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How Do American Christians Deal with Martyrdom?

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Another horrible school shooting has occurred in the US, this time in the Umpqua Community College in Oregon, and according to some reports the shooter targeted Christians or was at least interested in whether his victims were Christian or not. the Washinton Post writes:

In one classroom, he appeared to single out Christian students for killing, according to witness Anastasia Boylan.

“He said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,’” Boylan’s father, Stacy, told CNN, relaying his daughter’s account while she underwent surgery to treat a gunshot to her spine.

“And then he shot and killed them.”

Another account came from Autumn Vicari, who described to NBC Newswhat her brother J.J. witnessed in the room where the shootings occurred. According to NBC: “Vicari said at one point the shooter told people to stand up before asking whether they were Christian or not. Vicari’s brother told her that anyone who responded ‘yes’ was shot in the head. If they said ‘other’ or didn’t answer, they were shot elsewhere in the body, usually the leg.”

Some Christians have argued that this shows that they are clearly persecuted in the US, which I would say is a big exaggeration when comparing with our brothers and sisters in Iraq, China and North Korea that are persecuted for real. But not only that, in an American fashion many Christians have argued that this shows that more guns are needed! More Christians need to arm themselves to be able to kill new shooters that inevitably will pop up on American soil.

Now, this whole gun control debate that’s going on in the US is quite hard for us Europeans to understand. Hi, I live in Sweden. We have very strict gun control here. That means that almost no one carries guns around. That means that we have not had a school shooting since 1961. At all. Gun deaths are more common in countries with lots of guns, like the US and Switzerland, for obvious reasons. See, guns kill people – it’s sort of what they’re designed to do.

Gun Deaths in Developed Countries

Gun Deaths in Developed Countries

I find it extra tragic that Christians support the NRA gun propaganda. Haven’t you learned anything from how Jesus and His followers reacted to violent persecution? They didn’t shoot Paul in the head or stabbed him with a dagger when he tried to wipe out the church, they prayed for him and blessed him and eventually he was miraculously converted. Jesus told us not to confront evil with violence, but turning the other cheek we must seek creative ways of stopping evildoers without killing them. Cast some demons out of them if nothing else works!

Even the two swords that the disciples carried in Luke 22 weren’t meant for self-defense – when Peter tried to use one of them for such purpose Jesus forbade him! According to Matthew, He said: “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Mt 26:12). Early church fathers like Tertullian interpreted this as a command to all Christians who try to arm themselves, to abstain from that and get involved in nonviolent activism.

Rather than lobbying for a Wild West utopia where everybody carries a rifle, American Christians should take inspiration from their Amish brothers and sisters in Nickel Mines, who reacted to a school shooting in their community in 2006 with forgiving the shooter, comforting his family and attending his funeral. That’s a truly Christ-like response to martyrdom.


  1. D_Bo says:

    I found this on ….the same explanation I have heard from other reliable sources. It always comes down to numbers…is it a one-on-one situation or 10,000 people? In the Bible, I can only recall pretty much one-on-one. A school shooting involves yourself and other people’s children. We do have copycat shootings, and one punk wanting headlines for killing a greater number than the previous punk. That’s why a punk killer needs to have an inglorious ending. Anyway, here is what Got Questions.or has to say………..

    To “turn the other cheek,” does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in mortal danger. Like the principle of the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth in Matthew 5:38, turning the other cheek refers to personal retaliation, not criminal offenses or acts of military aggression. Clearly, Jesus did not mean to negate all God’s laws and injunctions protecting us against violent crime or invading armies. Rather, Jesus is speaking here of the principle of non-retaliation to affronts against our own dignity, as well as lawsuits to gain one’s personal assets (v. 40), infringements on one’s liberty (v. 41), and violations of property rights (v. 42). He was calling for a full surrender of all personal rights.

    • Tim Streit says:

      “Guns kill people” like pencils misspell words. What was Peter actually doing carrying the sword? Slicing barbecue…cutting hair…cleaning fish??? I think walking softly and carrying a big stick/sword sounds about right AND when Jesus said those who live by sword, die by sword could apply to all those who mean evil with sword in attacking innocent with a sword.

  2. Agent X says:

    Amen! (just found your blog btw)

    Thanks for the wise words. I am American through and through. I am Christian, yet my youthful imagination was filled with and inspired by Hollywood tough guys – chief among them Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry and Stranger with no Name. It seems I am still prying some of that garbage loose from my imagination today.

    I live in Texas where gun rights are a “no brainer” – lets say. And in recent years concealed carry has become our law. Now open carry is the hot issue. But what strikes me as sooooooo ironic is the First Baptist Church of Dumas, TX offering conceal carry classes to the community.

    I am quite sure that my brothers and sisters and I quibble and argue over lots of differences all the time that surely are “arguable.” But I cannot see how a Christian, much less a whole assembly, dares to imagine they are serving the Kingdom of God by hosting weapons training for housewives and office hacks. What message and mission do they think Jesus is bringing?

    I find it difficult to even show respect to such a position. And yet it IS the air we breathe in this culture.

    I must say that I am not particularly a gun control advocate. That said, I certainly hope people with guns will control them. But as a student/follower of Jesus (one learning and growing with lots of room for more growth yet), I think that those brave souls who answer the call to stand for Jesus at the working end of a handgun smuggled into a classroom give us the image of God that the centurion of Mark 15:39 witnessed. I think there is something deeply powerful in the spiritual blowback and blood spatter – and I think it is empowered by the Spirit of God.

    So, even though I would hope for a good law to come along and bring order to our world, I am drawn to that other more mysterious power we see in the sacrifice of one (even those) who literally and metaphorically take up the cross and lay down life for God.

    (Actually, I am fearful of even making such remarks.)

    Hey, thanks for this blog. I will explore it further and stop by again. I am blessed by your words and the ministry I find here.

  3. Hi,

    I agree that the gun issue has to be discussed. But we cannot ignore the targets of the murderer. If it was specific to another group the general media would label it as a hate crime.

  4. Ryan says:

    Thanks for your post. I appreciate your perspective. I am a Christian who lives in America, and I wrote this for my brothers and sisters here:

  5. […] Source: How Do American Christians Deal with Martyrdom? […]

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The author

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

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