At a Pennsylvania church, worshippers carried AR-15 rifles and wore crowns of bullets in adherence to a belief that the Bible's "rod of iron" references the firearm. https://t.co/9NSQk0qUwf— NPR (@NPR) March 1, 2018
The article explains...
Hundreds of faithful at a Pennsylvania church on Wednesday carried AR-15-style rifles in adherence to their belief that a "rod of iron" mentioned in the Bible refers to the type of weapon that was used in last month's mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.
The armed ceremony at World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland, about 20 miles southeast of Scranton, featured gun-toting worshipers, some wearing crowns of bullets as they participated in communion and wedding ceremonies. . . .
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, "The ceremony's official name was the Cosmic True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humanity Cheon Il Guk Book of Life Registration Blessing. It was part of the church's weeklong 'Festival of Grace,' which included a 'President Trump Thank You Dinner' on Saturday."
The Rev. Hyung Jin "Sean" Moon prayed for "a kingdom of peace police and peace militia where the citizens, through the right given to them by almighty God to keep and bear arms, will be able to protect one another and protect human flourishing."In case you were wondering, yes, this is the Unification Church, and the Moon mentioned here is the youngest son of Rev. Sun Myung Moon--the mass weddings guy.
I'll let my friends who study the Unification Church and "New Religious Movements" more generally handle the specifics here.
But for me now, this brings a new wrinkle to the civil religious discourse surrounding firearms. Ever since reading Brent Plate's A History of Religion in 5 1/2 Objects I have been thinking more and more about the objects of civil religion. It's a place where I think that the scholarly study of civil religion has done relatively well--examining stuff more than words. But even here, the conversation has tended to hover around monuments and things of this sort. It's interesting and significant, I suppose. But... meh.
Monuments are something that exist in public spaces--they draw attention on occasion, but they largely sit alone, blending into the landscape without much notice.
I'm more interested in the civil religious discourses surrounding the things in our homes, the things that we use, and the things that we value. And the fact is that for many (many) people in the USA, guns are sacred objects. Their power comes not only from an authority granted through the constitution and affirmed by the highest court, but also through the actual firing of the weapon itself.
So here, in this Pennsylvania church, is one very visible expression of this civil religious discourse. It's quirky and it's curious. But it also speaks to a broader reality that many Americans find common ground with each other through the guns they own and cherish.