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Jesus 'enters' legislators' gun control debate

cornish portrait
MinnPost file photo by James Nord
“I’m a Missouri Synod Lutheran,” Cornish said. “In Luke, Jesus said, ‘Sell your cloak and buy a sword.’ ”

The Capitol's long-running, emotional gun control debate prompted a new question Tuesday morning: “What would Jesus do?”

And it prompted charges of strong-arming.

The suggestion that “bullying” is going on was first raised by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon City.

The comments came after the chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, started off the hearing on his background-checks bill by announcing that the committee would not vote on the measure until 7 o’clock tonight.

That news brought grumbles from Republicans on the committee who claimed that Paymar was going to use the time “to bully’’ DFL members of the committee who do not want to support his bill, which is strongly opposed by the NRA.

“This bill is a nightmare for all gunowners,’’ Cornish said, before turning to Paymar and saying, “During the recess ... don’t badger them [DFL members of the committee.]’’

Indeed, it does appear that Paymar is going to have a tough time rounding up enough DFL votes on the committee to pass his "loophole" bill, which would require background checks on those attempting to purchase weapons at gun shows, on the Internet or through private,

person-to-person sales.

The suggestion that Paymar was going to use the hours between the morning committee hearing and the evening vote to “badger’’ members of the committee was not the most surprising comment made by Cornish Tuesday morning.

That came from Cornish, who grew restless as pastor after pastor testified to the need for the Paymar bill to pass. Words like “moral” and “protecting children’’ were repeatedly used by the pastors.

Cornish, finally, decided to respond to all this morality talk from what he considered a bunch of left-leaning preachers.

“I’m a Missouri Synod Lutheran,” Cornish said. “In Luke, Jesus said, ‘Sell your cloak and buy a sword.’ ”

That Jesus was being presented as a Second Amendment guy startled everyone in the packed hearing room.

After the hearing, Cornish said he’s long been holding  on to the verse from Luke 22:36 to toss into the gun debate. In his mind, Cornish said, that verse  means that Jesus would have no problem with people packing a pistol “to protect their families.”

The verse, it should be noted, has led to many debates among theologians, most of whom seem to believe that, when taken in context, Jesus was not advocating the use of swords — or presumably pistols — as a way to settle differences.

That theological discussion did not take place in the committee hearing, however. Cornish’s use of Jesus just sort of hung over a debate that goes on and on and on.

But when the charge that Paymar was trying to bully DFLers was made again by a witness, the NRA’s Christopher Rager, a side spat did develop.

Rager said, in testimony, that the reason the vote was being postponed was so that Paymar and others who support the bill could “wrangle” reluctant legislators.

Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, stopped Rager.

“Bullying people?” Lesch asked. “Who is bullying people?”

“I’ve been told by members that is happening,” Rager said.

Lesch wanted names. He wanted examples. He wanted specifics.

Rager seemed to have none.

paymar portrait
MinnPost file photo by James Nord
Paymar, after the morning session, denied he was bullying or wrangling anyone.

For his part, Paymar, after the morning session, denied he was bullying or wrangling anyone.

“It [the vote] is very close,” Paymar said. “I’m just hopeful that between now and 7, some hearts and minds could change.”

Paymar also said he would be open to amendments to his bill. For example, he indicated he would be open to accepting large portions of a gun bill proposed recently by Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center.

The Hilstrom bill has more than 70 co-authors from both parties, and it has the approval of Cornish and the NRA.

It would, however, do nothing to close gun show loopholes, but it would require some technical changes in gun laws. For instance, it would stiffen penalties for those making straw purchases on behalf of those who are not allowed to have firearms, and it would require the state to forward more information to a national database regarding people with a history of mental health problems.

There’s little doubt that the Hilstrom “compromise” could pass both the House and Senate. But it’s considered tepid, at best, by Paymar and advocates of stronger gun legislation.

Merely adding the Hilstrom compromise to the Paymar bill will not make those opposing more controls happy.

“It’s like putting a diamond in a cow pie,” said Cornish.

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Comments (32)

Luke 27“But I say to you who

Luke 27“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.29“Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.30“Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.31“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.


What is your point?

Are you insinuating that Jesus' teaching us to love others somehow negates his commandment to buy a sword and the overall message of Scripture showing a man taking personal responsibility to protect himself when attacked and to protect his loved ones?

It's amazing to watch lefties ABUSE the Scriptures. If you're not a leftist, you're acting like one in this instance.

If anything, this comment

If anything, this comment further suggests that using stone-age religious hokum to justify modern, rational policy is a fool's errand, no matter which side you cite.

