Rep Brian Babin (R-TX): "The United States of America has always had guns. It's our history. We were built on the Judeo-Christian foundation and with guns" pic.twitter.com/vldB0ODaS7— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) May 25, 2022
When Senator Ted Cruz got visibly disturbed during an interview and walked away after the words "American Exceptionalism" were spoken, something snapped into frame for me: so much of American history seems to assume our current status in the world is the result of faith and superior firepower. The idea of the gun as a sacral part of our national religion isn't really just a metaphor for some of us--it is reality.
The religious right has long suggested that if "they" (a tyrannical leftist, probably godless Communist, government) come to take the guns away, the Bibles are next. It always sounded like fear-mongering to me of the typical "Red Scare" tropes, but it also resonated as tangentially white supremacist to me because gun-grabbing was the impetus of the uprising in the neo-Nazi classic The Turner Diaries. I'm starting to see it, though, as an artifact of our founding myths, and it defines the divide in our politics--what makes the US unique or great? Are we a creedal nation or a story of blood and soil? And was any of this especially ordained by God?
Leave it to the "Jesus, Guns, Babies" lady for clarifying this for me--even though she lost her bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination (or did she? Mike Lindell is asking, so, uh, there's that). The quick capsule review of American history that a lot of people seem to have absorbed goes a little something like this:
Christopher Columbus discovered the promised land in 1492, then the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock to form a shining city on a hill, so America overthrew British tyranny, had a civil war over states rights, freed the slaves, conquered the West (by killing most of the people previously living there) and then kicked everyone's ass in WW2 because we have nukes now, so thank you Jesus and Smith & Wesson.
And they called it manifest destiny. And it was good.
I may be exaggerating, but I don't think I'm off by that much. This is why CRT and the 1619 Project have set the usual suspects off--it challenges their post-Columbian chapters of the American Bible. It's like arguing against creationism. It fiddles with a worldview where American primacy is founded in freedom and God has always been on our side. They don't see the past is existing outside of the formalized, handed-down from Mount Rushmore version*, and then continue to operate as if might made right.
And that's where the guns come in. The iron rod is how the faithful Americans earn their New Canaan. The land is purified in blood, because we're in times of tribulation. Wars. Rumors of wars. Pestilence. Famine. You know. Same shit, different century. So you have to be morally and militarily prepared.
And how do the people in the Church of American Exceptionalism mentally cope with the violence? It's supposed to happen. It's the Abrahamic sacrifice to show fidelity in order to get that which has been promised. The Lord provided a sheep for the holocaust--and it's hopefully other people's babies.
That sacrifice is supposed to make us exceptional and give us the freest and most prosperous country on earth. It's why people all over the world want to come here, after all, whether we want them to or not.
It isn't usually as nakedly depicted as it is by the Moonie off-shoot Church of the Iron Rod:
One follower, Jonathan Franco, was quoted by Scranton's WNEP TV as saying, "If you don't have a rod of iron then, unfortunately, you can come into a situation where your life can come to an end. Who else is there to blame if you yourself didn't take the responsibility to preserve your own life?"
Sreymom Ouk, 41, who attended the ceremony with her husband, Sort Ouk, and an AR-15, told the AP that she needed the weapon to defend her family against "sickos and evil psychopaths."
"People have the right to bear arms, and in God's kingdom, you have to protect that," she said, according to the news agency. "You have to protect against evil."
but the idea of the gun as protective, as a talisman, and as wholly compatible with a Biblical lifestyle, is so common we not so long ago had a controversy over gunsights with Bible verses on them being shipped overseas in our "Global War on Terror". And the business who sold the AR-15's to the Uvalde shooter, Daniel Defense, also runs a 501(c)3 associated with building churches called Assets for Christ (about which, this overview is very interesting) and posted this now-deleted Tweet:
of a young child cradling a rifle, with a quote from Proverbs: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
It can't help but reminds me of the December culture war trolling of Thomas Massie and Lauren Boebert, keeping the Christ, and the rifles, in Christmas. Is the "way they should go" to be raised, as Madison Cawthorn put it, as "monsters"?
Creating monsters is a choice, and I think it is an unholy one. Firepower and cruelty are not our strengths, and no thoughts from empty heads or prayers from empty hearts in our lying rituals sanctify the slaughter.
* The heathen hordes tearing down statues of great Americans at first, then churches, etc., was depicted by no less a light than Matt Schlapp. It suddenly makes more sense that the statues of Americans are venerated more than books when you see history's movers as, not men, but idols, and that it is a mythology, not a history, that a very particular group of people would like to protect. With guns, naturally.