Why the Crusades were Morally Superior to George Zimmerman (and Us)

Jason Micheli —  March 11, 2014 — 7 Comments

3f22c6cb00087f2649f48006Relax, the post title is just to titillate and get all you bottom feeding voyeurs to click over.

It’s probably beneath me to blog about a story primarily obsessed over by TMZ and the Washington Times, but why put on airs?

If you subscribe to the Washington Times or have been on a treadmill at Gold’s recently (or are a TMZ-watching 7th grade girl) then you likely already know:

George Zimmerman (He Who Stood His Ground or He Who Murdered Trayvon) spent Saturday signing autographs at a Florida gun show.

Signing autographs.

Signing autographs at a gun show.

Believe it or not, I do my best to avoid commenting directly on politics here on the blog, trying instead to reflect on such things from a theological vantage.

I realize all too well how sensitive and partisan guns are as political issue, and I have no problem with say my father-in-law who owns guns, makes his own ammunition, shoots at a target range and sometimes hunts. I’ve no desire to join him in any of those endeavors but neither do I do any woodworking with him. To each his own.

While I’ve got no beef with my wife’s papa, it doesn’t change the fact that guns are a theological issue for Christians.

In the same way liberals can’t pretend they don’t understand how abortion is such a big issue for Christians, conservatives shouldn’t feign surprise that unlimited access to weapons could also be considered a theological concern.

Specifically, I have in mind the (idolatrous?) culture of guns in our country which values unfettered gun rights above any and all other rights and concerns for the common good.

I’ve written about the above before so I’ll stop there.

Back to the titillating title:

A few weeks ago, I attended a lecture delivered by the theologian Stanley Hauerwas.

In true post-liberal fashion, Hauerwas insisted on how one of the Church’s primary vocations is to demand truthful speech about our tradition and use it (not the language given to us by politics) to narrate the world around us.

During the Crusades, for example, the Church required returning warriors from the Holy Land to confess, do penance and seek absolution before they were allowed to return to the eucharistic celebration.


Because even in the Church that had sent them to war there was the recognition that, despite the ‘justness’ of their cause, the crusaders had committed sin. Had been asked to commit sin. By the taking of another’s life.

The Ten Commandments, which so many Christians seem to want to post on public walls, put it simply, even primally in the Hebrew:

‘You no kill.’

And the bottom 9 commandments, as the Jews always understood, were but elaborations on the first commandment about how we love (or don’t) God alone. Coveting your neighbor’s wife, for example, is really at bottom about idolatry. As the adulterer David puts it, otherwise awkwardly: Against you alone, God, have I sinned.

Even when we can debate the justness or necessity of an act of killing, killing is nonetheless a sin.

And with all sin God is the ultimate victim.

I’m not so naive as to think we can persuade Christians to back reasonable gun control  or to repeal laws like SYG any time soon.

It does seem reasonable, however, to ask that Christians remember that God calls killing- regardless of the context- a sin.

Indeed God calls it such so clearly God gives it a number- God doesn’t often make things so plain (see: Revelation, Book of).

Christians, it seems to me, can rightly debate gun laws and matters of the constitution.

What should not be a matter of debate is our expectation that those who’ve stood their ground confess their sin and seek absolution.

Or at the very least, since we can’t presume someone like George Zimmerman is a follower of Christ, we should expect that our fellow Christians should adopt a posture of contrition and not celebrate what is, just or not, a sin.

Our inability to name killing a sin, however, reveals how the sort of moral honesty demanded by truthful Christian speech is exactly the sort of truthfulness our political culture would rather avoid.

I can’t help but wonder if we’ve become captive to our particular partisan tribes because we no longer have any idea what it would be like to belong, firstly, to the tribe called Christian.

The killing of Trayvon Martin (again: justified or not) should be cause for mourning not applause and if George Zimmermann is a Christian, having stood his ground, he should seek absolution not autographs.


Jason Micheli


7 responses to Why the Crusades were Morally Superior to George Zimmerman (and Us)

  1. I was under the impression that the commandment was “you no murder,” not “you no kill.” Any sense of a resolution to this question?

    • Wait a second…that just posted. Did you actually read the post? 🙂
      רצח never refers in the OT to murder or war but to killing and the old, reliable King James (et al) have all translated רצח from the Sept. as ‘kill.’

  2. Agreed that Mr. Zimmerman was a troubled soul before the killing of Mr. Martin, and today, even moreso. It is sad to watch him descend into what can only be personal torment. Agreed that absolution would be better than autographs.

    • Yeah, a whole other post could be about how someone like GZ gets caught up in our culture’s fascination with watching people catch fire only to burn. Hunger Games = Not a Fantasy

  3. I like this.

  4. TC – 1st of all, i really enjoy your blog, thanks for doing it. This one interested me b/c seems a little skewed. If your point is that GZ is wrong for the autograph-gun show tour, and requires absolution, there’s no argument here. Hey, even the Israelites had to hang outside the camp for a week after battle. But if the main point is idolatry of guns, using GZ as a “shining example”, wow – that’s a reach. But don’t stop there. What about us U.S. types and our cars? (I’ll stop lest I upset the GM gods). And don’t even get me started on those personal electronic devices. Any idolatry there? Now – put the two together and you have WAY more aggravated homicide than those caused by guns because there’s way more worship and way more incompetence there.

    • The (intended) main point was how the entire GZ story reveals our need to retrieve a X’n disposition of mourning, contrition and reconciliation. It’s obscured I think (whether we’re talking guns or war or abortion) because neither political party wants such qualifications added to b/w issues. I do think idolatry is a multifaceted phenom in our culture but I think the guns is a particularly harmful one. I probably didn’t elaborate enough but I didn’t want to distract and I wrote about it quite a bit after the Newton shootings.

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