Pistol Whipped Preacher 

Speaking to his students at Liberty University in Lynchburg last week, President Jerry Falwell, Jr. said that, “It just blows my mind that the president of the United States” wants “more gun control.” Liberty students applauded when Falwell said that the shooting at San Bernadino wouldn’t have happened if any of the victims had “what I have in my back pocket right now.” More applause. “Is it legal to pull it out? I don’t know.” (I think it is.) Huge ovation.
“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in” (more loud, student applause) “and killed them.” The President then pleaded with all the students to go get a gun. Liberty, he reminded the as yet inadequately armed students, has a free course in how to shoot. President Falwell now packs a .25 pistol. He’s looking for a holster so he can move his pistol from his back pocket and pull it out anytime he needs it in his work as President of Liberty.

Sure, there will be whining nannies who will scold Falwell for being a racist, Xenophobic, fear monger. The Governor of Virginia, a gun totter himself, immediately expressed outrage, chiding Falwell for the harm that may result from his “reckless words.”

​I write, not as a politician (unlike Falwell, I don’t know any) but as a preacher. Baptist Falwell’s remarks on guns are no more dumb than those of his buddy (allegedly Presbyterian) Trump. I admit that my negative reaction to Falwell’s remarks is due to my being a Methodist preacher. Because I preach the gospel with Jesus, I’ve got to stand up and make offensive comments to people on a regular basis. So I give thanks to my Lord and Savior that so few in my congregation pack heat. Occasionally, at the end of my sermons, they’ve tossed hymnals at me, hissed and booed. One smacked with a Bible a couple of weeks ago after my sermon from Jeremiah. They don’t need any more weapons to attack me for my preaching.

As Bishop in Alabama, I was keenly aware that Alabama is notoriously lax on concealed weapons. Fear of concealed weapons is my excuse for my wishy washy sermons while I was there. I carefully weighed my words in many a Sunday sermon knowing that the congregation had the capacity to take me out during the Benediction.  

When I’m a visiting preacher I breathe a sigh of relief when I enter a church that has one of those “Gun Free Zone” signs out front. Jesus routinely hands me some tough texts to preach, so tough that I always ask my clergy host to have everyone check their guns at the door during the hymn before my sermon. I’ve refused to preach to some congregations in South Carolina without a church-wide pat down. (Those of you who are not Christians may not know that First Church Nazareth, after Jesus’ very first sermon, responded to Jesus’ preaching by trying to toss him off a cliff! Luke 4, you can look it up. Imagine what they might have done to Jesus at fully armed Liberty U.)

Speaking of Jesus, I noted that President Falwell never mentions Jesus in his plea for pistol-packing students; a rare moment of homiletical good judgment by Falwell. I know that some of you think it odd that a Baptist would fail to mention Jesus in a sermon. But trust me. I’ve worked with Jesus for five decades. Jesus just doesn’t do well in these settings. Jesus said few words that bolster Falwell’s advocacy of a gun-in-every-hip-pocket. Actually, Falwell knows that Jesus said nothing that gives license to his followers ever to, in the President’s pregnant phrase, “pull it out.”

Maybe President Falwell knows more than Jesus about these matters, and maybe Jesus was just plain wrong in what he said about enemies, turning cheeks, etc. I would be the last to say that to Our Lord.  

And if President Falwell and his frosh-with-firearms take offense at this sermon, cocking their guns as they collectively mutter, “Go ahead unarmed Methodist preacher, make my day,” I’ve got nothing to pull out except a conviction that Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, really is the way, the truth, and the life. A pistol packing college president pandering to the worst of student sentiments is not.  




28 thoughts on “Pistol Whipped Preacher 

  1. Brother Willimon has stated the case well: Jesus Christ, the truth and the life, is incompatible with the bloodshed and heartbreak wrought by gun users. The solution lies in Christ and his teachings not more training in gun use.