Perhaps you could point out

Perhaps you could point out the scripture where Jesus recommends being willing and prepared to kill someone to save yourself or your possessions.

hitting the cheek

Notice that Luke 27 does not say, "If a man chooses to rape your wife, let him; whoever attacks your children, allow him; whoever strangles your elderly parents, do nothing to stop him," Jesus was not saying that Christians are not supposed to defend themselves or their families, or not protect their vulnerable neighbors from attack. He is asking Christians to not over-react to a slap in the face.

Neal, there is quite a

Neal, there is quite a difference between a temporary red cheek/giving away your shirt and permanent injury or death. Jesus never commanded "stand there and let them cut your head off or maim you permanently." He expected people to be reasonable, tolerating minor offenses and not flying off the handle for every little thing but still having a sword for those times when it was much more egregious than a temporary injustice. Red cheek, no big deal. They want your shirt? Fine, give it to them. But an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Permanent injury was not something you had to submit to. Jesus accepted his crucifixion because he was the holy sacrifice to take the sin of the world and he knew his personal destiny, why he was sent to earth. But he commanded his disciples to have a sword, because they weren't part of that sacrifice.

eye for eye--WWJD

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Actual New Testament quote


The real problem with Neal's post is his handling of the text that he is copying and pasting. Jesus is giving them a lesson on the need for God's grace and the impossibility of living up to the standard of perfection. This is Matthew 5 and ends saying, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (v. 48).

Is that a commandment? Obviously, not.

Jesus doesn't command the impossible. He is demonstrating the impossibility of our earning God's grace and forgiveness. He is demonstrating our NEED for salvation. And as He approached the time of His crucifixion, His followers were beginning to understand and, "When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?"

Who can be saved?

"But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

If we do not recognize the INTENT of Jesus' words and think they are instructions for daily living, rather than recognizing that they are a picture of the IDEAL and a revelation of our NEED... then we make the mistake Neal makes and call on people to disobey the rest of Scripture in order to apply this portion in Matthew 5 to daily life, which is not the intention, at all.

Luke 22:36 was not about personal salvation. It was wisdom for self-preservation from the Savior who was about to die, be buried, rise from the dead, ascend to Heaven and leave His people to serve out their purpose... without the physical presence and protection of the Saviour.

In our inability to achieve

In our inability to achieve the "ideal", we are to abandon the principle of the "ideal", dismiss the possibility of applying the "ideal" in our personal lives, and then we are to buy a weapon and prepare to use it with deadly force?

I missed that part in my Bible.

I'm still not seeing the part where we are called to take up weapons to protect our lives and our possessions.


There was a picture of Cornish in his office in the Strib the other day. He was sitting on his desk, surrounded by numerous stuffed mammals and his coat open to show off his gun and holster. He reminded me of me - when I was 12.

the jesus distraction

It's been awhile since someone played the Jesus card. But here it is again.
I finally saw Zero Dark Thirty Sunday. Now there was some use of guns
But once again I ponder the money and weaponry spent for the sage of face and vengeance relative to the number of gun death each year in the homeland. The equivalence just is not there. Maybe if the NRA and it's leadership were cast for what they are - gun runners this discussio n discussion would be over.


According to the Gospel, Jesus' instruction to his disciples to buy swords (two was enough) was not for self defense (else all would have been armed) but rather so that he would appear to the authorities as a lawbreaker, thus fulfilling a prophecy.

On another front, this is the Tony Cornish who likes to talk about himself as an ex cop (three years as a deputy sheriff according to his Web site) rather than as a DNR employee for 22 years.
Definitely a lot of cow pie in the air.


On both counts, Paul

Tell the whole truth

Representative Cornish was not just a brush whacker when he worked for the DNR. He was responsible for enforcing game and fish laws and had arrest authority. Where else do you think he got the experience that qualified him for other law enforcement positions, including Chief of Police for Lake Crystal?

The claim that Jesus had his disciples get swords because he wanted to look like a lawbreaker is the strangest interpretation of this passage I have seen yet. NOBODY at his trial brought this up, and they were fishing for every excuse they could find to convict him of wrongdoing. He was finally condemned for "blasphemy" for telling the truth about Who He is. If it had been illegal for the disciples to carry swords, surely Peter would have been arrested and put on trial also. Jesus was NOT referring to his previous command, (there is nothing wrong with having moneybags, knapsacks or cloaks). He was referring to the fact that he was about to be tried, convicted and executed as a criminal; this is verified by Mark 15:27-28, as part of the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12.


