Students at Princeton Theological Seminary have sent a public letter to Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, condemning remarks he made last week encouraging Christians to get gun permits and use guns against Muslims.
“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he says, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he said, “and killed them.”
Falwell, the son of the late Rev. Jerrry Falwell, an influential televangelist, told reporters on Saturday that he has had a concealed-carry permit for about a year, but decided for the first time Friday to carry a .25 pistol because of the attacks in San Bernardino. Falwell said he has had several shotguns, rifles and pistols for several years but is new to carrying a concealed weapon.
The students at Princeton Theological Seminary who had signed the petition as of the morning of Dec. 11 said they were alarmed by Falwell’s speech and said that Jesus calls his followers to live in love, not fear.
The online petition can be found here. The full text of the students’ open letter to Falwell is below.
December 8, 2015
Dear Mr. Falwell,
At Liberty University’s Convocation on Friday, December 4, you recommended arming Christian students, with the object of killing Muslims. Many of us at Princeton Theological Seminary were alarmed and deeply troubled by these comments and those that followed in the media. We feel compelled as Christian scholars to testify to the love of Jesus Christ and to address your statements.
We understand that there are significant problems to which you are responding. We see heartbreaking violence here and abroad, and real challenges face our nation. It is easy in such circumstances to let our fear guide and control our actions.
And yet, the life and ministry of Jesus Christ testifies to the possibility of a life lived in love, not fear. According to scripture, “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). Often we are tempted to respond out of fear, but Jesus calls us to a higher way.
In the resurrection, Jesus conquered the grave. In the Gospel of Matthew the first instruction his followers heard upon encountering the empty tomb was, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said” (Matthew 28:5-6). Even in a culture that enjoins us to fear, those who hear the call not to “be afraid” must point to the empty tomb in response. Therefore, arming Christians against a stereotyped enemy is not virtuous, but faithless.The vast majority of Muslims around the world, and next door, desire peace, as do the vast majority of Christians.
Death and danger confront us in this world. But Christians must stand against hate, against violence, and against fear. We must stand in friendship and solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters. Christ’s empty tomb compels us.
Margaret E. Elwell, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student
Emily P. Wilton, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student
Adam D. Wert, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student
Lawrence A. Anglin, History, Ph.D. student
Stephanie Mota Thurston, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student
Thomas W. Seat II, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student
Isaac Y. Kim, Theology (Christian Ethics), Ph.D. student
See Yin C. Yeung, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student
Rev. Francisco J. Pelaez-Diaz, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student
Justin Michael Reed, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Ph.D. student
Marcus A. Hong, Practical Theology, Ph.D. student
Chelsea S. Williams, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student
Melanie Webb, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student
Philip M. Forness, History, Ph.D. student
Ransom W. Portis, Biblical Studies, Ph.D. student
Miles S. Hopgood, History, Ph.D. student
George F. Rambow, History, Ph.D. student
Daniel J. Pedersen, Theology, Ph.D.
Rory H. Misiewicz, Philosophy & Theology, Ph.D. student
Rev. Justin Nickel, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student
Nathan C. Johnson, Biblical Studies, Ph.D. student
Rev. Kermit Moss, Practical Theology, Ph.D. student
Rev. Kristin J. Wendland, Old Testament, Ph.D. student
Jolyon G. R. Pruszinski, New Testament, Ph.D. student
Briana L. Wong, History, Ph.D. student
Andrew J. Peterson, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student
Rev. David Bruner, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student
Cambria Janae Kaltwasser, Systematic Theology, Ph.D. student
James E. Walters, History, Ph.D. student
Rev. Andrew Thompson Scales, Homiletics, Ph.D. student
Sunder John Boopalan, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student
Joel D. Estes, Biblical Studies, Ph.D. student
M. John-Patrick O’Connor, Biblical Studies, Ph.D. student
Alyssa Lehr Evans, History, Ph.D. student
Jeffrey Skaff, Systematic Theology, Ph.D.student
Christy Lang Hearlson, Practical Theology, Ph.D. student
Vinod I. Gnanaraj, Practical Theology, Ph.D. student
Candice Benbow, Religion & Society, Ph.D. student
Lindsey Hankins, Theology, Ph.D. student
Rev. Ruben Arjona, Pastoral Theology, Ph.D. student