    1. So, you are saying that Christians can’t be policemen (or women), soldiers, armed security guards, and the like. Are you saying that only non-believers can use firearms in situations where innocent life is threatened? Or, are you also saying no one should use guns for the benefit of others because of the “bloodshed and heartache wrought by gun users”? I would assert that there are evil gun users and there are those who would choose to use weapons for good. As Christians, I guess you are saying that we were wrong to save Jewish lives and fight against the holocaust? Take a look at Luke 22:36, where Jesus asked the Disciples to purchase a sword if they did not have one. Why? Not personal protection if needed? For dress? Turning the other cheek if slapped and offended does not mean stand and be killed. Loving your enemy does not require loving them so much as to stand by and let them kill my children. Show me where Jesus teaches that. In all respect to Bishop Willimon, he was willing (if not just tongue in cheek humor) to take such steps to protect himself including patdowns before a sermon, that I fail to see in him the same faith as his Lord. Jesus preached the controversial message of who he was and is and walked safely through the crowd that contemplated and threatened to throw him off a cliff. Had the crowd been armed, the result would have been the same. There is no sin in owning and carrying a gun nor in the defense of others. Or of self, as the good Bishop reveals in his own alledged or exagerated precautions.


      1. There are a few comments about your language choices and arguement that concern me Circuitrider. As a preface, the phrase “weapons for good” sounds like an oxymoron and could use some parsing out. Most definitions of the word weapons say things akin to “something (such as a gun, knife, club, or bomb) that is used for fighting or attacking someone or for defending yourself when someone is attacking you…something used to injure, defeat, or destroy”. Although, a ‘good death/injurymaker’ doesnt have the same linguisitic ring to it as weapon though. However, I understand your arguments to mean that in cases of defense weapons are good for the protection of the innocent, etc….Maybe something like ‘weapons for protection of the self and vunerable others’ may clarify your position on gun-control parameters. Just War theories have been dealing with these definitions of right protection for hundreds of years.

        By no means can all facets be answered in a reply, but may I offer a differing perspective? You said, “Turning the other cheek if slapped and offended does not mean stand and be killed. Loving your enemy does not require loving them so much as to stand by and let them kill my children. Show me where Jesus teaches that.” You seem to be concerned with the passivity of nonviolent actions (stand by and let them). By no means does nonviolent action affirm passive action of evil, rather it challenges evil in a new manner, through love. For example, Jesus’ last moments in the garden. Using your Luke 22:36 example, if you continue reading it says “Lord shall we use our swords?’ And one of them struck at the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, ‘Stop! No more of that!’ Then he touched the man’s ear and healed him” (22:49-51). Jesus seems to not allow violence to continue. Furthermore, He heals the very injury of the ‘enemy’. In fact, He dies for and forgives the very people that slap, spit, and kill him. Later on you say, “There is no sin in owning and carrying a gun nor in the defense of others. Or of self”. Perhaps not in owning and carrying, but maybe in the defense of others. May I ask who are the others for you, who is the self? As Christians are we not one Body? “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”( Gal 3:28) For Christians it would seem we should not have definitions of ‘other’ and ‘enemy’. Rather, Christ seems to include them, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). When you love the enemy, how can they be defined as an enemy? Aren’t all loved ones friends?

        I know these thoughts dont answer your questions, nor must you agree with them. I just wish to offer other perspectives.

        You have a deep commitment to justice, to the right and good protection of the innocent. These are wonderful commitments and they are not wrong to have. But we as Christians must always be discerning ‘whose justice?’ Is it my own conceptions of justice? When a human implores the use of weapons, such as guns, it sometimes results in the death of another human life. Not always, but it does. When a human takes another human life, they commit a personal judgement upon the intrinsic value of another human. When a human kills another, they judge the other’s life to be insufficient/unworthy of being human. That is a heavy weight for any human to bear let alone decide. In my own personal opinions I dont believe as Christians we can make such decisions of who lives and who dies. We were never meant to carry such a burden.

        On another note, there seem to be present cases where policing institutions have found it more succesful to be unarmed, see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/02/18/5-countries-where-police-officers-do-not-carry-firearms-and-it-works-well/

        Lastly, here are some cool resources on the discussion of Just War, etc…These writers all significantly address the topics you are concerned with.