You've got the order wrong.
From his Web page:

"Tony farmed his folk's home place raising hogs and cash crops for 4 years and then went into his first law enforcement job, an Amboy Policeman in 1975. From there he went to the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Department for 3 years working as a Deputy Sheriff. In July 0f 1980 he became a Game Warden with the DNR staying in that position for 22 years, almost all of them served up north in the wilderness near the Canadian border."

There's plenty of scholarly discussion on why Jesus commanded the disciples to buy two swords. I wouldn't say that there's a universal consensus, but there is plenty of support for the interpretation (none of us were there, nor were the writers of the Gospels) that Jesus was arrested because he was regarded as the 'King of the Jews'; the leader of an insurrection. That's why he was arrested; the leader of an armed insurrection whether or not he was carrying the weapon. Your last sentence says it: to be convicted as a criminal he had to commit a criminal act.

The gun show loophole

has to close, if only out of fairness to licensed dealers, like Cabela's of Joe's and all the smaller ones, who have to go through the paperwork and verification. The last firearm I bought was from a small dealer in Waite Park (great service/good shop), and he had the phone to his ear waiting for approval for me all the while trying to help other customers who had backed up at the counter during my "lengthy" transaction. Why do gun show sellers get to just hand it over with no rigamarole?

jesus and cheek

It's worth noting that when Jesus was "struck in the face," by an official in the high priest's presence, who then said "Is this the way you answer the high priest?" Jesus didn't simply turn the other cheek, but showed some cheek, perhaps, or moxie, by retorting: "If I said something wrong, tell me what I said wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?"
(Matthew 18, verses 19-24.)

So, was He ignoring His own advice to His disciples? Or perhaps demonstrating He had a pay grade that allowed Him to answer back, not just turn the other cheek, in a way His followers could not?
Or was He showing that what He meant by "turning the other cheek," was something more subtle, as in "if they do it once, dare them to do it again and demand they give a good reason??"
In other instances that not-so-Good Friday when he was hit by soldiers, it was reported in all four gospels, He did not reply, did not strike back; but it's also not reported clearly that He "turned the other cheek" each time, either... fwiw....
It would have been easy for fakey scripture writers to fill that handy detail in to make Him appear "consistent;" i.e., an interesting argument for the historical reliability of the Gospels....they don't read like fiction.
The Gospels make clear He was capable of violence: the way He threw the money changers out of the temple, overturning their tables and yelling, seems to come out of left field.....or right field...(don't get cute) ...anyway, it appears to have been a pretty physical altercation .....(and interesting He didn't simply set people on fire or blow them up, again, as a fiction writer might have been tempted to write.)
If nothing else, the Gospel accounts show us He lived life that was as complicated and nuanced as ours in many easy answers, no easy paths, .....
Whatever, .. no side in the debate about guns should lay claim to the "real" Jesus to the exclusion of other sides..... can't see Jesus shooting a gun? well, probably can't see Him flying a jet, driving a car or a host of other stuff we all do daily.... not sure what all that means......
But as the prophet said in Hezekiah 14:6: "Lock and load, mo-fos!"
(Bible joke; you can look it up. er.. that is, you can't. )

But still no mention

of violent acts on his part.
Provoking violence by others, yes.


It's a broken world full of people who are in the midst of a variety of struggles, just as it was in Jesus's time.

Somehow, I don't think Jesus would now say the answer to a broken world is more armed people.

The long and short of it

To use only half of the verse and to ignore the following events in the Bible is a good example of taking the Lord's name in vain. That is, Mr. Cornish can't possibly believe that that's the whole story. While Jesus didn't encourage his followers to simply roll over, neither did he encourage them to take up arms. The quotation provided by Cornish was a very specific instance just before he was arrested and killed. He asks his disciples to take up swords, but just two, and then admonishes them for actually using them, saying, essentially "those that live by the sword, die by the sword." Now, that doesn't mean that Jesus thought his followers should tolerate abuse or should accept murder of their own. But he never advocated causing physical harm to another.

All that being said, it's irrelevant to the issue. At least to the law, as we live under the rule of law as bounded by the US and state constitutions and not the Bible (regardless of what some may say). Whether you interpret the Bible one way or another should only have bearing on your personal life. Interesting how the "Give unto Caesar" bit never gets any air time from these guys.


The Zealots were Jews who wanted to overthrow the Roman Empire by force. People expected Jesus to come in the form of a powerful leader, who used violence to achieve his aims, but what they got was a pacifist, a socialist and a leader who changed the word through his words and self sacrifice. Jesus was a fisherman, so he clear was willing to take life to feed his followers, but he didn't carry a club or a sword to defend himself.

