Since I keep in touch with the gun-loving community on YouTube and elsewhere, it has become readily apparent to me in recent years, and even more so as the election approaches, that most people who lean conservative believe that a full-on civil war is inevitable. Their language is that of a person with no other recourse. They speak as if freedom-loving Americans and followers of the Christian religion are a besieged minority on the verge of being systematically eradicated.
I have heard this kind of language used in two other places, neither of which are good omens:
First, it is the language of the literally thousands of hours of jihadist propaganda that I've been forced to watch over my military and defense contractor career. Extremist organizations are experts at painting themselves as helpless victims defending themselves against the evils of a monolithic oppressor. While there are indeed cases around the world of Muslims suffering religious persecution (The Uyghur and Rohingya peoples are two prominent examples), the jihadist organizations of the world are experts at making the worldwide plight of Islam seem dangerously precarious, when in fact it isn't. Though some Western nations are in fact implementing overtly anti-Muslim policies, this is not, in fact, a global conspiracy against Islam. Rather, it's a highly xenophobic response to societal change within various countries.
That brings me to my second group who consistently uses the language of the oppressed to justify violence: white supremacists. For my class on Forensic Linguistics, my group decided that our final project would focus on studying the language of mass shooters who published manifestos prior to committing senseless acts of murder. We studied four mass shooters, whose names I refuse to repeat, so that we could try to develop some sort of linguistic methodology to determine if a person might be a future threat. Though they all had strange and ultimately erratic justifications for their acts of unspeakable evil, several common themes did emerge:
1. They all claimed to be acting defensively and as a means of last resort. After a litany of historical "crimes" which they enumerated against the white race, they then proceeded to paint themselves as a "besieged" (their word, not mine) group on the verge of being replaced by "invaders" (another frequent word) who sought to fundamentally transform their country and way of life. This was particularly true of the Christchurch mosque shooter. The language in each of their cases was highly militaristic.
2. They all had a pet enemy that they saw as the single greatest threat to "our way of life." Whether it was Islam, Communist/Socialist ideology, or people of color, each person who committed an evil act went to great lengths to paint their chosen group as the source of all evil in the world, hence further justifying their "defensive" actions.
The point I wish to make, at the end of this lengthy preamble, is that it's extremely easy to justify violence when you've already set your mind to it.
Now to pivot...
Whether we're talking about the Pro-2A community on YouTube, the extreme elements of Antifa and far-left movements that espouse violent revolution (or anarchy) as a primary vehicle for change, or any other form of violent ideology, the key is to sound as if you're just a reasonable person pushed too far.
Has the United States moved in a secular direction in the last 30ish years? Undoubtedly so.
I would point out, however, that unlike Islam, Christianity was not designed to be spread primarily by means of jihad *(See footnote for more)*. We tried Crusades, we tried Inquisitions, and ultimately we concluded (rightly so) that this is neither a lasting nor effective method of bringing about the Kingdom of God. Although Jesus did make some provisions for arming oneself, he also sharply rebuked Peter for attempting to do by flesh what Jesus came to do by his perfect obedience.
The minute you, as a follower of Christ, decide that killing people is your moral right, you are on deeply theologically-suspect terrain. I will grant that the Bible does in fact advocate for capital punishment, and that Augustine did make a solid case for just war theory, but other than cases of mass shooters and other perpetrators of notorious evil, I would argue that your justification for killing needs to be very, very robust before arbitrarily picking up a weapon. Ideally the person in question needs to be thoroughly proven in a court of law to have committed the crime, or you should be acting in defense of your nation against an attacking military force.
The point I wish to make here is not about disarmament. I am not a pacifist, in fact my family lineage includes a famous pacifist-turned-war-hero. C.S. Lewis also wrote an excellent argument entitled "Why I am not a pacifist."
Rather, my goal is to advocate that, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we carefully examine our hearts and options before embarking on a path that could lead to violence. Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis for his role in the assassination plot against Hitler. He embarked on this course only after YEARS of soul searching, and exhausting all his other options, to include running a smuggling ring to exfiltrate Jews and chairing an underground seminary school that taught sound Christian doctrine when the church was infiltrated by Nazism.
If you've ever found yourself musing idly with like-minded individuals about the coming conflict in our country, I would encourage you to steer those discussions in a direction that seeks to avoid bloodshed. Regardless of your politics, I guarantee there is someone on the other side of the spectrum who is equally, if not more prepared, to do violence than you are. Conservatives think they have a monopoly on firearms, but that is empirically false.
My desperate plea to Americans everywhere is to think twice before reaching for a weapon. We tried that solution between 1861 and 1865, and it ended horribly for the side that was most excited about the conflict at its outset. Breaching the dam of blood will again lead to an outpouring that none of us is prepared for.
*Footnote* Some will rightly point out that the vast majority of Islam's practitioners reject violent jihad as a modern imperative. Although this is encouraging to hear, there is no denying the fact that the Quraan does in fact have some commands to that effect (2:191, specifically). Christianity, by contrast, is a call to follow in the steps of a Savior whose mission was to die so that others might live. If you'd like to discuss that difference more, I'd be happy to hear from you via the email button at top of page.
Further addendum: I understand that, just because there is no global conspiracy against Islam, doesn't mean that there is no global conspiracy against Christianity, and I fully acknowledge that the World will make a concerted effort to persecute the Church. My contention is simply that our warlike Savior hasn't returned yet, and when he does he will do by his Word what we cannot do (and shouldn't try to) by our flesh. I will always and forever be against an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to politics.