        Nonviolent Advocates-
        Dr. John Howard Yoder’s ‘Politics of Jesus’, ‘Original Revolution’, ‘Body Politics’
        Dr. Stanley Hauweras ‘The Peaceable Kingdom’, most of his other works too
        Dr. Richard Hay’s ‘The Moral Vision of the New Testament’****I highly recommend this one because it stays very close to Scripture****

        Realism/Just War Advocates-
        Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr’s ‘Love and Justice’
        Dr. Oliver O’Donovan’s ‘Just War Revisited’
        Dr. Nigel Biggar’s ‘In Defence of War’
        Daniel Bell’s ‘Just War as Christian Discipleship’

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Circuitrider,
        It seems obvious from the text that the disciples took Jesus’ remarks literally because the quickly produce two swords. However, very soon after Jesus’ metaphorical comment Peter attempts to use a literal sword to defend Jesus by attacking a servant of the High priest and removing his ear (Luke 22:50-57.) Jesus stops that rapidly. I imagine his disciples were thoroughly confused. Didn’t you just say to get swords, Jesus? Then aren’t we going to use them? Well given vs. 53, with Jesus talking about the darkness, it seems that the battle is not physical, is spiritual. Swords prove to be worthless.

        Eventually Jesus Dies, and so does everyone else. No self defence reported, other than running away and hiding and using good verbal skills. There are no further reports of the disciples or any of the followers of Jesus, attacking and killing or even defending themselves from death using weapons until much later in history.
        My point is this: Christians can’t and shouldn’t trust in the literal sword (physical weapons). Our defense has to be our love for our enemies and our willingness to lay down our own lives for the sake of others.


      3. I would add Augustine & Bonhoeffer to readings on the Just War position. Also, the movie “The Mission” is a powerful presentation of the practical implications of Just War & Passivist Christianity.


  2. I was delighted that the esteemed wordsmith, Dr. Willimon Willimon, humorously and without rancor, challenged the offensive ranting of a college president who, obviously, has ignored the content of Jesus’ message. Falwell’s ranting left me speechless, but Willimon’s reply gave voice to my feelings.


  3. I agree that Falwell made irresponsible and stupid remarks but I’m not sure of what Willimon is suggesting in his WWJD remarks. Is he stating that a concealed weapon carrying a Christian is an oxymoron? Is gun ownership for protection a violation of Jesus’ teachings? Should all Methodists become Mennonite pacifists? He told us specifically how Falwell was wrong, and I agree, but he did tell us specifically his practical theology on the matter.


  4. Below is an excerpt from an article by Author and Pastor Randy Alcorn (who I was privileged to grow up around and learned tons from) on the refugees, terrorism and security issue. I could not agree more with Randy. I have been speaking about this issue with a focus on BALANCE from the start. Too many people are one one side or the other. Will Willimon is no more balanced then then the others. Clearly he loves and follows Jesus…just like President Falwell does. Just because he does it differently does not require or condone Will Willimon judging him in the harsh way his blog does above. Just because you don’t understand something does NOT make what you don’t understand wrong. In other words, a failure on YOUR part does not constitute a failure on MY part. Will Willimon, your passivity and position is just as reckless and irresponsible as you thing President Falwell’s is. As a pastor, director of a non profit ministry to military families and a former law enforcement officer I have a very balance perspective on this having lived all sides. President Falwell is leading in the way that he believes is right, just as Will Willimon does with his flock. And BOTH will be accountable before God and BOTH of them need to take the edge off of their comments and find balance and understanding in this! If Will Willimon is all about peace and passive behavior and understanding then maybe he should be also exhibiting it towards his brother in Christ President Falwell even if he disagrees with him instead of trashing him online. Yes, this is a loving rebuke of a brother.

    Pay special attention to the Proverbs 27:12 reference below.
    BALANCE!!! Please read it.

    “We can’t be omniscient, but God calls us to both compassion and wisdom. Not all compassion involves opening our borders to all needy people—it can also involve helping them settle in other nations. Here’s an example of the biblical call to measure danger and take it into consideration in how we respond: “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty” (Proverbs 22:3, NIV).

    Yet wisdom as a value also doesn’t stand on its own—that same book of Proverbs, the greatest source of wisdom in all Scripture, says “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed” (Proverbs 19:17, ESV). It also says “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses” (Proverbs 28:17). Hence, what is compassionate is also ultimately wise, because God rewards it.

    Lest we think these passages only relate to giving money, the “poor” and needy aren’t just the under-financed. There are Old Testament themes of caring for those lacking freedom and safety (Isaiah 58:6-7). Peaceful foreigners living among God’s people were to be welcomed and embraced (Leviticus 19:34). “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). On the other hand, sanctuary and subsidy wasn’t offered to known enemies of the state.

    As Christians we are to love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44), but that doesn’t mean we are called to enable people to inflict harm on our nation, churches and families. Indeed, since those who harm others will be condemned for doing so, enabling people to do harm is not loving them.