Conservative Republicans who profess to be Christians - well, from my point of view, they look like Zealots to me. And as for bullying, anyone who follows the marching orders of the NRA definitely is perfectly willing to push people around to get their way.

not a fisherman

Uh, Joel. Jesus was a carpenter-turned-rabbi. He was not a fisherman. However, several of his disciples were fisherman.

Not a fisherman, but a guide

Luke 5:4-6.


There is actually no evidence he was a carpenter. In the Greek, he is referred to as a tekton, or the son of a tekton - which simply means one who works with his hands. Many think he was probably a stone mason rather than a carpenter.

I have no dog in this fight, and merely mention it to point out the silliness of arguing about minutiae. The salient point of the reference of being a tekton is not whether he worked with wood or stone, it is rather that he was a "blue collar" worker.


He was a religious leader, but I'm not sure that the term 'Rabbi' is appropriate.
The Rabbinate didn't really take form until after the destruction of the Second Temple.
During Jesus' time there were still High Priests, who didn't particularly approve of people like him.

I feel so sorry for Rep.

I feel so sorry for Rep. Cornish. He sounds so fearful, so nervous, so quick to anger, rather paranoid that discussion of real issues might convince some legislators that there is reason for full background checks by every seller of guns.

How sad.

New Prague lockdown

They interviewed him after the New Prague lockdown yesterday. For those who may not have followed the story, a 911 call was made saying someone with an AK47 had wounded 2 people in the school, the school went into a "Code Red" lockdown and all local law enforcement arrived at the scene to respond. It developed that the 911 call was made as a hoax by a 12 year old who is currently in custody.

Anyway, Rep. Cornish was commenting on the dangers inherent in such a false alarm, and one comment he made was something along the lines that when you have these armed law enforcement officers fanning out to search the school during the response, that there is the risk of someone getting shot by mistake.

This from the same guy who thinks it's a good idea to arm teachers in the classroom "just in case".

Can anyone say "logical inconsistency" . . . . . .

Pat Berg

Obviously you have never been a police officer, but I have and spent 21 years in law enforcement. False calls are a terribly dangerous situation. Its dangerous because it is not handled as a false call. They are all handled as a real call and somebody is apt to get shot and killed, say a kid with a toy gun or with something that looks like a gun. That is not logical inconsistency, that is why calling in false alarms are against the law. I can tell you if I were on a false call and I told some kid to get down on the floor and stay away from his back pack and he reached into his back pack he would be hurt and probably seriously.


The more guns you have around, the more likely something is to happen that ends in someone getting hurt when they shouldn't have.

My comment wasn't critical of the police response to the prank call. My comment was pointing out the logical inconsistency of Cornish - who also wants to put armed teachers in the classroom - commenting on the inherent hazards of the prank call situation while ignoring the fact that putting armed teachers in classrooms would lead to similar inherent hazards.

More guns, more risk. Now THAT'S logical.

Reading the Entire Story of Jesus and the Sword

The passage cited by Rep. Cornish in Luke 22:36, is unfortunately ripped out of context and thus its meaning is lost, at best, and at worst distorted. This passage is part of the larger story of Luke 22:35-53 that is Luke's description of Jesus praying at the Mount of Olives, "as was his custom" to do his Father's will, despite the horror of what is likely to come as the result of his conflict with then authorities. While praying he is betrayed by Judas and arrested. In reaction, one of Jesus' disciples cuts off the ear of the slave of the high priest. This leads Jesus to rebuke that disciple, telling him to put away the sword. Then Jesus then "touches" the slave's ear and heals him.

If the entire story told in Luke 22:35-53 (NRSV) is taken seriously it seems to call us to lay down our arms and take up love in the confrontation with our enemies rather than to arm ourselves and deploy our arms against them.

For want of an ear...

Let's suppose one sees a fellow standing by the waterside, apparently part of a group of getting-to-know-you friends, a band of fishermen; twelve to be exact...and he's obviously the odd ball here, for he carries no rod, no staff even, and he's wearing a long robe and sandals and holding a sword.

I, a curious one, ask him, "What are you doing?"

HE answers..."I'm fishing, but if all else fails I'll turn this d...n sword into plowshares...wanna make something of it?"

I walk away silently relieved he wasn't carrying a gun.

And think to myself, thank the gods it's Friday.

Jesus is actuallly irrelevant

It's kind of an interesting discussion, and it's nice to see liberal Christians finally step up instead of conceding religious ground to the zealots. However, it doesn't matter what Jesus would or would not do from a public policy perspective, and frankly, this is diversion.

Scriptural arguments almost by definition are unresolvable so importing those arguments into our secular policy discussions will get us nowhere. While you guys argue about Jesus the next shooter just bought his guns and ammo. Jesus is not a viable consultant on this matter.