Christ breaks the rifle


By Adam Metz

Your Pastor Speaks

I would like to write about something different this time. I really would. But here we are.

At the beginning of last June, it was my turn to contribute to this wonderful column in the Gazette as I have for many years. My thoughts turned to the start of summer, sunshine, my upcoming birthday, and God’s many blessings we enjoy in summertime. I couldn’t bring myself to chase those thoughts very far, however, because 17 days before my column was scheduled to be published, a heavily armed young man walked into an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and killed 19 precious children and two innocent teachers. I found it impossible to write about the joys of summer sun with the cavalcade of children’s funerals playing on my television in the background.

How could I write about anything else?

It’s my time to write again and, by all accounts, I got a prime slot for a pastor. It is the day before Palm Sunday, and my thoughts turned to the beginning of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. There won’t be another one of these columns published until next week so any or all of these topics seem appropriate for today.

I would like to write about something different this time. I really would. But here we are.

It’s nine months later, and it’s time for me to write this column again. Would you believe that another shooter walked into another classroom armed with another cache of military grade weapons and killed another group of students and teachers? This is America, so – yeah – you probably would believe it. This time the school shooting happened only five days before this column is to be published. This time only five minutes from where I went to college. I know the area. I know the school. I don’t know the dead – at least this time.

How can I write about anything else?

One of my favorite pictures is an image that was created in 1950 by the German printmaker Otto Pankok called “Christ Breaks the Rifle.” Pankok was considered a “degenerate artist” by the Nazis because of his attention to the suffering of the oppressed. During the Nazi reign, his artwork was removed from museums and art shops; however, after the war he became a professor at the Dusseldorf Academy of Fine Arts where he created the provocative yellow and black woodcut image. The image portrays a strong and sober Jesus breaking a rifle over his knee. An American artist, Kelly Latimore, was inspired by Pankok’s image in the aftermath of last year’s Uvalde shootings and created a similar but colorful icon of Jesus breaking an AK-47 over his knee.

We can all imagine a world in which school shootings never happen. Or rape. Or war. Or racism. Or drugs. Or … a million other evils. This “echo” – as NT Wright calls it – is the faded image we all have in the back of our minds of the world as it is supposed to be. The echo of beauty and justice. Hope.

As Christians who are called to be hopeful peacemakers, we are heavenbent on creating a world where school shootings never happen – to make things “on earth as they are in heaven,” as Jesus said in His prayer. Isaiah describes the echo when he imagines a world where “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4).

How can I write about anything else?

Actually, I can write about Palm Sunday after all to remind you that Jesus didn’t enter Jerusalem with guns-a-blazin’ ready to fight fire with fire, tit for tat, or blow for blow.

He came on a donkey.

Not long after he comes to Jerusalem, he tells Peter to put away his sword. At the center of the Easter story is a Christ who willingly gave up his power, his authority, his rights … his very life. Perhaps school shootings won’t end until Christians turn from their obsession with power and rights and start making our swords into plowshares – or our rifles into gardening tools.

Adam Metz serves as chaplain for Willow Brook Christian Communities for all three campuses as well as the minister for the Alum Creek Church in Lewis Center.

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