Monday, January 25, 2010

The Bible's Best (and Worst) Marksmen


How often do you get to put the phrases "rifle sights" and "New Testament" in the same sentence? Well, for me at least once ... Last week ABC News reported that a Michigan contractor that manufactures rifle sights for the American military--Trijicon--was secretly imprinting those sights with verses from the New Testament. (Trijicon ... kind of sounds like an annual meeting of cereal enthusiasts, doesn't it?)

That means that high-powered weapons firing bullets at Afghans and Iraqis were emblazoned with passages from the Good Book--passages like John 8:12, which quotes Jesus: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." Or 2 Corinthians: "For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." What would Jesus do? Apparently, he'd put an Afghan insurgent in his crosshairs. Sick, huh?

The Trijicon mission statement reads as follows: "Guided by our values, we endeavor to have our products used wherever precision aiming solutions are required to protect individual freedom." If I had a nickel for every time I needed a precision aiming solution to protect my individual freedom, well, I'd still be pretty poor ... and wouldn't you just pay to find out what "values" they feel they are guided by?

In any case, the company agreed to stop the practice last week, but only after military officials, foreign governments, and even the Anglican Church vocally objected. The imprints are abhorrent, macabre, and--for me, at least--blasphemous. But they were also Biblically illiterate, because Trijicon picked the wrong Testament: all the best marksmen appear in the Hebrew Bible.

Thus, in honor of my gun-toting, Bible-quoting, sight-making fellow Michiganders, I devote this week's post to the Hebrew Bible's top three "precision aiming specialists."

Coming in at number three is the anonymous assassin of Israel's King Ahab. Near the end of his reign, Ahab joins forces with the Judahite king Jehoshaphat in fighting off the armies of Aram. While Jehoshaphat goes to battle in full kingly regalia, Ahab tries to avoid the attention of the Aramaean archers and fights in disguise; his act of cowardly subterfuge ends up being his demise, for "a certain man drew his bow and unknowingly struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate" (1 Kings 22:34). Crack shot, "certain man"! Ahab dies later that evening.

At number two is Jonathan, son of Israel's King Saul and--if you believe the queer theorists--King David's boyfriend in youth. (More on that in another post.) Saul and David are close at first, and David and Jonathan develop an intimate friendship; however, God eventually anoints David the next king and rejects Saul. Forced to flee from Saul's murderous rage, David leaves the court but keeps in touch with Jonathan through an intricate code requiring precisely fired arrows: explains Jonathan, "On the day after tomorrow, you shall go a long way down [...] and I will remain beside the stone there. I will shoot three arrows the side of it, as though I shot at a mark [...] If I say to [my] boy, 'Look, the arrows are on this side of you, collect them', then you are to come, for, as the Lord lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger" (1 Samuel 19-21). Nice shooting, Jonathan ... and bonus points for your cool, innovative arrow code. Perhaps I'll keep it in mind for when my cell phone contract runs out in May.

But the championship goes to David himself, for his excellent stone-throwing skills in his brief battle with Goliath. You know the story: "When the Philistine [Goliath] drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank in his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground" (1 Samuel 17: 48-49). David wins the title not only for accuracy, but for forehead-collapsing power.

As a side note, the Hebrew Bible's worst marksman is probably Saul, who tries multiple times in 1 Samuel to nail both David and Solomon to his court wall with a huge spear ... and misses wildly every time. Take, as just one example, 1 Samuel 18: 10-11: "Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, 'I will pin David to the wall'. But David eluded him twice." Twice, Saul? Come on.

But maybe he'd would throw more precisely if he had a custom-made sight for his spear ... made by Trijicon.

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