March 20, 2019
Horse 2520 - Put Your Sword Back In Its Place, Fraser Anning.
These are not the words of the white supremacist terrorist monster who shot and murdered fifty people at two mosques in Christchurch last week but the words of the democratically elected Senator from Queensland, Fraser Anning. These words are from the same Senator who in his maiden speech to parliament, deliberately chose to invoke the words 'final solution', which came from the translation of the name for the policy of Nazi Germany with respect to the systemic and efficient extermination of the Jews.
I put forward that the murders of fifty people are not the actions of a madman because that would either imply a temporary loss of sensibility or a mental disability of some capacity, but rather these are the actions of a calculated and completely sane cancer of a man. Likewise, Fraser Anning's words are not a mistake or misstep and neither have we taken them out of context. Fraser Anning is an elected representative who is an apologist for terrorism.
If we do want to talk about words taken out of context, then the closing paragraph of Senator Fraser Anning's address is an example in point:
"As we read in Matthew 26:52 'all they that take the sword, shall perish by the sword' and those who follow a violent religion that calls on them to murder us, cannot be too surprised when someone takes them at their word and responds in kind"
- Fraser Anning, 15th Mar 2019
If we do actually want to bother to interrogate the context in which those words appear, then a broader scope of that passage in Matthew's gospel is essential.
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
- Matthew 26:27-56
What Fraser Anning has done, is lifted two clauses from a sentence and made it say exactly the opposite of what is intended. This would be like telling a nine year old boy that "You are not allowed to have ice cream for dinner" and the boy then going off and chowing down on a bunch of ice cream claiming that the instruction was "allowed to have ice cream for dinner".
If you were to read just that verse by itself, then you find that in most translations, the verse actually begins with the statement "Then Jesus said: 'Put your sword away'" and what we actually have is a rebuke from Jesus to Peter for being a violent knave. Jesus' next action is to heal the high priest who had his ear cut off; thus absolutely repudiating Peter's violent actions. It absolutely does not condone or apologise for the actions which caused harm to someone and in the broader context of Jesus' ministry, in no way allows for the direct actions of harming someone, much less killing them.
In the broader context of what this white supremacist terrorist monster wanted, in his manifesto which laid out why he was going to be a terrorist murderer, he said that he wanted to cause disharmony along racial, cultural and religious lines in the United States and carried this out in New Zealand for maximum shock value.
The United States in particular has managed to create the conditions for a more violent society over many years and has cultivated the narrative nicely. In doing so, the Christian right has often been co-opted in this perpetual war on my itself and you will often find the following passage in Luke's gospel quoted as the justification for why Christians should have weapons:
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.
- Luke 22:36-38
I consistently find this justification for Christians having weapons completely fraudulent.
Even in context this doesn't look like a generic command to Jesus' followers and it certainly doesn't look like a set of standing orders for peaceful living. If we want to take the Sermon on the Mountain from Matthew 5 and onwards as Jesus' manifesto, then we find that is the poor in spirit who own the kingdom of heaven, those who mourn who will be comforted, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness who will be filled and the peacemakers who will be called children of God.
In the that light, then the only standing command is one which is repeated and reinforced throughout the New Testament:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
- Matthew 22:36-40
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
- John 13:34-35
And now I urge you, dear lady--not as a new commandment to you, but one we have had from the beginning--that we love one another.
- 2 John 1:5
Not only is Peter rebuked outright for his actions but Christ heals the high priest's ear. In no possible world does The logic follow that having a sword is a general command from Christ to his followers; and even if you were to make that morally bankrupt leap of logic, the new standing command which follows right through the entire of the New Testament excludes the action of harming someone anyway.
How is it possible to love someone in any sense of the word if you have pointed a gun at them, much less kill them? Also, how does it show any love at all to the victims' families who have been left behind?
Moreover, it should go without saying that it is obvious that other people are going to have differing beliefs about how the world works, as well as differing religious beliefs and differing faiths. If we live in a society with not only do differing faiths (where you have Christians of varying flavours, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sihks, Shintoists, Animists, as well as people who have arrived at the positions of agnosticism and atheism, and have all done so independently because one's faith and belief set is deeply personal), then if you actually were to eliminate everyone who had different faiths and beliefs to you, then if you were actually being internally logically consistent, you would have to murder every single person on the planet without exception.
The fact that this monster has gone into a mosque and shot up a bunch of people, means that he has made a very deliberate choice to be specifically exclusionary and discriminatory and deliberately chosen to ignore the standing command to love people.
In that respect, then what we have seen in New Zealand over the last few days is a better example of carrying out those orders of loving people in the face of the evil actions of a white supremacist terrorist monster.
We saw Christchurch High School perform the haka as a show of sympathy and compassion and welcome to country; there have been floral tributes to the victims; there have been businesses offering free goods and services and free meals to grieving people; and the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has not brought meaningless platitudes of 'thoughts and prayers' but a call to action for a change in legislation as well as hugs and tears. If you want to know more what strong leadership in the face of a national crisis looks like, Jacinda Ardern is it.
Fraser Anning appears to have memorised one line of scripture and has deliberately chosen to take it out of context. That isn't very clever.
Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
Oh, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
- Antonio, The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 3
If we want to put that line of scripture which Fraser Anning has quoted back into context then:
Love one another...
Love your enemies..
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
- Matthew 5:43-44
The thing is though, that the people who were in the mosque at the time, were just peaceably going about their business. That's like the weirdest enemies in the world. Sure, they might have different beliefs to you and you might disagree with those beliefs but the simple fact of the matter is that lots of people have different beliefs to you and everyone just wants to peaceably go about their business.
Maybe what Fraser Anning really needs to hear and indeed everyone who wants to stoke the fires of ugly racism, nativism and knavery are the words of Jesus which he didn't quote: Put your sword back in its place.
Put your sword back in its place, forever. Then we will be surprised when someone takes them at their word and responds in kindness.