbert on Jesus rifles and Bible Grenades (video)
The Crusaders : “The Christian Taliban Is Running the Department of Defense”, Robert Koehler
The Evangelical Challenge: A New Face of Western Imperialism, Yoginder Sikand
Evangelical Christian missionaries embedded with American combat troops in Afghanistan, Mikey Weinstein
Evangelicals on the War Path, Yoginder Sikand
Evangelist leads millions seeking ‘war with Islam’, Alec Russell
Evangelizing Muslims and Jews: the New Crusade article collection
The Faith of George W. Bush: Christian Supremacy, American Imperialism and Global Disaster, Yoginder Sikand
For God and Our Father Abraham: Towards a More Inclusive Witness for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, D. Jason Berggren
Fundamentalist Christians and the War on Islam, Timothy Gatto
Hirabah - Jihad - Terrorism - Violence - Just War - Crusades - article collection
Hubris and Humility: Christian Perplexity at the Pluralism of Faith, S Parvez Manzoor
Iraqis claim Marines are pushing Christianity in Fallujah
Is the Christian Right a Fascist Movement?, John W. Whitehead
Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military, Jeff Sharlet
Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, Michelle Goldberg
Left Behind, ‘Convert or die’ game
Missionaries’ war for souls raises Iraq tension
Muslim Violence, Christian Non-Violence:  People in Glass Houses Should Not Throw Words, Sheila Musaji
The Neo-Crusaders, Neal AbuNab
Not so fast, Christian soldiers, Mikey Weinstein and Reza Aslan,1,2971273.story?coll=la-news-a_section&ctrack=5&cset=true
Onward Christian Soldiers, Max Blumenthal
The Public Face of Christian Evangelical Bigotry, Muqtedar Khan, Ph.D.
Relative Violence in Islam and Christianity, Nick Gier
Soldiers inAfghanistan given Bibles, told to “hunt people for Jesus”
Taking the Prince of Peace Seriously, Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
The Tenth Crusade
Video Proves Proselytization Rampant at U.S. Military Bases, Mikey Weinstein 
The war against Islam, James Carroll
Witness for Jesus in Afghanistan

originally posted 1/22/2010