One genuine news story ignored by nearly all media this past Christmas was the slaughter of over 100 mostly Christian Nigerians– and– the razing of 50,000 homes, the destruction of thousands of acres of farmland, and the displacement of roughly 10,000 people in southern Kaduna, Nigeria.
The pre-Christmas season atrocity was just one of many perpetrated by people the government calls, “herdsmen,” who were known to have relentlessly terrorized 25 villages where Christians predominantly live. The government’s response has been and continues to be: nothing.
There are more Christians living in Nigeria than in any other country in Africa. Christians comprise at least half of Nigeria’s population, primarily living in the southern and central regions. A 2015 Journal of Research on Religion estimated that 600,000 believers in Christ currently living in Nigeria came from a Muslim background.
Which is why it is no coincidence that increased violence directed towards non-Muslims, in particular Christians, stems from a newly enacted Sharia penal law in the northern states of Nigeria. The law encourages Islamists to kill as many non-Muslims as possible.
Sam Omatseye, a columnist for The Nation, wrote in December,
“The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has cried out and the government has seemed unable to stanch or even anticipate the attacks, again and again. “Has anyone gone to jail or even been identified publicly? We need answers to these questions. It is not even whether the outcry of CAN over genoc…
He also tweeted:
It’s a valid question: if Christians and churches are consistently being attacked shouldn’t they be protected? If the government won’t protect them, who will?
Six months prior, the CAN Secretary General, Rev. Musa Asake, attested:
“There is a grand plan to wipe out Christians in this country but by the grace of God it will not come to pass. “That is why I am saying if the government is not going to protect us, then we have no choice but to protect ourselves. We will not continue to fold our hands and accept being killed for n…
Many Christian pastors have already begun. Sam Childers, the Machine Gun Preacher of East Africa and founder of Angels of East Africa (AOEA), argues he wouldn’t have been able to save over 1,000 orphans without using guns. His mission to protect children “when no one else will” has resulted in him not only rescuing these orphans from a life of starvation, disease, or enslaved child soldier, but also enabling them to live, work, and go to school safely in a well-guarded village.
Missionary and author, Charl van Wyk, the founding member of Gun Owners of South Africa, vividly explains why self-defence is needed inside church walls. In his best-selling book, Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense, he tells how one man during the St. James Massacre saved many lives by carrying and using his gun amidst a terrorist attack on congregants praying inside their church.
In Kenya, 83 percent of its 44 million people are Christians. After the 2015 execution-style massacre of 150 Christian students in Garissa, Kenya, churches began hiring armed guards to protect their flock. Since “these attackers are targeting Christians,” Willybard Lagho, a Mombasa-based catholic priest and chairman of the Coast Interfaith Council of Clerics (CICC), told Reuters, such security measures were necessary.
In America, a growing number of churches are hiring armed security guards after an increased number of attacks against Christians occurred during the Obama administration.
In Colorado Springs, Colorado, for example, New Life Church, hired uniformed police officers and an armed safety team, including Special Forces volunteers from nearby military bases, to patrol its 30-acre campus. Its pastor, Brady Boyd, argues:
“I love the people that I pastor. I want to protect them.” He adds, “You plan for the worst, and pray for the best.”
In Texas, a Dallas-based pastor, Dr. Gary Cass takes this position further, arguing that all Christians, not just pastors or security guards, should be armed. Self-defence is a God-given responsibility and is biblically sound. He told attendees at a 2012 Deliver Us From Evil Conference:
“You can’t be a Christian if you don’t own a gun. How can you protect yourself, your family, or you’re neighbour if you don’t have a gun? If I’m supposed to love my neighbour, and I can’t protect him, what good am I?”
But, not all Christians agree. Rob Schenck, chair of the Evangelical Church Alliance, recently argued that Christians,
“Have no right to use guns for self-defence,” and that Christians can’t be “pro-life” and also be “pro-gun.”
He wrote in The Washington Post:
“The gospel begins with God’s love for every human, and calls on Christians to be more Christ-like. At no time did Jesus use deadly force. Although he once allowed his disciples to defend themselves with ‘a sword,’ that permission came with a limitation on the number of weapons they could possess. N…
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. agreed in practice, viewing violence against Christians as an opportunity to bear witness to God’s love. He argued, “The end of violence or the aftermath of violence is bitterness. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of a beloved community.”
Despite this, more Black Americans today support legally carrying guns for self-defence. And one Black church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, emphasizes the importance of armed self-defence, using security who have concealed carry licenses and are trained to protect its congregants.
To be sure, criminals can experience remorse in response to a Christian “turning the other cheek.” After all, nothing is impossible with God.
But, wasn’t it the shepherd’s responsibility to guard his sheep? Didn’t David kill the lion terrorizing sheep and kill Goliath to defend his people, his land, and his inheritance? And, isn’t Jesus returning with a sword to avenge the death of his people, kill every last evil person, and judge the living and the dead to a life of eternity in heaven or hell?
Evangelical stalwart, John Piper, clarifies that context is key. In a 2015 article, “Should Christians Be Encouraged To Arm Themselves?” he offered nine examples to explain the right motivation for believers:
“The concern is the forging of a disposition in Christians to use lethal force, not as policemen or soldiers, but as ordinary Christians in relation to harmful adversaries. “The issue is not primarily about when and if a Christian may ever use force in self-defence, or the defence of one’s family or…
Regarding self-defence, Asake adds:
“The Bible again tells us that if a thief is coming to your house and you are aware of it, you cannot go to bed and allow the thief to destroy your house and kill your family. You have to protect your family. So, we are not going to sit down and be deceived; people are using that verse (of the Bible…
Yet what is clear in both Africa and America– is that self-defence never occurs in a vacuum and is not the sole course of action. Alongside those armed with weapons are also those armed with prayer. Prayer warriors have literally transformed rioted ruined neighbourhoods into communities of revival.
To this point, Bishop John Praise of Dominion Chapel International Church in Abuja, Nigeria (Northern Nigeria) offered insight, especially in 2010, when many Christians were outraged by the inaction of CAN and the Nigerian government. Praise explained:
“God is there and he had already done what he needed to do by sending His son to die for us. He will not die the second time again. We have the scriptures. Somebody said Christians should not be violent. We have not been violent. We are peaceful loving and accommodating. The only time we stood up is…
Praise points out that Christianity grew in Nigeria [over the last four decades] — because Christians defended it:
“We have many Christians in that part of the North [Southern Kaduna] because Usman Dan Fodio with his jihad team could not penetrate it. The people resisted him. Our people are warriors. But when Christianity came through the missionaries, the Southern Interior Movement, they did a lot of work in ev…
Ultimately, Praise reminds all believers that their assurance, in life and death, rests solely in the Blessed Hope, which pastors above all else must emphasize: “… ministers should be encouraged to preach the undiluted word and ultimately we should allow God to have His way in terms of helping people to live for Him.”
The ultimate defence is God’s protection of his people to advance the gospel, after-which all else falls secondary.