    Compassion without thought and discernment has predictably bad consequences: “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences” (Proverbs 27:12, NLT, which repeats the earlier cited 22:3).

    There’s nothing simple about being true to all these principles and passages. We must simultaneously embrace biblical teachings that stretch us to our limits in trying to achieve a balance that’s both loving and reasonable.

    If we label others who disagree with us as “bleeding-heart liberals who want to sacrifice our national security” or “heartless conservatives who don’t believe in Christ’s love for the needy” then we are, ironically, guilty of lacking both compassion and wisdom not only toward the refugees, but each other.”

    Still Wrestling with the Syrian Refugee Issue – Blog – Eternal Perspective Ministries
    There’s a lot I’m not sure of related to this issue. But I am sure that the rush to judgment and hostility among Christ-followers is displeasing to God.



    1. Matt Augee, this is the best perspective shared here. Thank you! This is steps closer to the truth of the matter, than Mr Willimon and Mr Falwell. My views align more with Mr Falwell than with Mr Willimon.

      I’ve not read Mr Falwell’s position other than the above characterization. Mr Willimon shares only enough to make HIS point. It is easy to see that Mr Willimon’s prefers the American statist solutions to the related societal ills. On the other side, there are many that believe that the solutions afforded by the 2nd Amendment are the best solutions.

      Mr Willimon sights Biblical examples to make his points. I appreciate this, but I feel he falls short. His argument did not convince me anyway. If you are unwilling to protect because you feel Jesus said not to protect, then who do you expect to provide the protecting?

      Mr Willimon prefers to preach to a patted down harmless gathering. Perhaps he would refrain from such highly charged inflammatory rhetoric (yet titillating) if he regarded his congregants as dangerous and trustworthy adults. This begs the question, what DOES Mr Willimon thinks of his congregants? What does it matter? They are harmless. They are neutered. “In the name of Christ, I entrust you to change the world! But I certainly don’t trust you with a gun!”

      Is mankind capable of good? Can we be good AND dangerous, and capable of much? Of course we can! That’s the hope and the objective for all free people.

      The perspective is that The State can do the heavy lifting around here. Christians are to be passive and are to let the thugs, the evil and the corrupt run the joint. Is that really what Jesus wants? I just don’t see it this way. Does Mr Willimon feel that he needs to enrage his congregants – in the name of Christ of course. “Hey, I’m teaching the text!” Does he feel that they are unstable and prone to attack him? Would Mr Willimon take a different approach if he spoke at ground level to kids on the street? Big city ivory towers, is that where we will find Mr Willimon?

      Speaking from the broad and theoretical, GOOD adults that KNOW they are dangerous will not be enraged to kill their fellow man, or Mr Willimon. Quite the opposite. It’s the gun free gatherings that get attacked. On the other hand, for example, gun shows are full of weapons. An attacker would quickly be apprehended at a gun show, or any other heavily armed gathering. Attackers are evil and/or sick. They are not always stupid. They know where the easy targets are.


  5. Mr. Falwell should be pleased to have so many defenders. Again, I note the absence of any reference to Jesus in these defenses of his remarks. Which is just as it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The author would be better served to know a few more facts:

    Falwell clarified he was speaking in regards to the Muslims who killed the innocents in San Bernardino specifically.

    Falwell did not offer a “sermon”. It was an two and a half minute announcement as he adjourned the student convocation. He wasn’t the speaker.He is not a preacher nor does he preach.

    The author refers to “frosh with firearms”. While it makes for nice alliteration it abhors facts. Virginia law states only a 21 year old can have a concealed carry permit. As such not many “freshman” (“frosh”) are eligible for same.

    Falwell is no doubt right about the his statement that had someone in San Bernardino been armed it’s likely not as many people would have been killed or injured.


  7. Thanks for your excellent crafting of words. Your courage of speaking the truth is gratifying and refreshing. Even if those words are directed at my reformed faith.
    Danny Daniel
    Retired Presbytetian Pastor (PCUSA)


  8. Referring to his gun, President Falwell said, “Is it legal to pull it out? I don’t know.It sounds like he hasn’t bothered to take the gun course that he proscribes for his students. Otherwise, why would he have wondered if it were legal for him to take out his weapon. .


  9. Just a note for clarity, The United Methodist Church is not, and in it’s historical constiuant parts ever been, a Christian Pacifist denomination.


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