Prepare yourself for the craziness of the day. ABC News’ website featured a story Monday in which we learn that a Michigan-based weapons manufacturer, Trijicon, provided the U.S. Military with rifle sights inscribed with cryptic scripture references.

The references are imprinted on the scopes in the same font as the serial number and are abbreviated to look coded such as, “2COR4:6” or “JN8:12.” And, to save you the “sword drill,” those passages read:

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” And, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” respectively.

Now, before we leap into how embarrassing this is for those of us who are Christians, never mind that much smaller group of us that are Christian pacifists, we should point out that this is, of course, illegal.

As the ABC News article points out, “U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious ‘Crusade’ in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.”

The manufacturer of the sights has not tried to deny the existence of these references, rather their website defends them by saying, “We believe that America is great when its people are good…This goodness has been based on Biblical standards throughout our history, and we will strive to follow those morals.”

So, this is crazy on two fronts; one, the illegality of it and, two, the horrifying misuse of scripture. Even our friends over at Evangel got in on the criticism with a post that links to the article followed by a series of comments in which there is almost universal agreement that this does not look great for Christians.

By my count this makes two well-publicized bad representations of believers in just under a week. Bummer.

Let’s end this thing by quoting a commenter called “R Hampton” over at Evangel who, I think, excellently puts this into perspective. He notes, “For those who defend the manufacturer and the military, would your reaction be different if this was stamped on the arms instead: ‘You shall not kill‘?”

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Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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0 Responses to Behold, the Gun of God!

  1. Kennethos says:

    Could you please explain precisely what is illegal? I wasn’t aware of any laws prohibiting American military contractors putting any combination of letters or numbers after the scopes’ serial numbers. Never mind the reality that up until today, most folks wouldn’t have a clue what the references were for. I suspect that whoever actually pointed this out to ABC News is causing far more damage than this manufacturer. Sadly, you and other Christian sites are buying into the hysteria.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Perhaps it would have been more clear if I had simply said it’s against US Military rules, per the next paragraph which offers a very rational explanation for why anything that may be seen as proselytizing is forbidden.

    Further, would you not agree that more important than violating any rules, this is a misuse of scripture?

  3. Kennethos says:

    Are you telling me that an abbreviated grouping of letters and numbers, in the same font as the serial number, and directly after it, constitute proselytizing? This is pushing Jesus on unwilling people?! Assuming American or foreign soldiers even had a clue before this what the jumble of letters and numbers meant, they’d then had to look it up. This would be a very creative interpretation of proselytizing.
    Further, I was unaware of any military rules this violates (seeing as most contractors don’t do this, much less publicize this). Now, is this a wise usage of Scripture references? No. I never said it was. I was maintaining that it was not illegal. It may be embarrassing to you and others, but there is a vast distance between that and illegality.
    Finally, you are not looking into the actual source of this, i.e., who publicized this to ABC News? Why highlight an obscure detail on an optics scope? If not to embarrass the military or Christians, then why? This is the real story. Perhaps it is one you should look into.

  4. Joe O'Neal says:

    Well this is a weird article on multiple levels. Imagine if this were a company that manufactured anything else, and by the way, Trijicon is not a “weapons manufacturer” as your article states, rather they make optics. Scopes if you will. Kind of a big difference actually. If you go to their website it states clearly in their “Values” section that they “believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on biblical standards… “ So to insinuate that they were trying to hide the references in cryptic codes is pretty ridiculous.

    As far as the verses themselves, I don’t think the ones they chose have any relevance to warfare (or encouraging a holy war or insinuating that God fights for America or whatever), rather it seems their intent is to spread the gospel to whomever takes the effort to do the “sword drill”.

    Frankly, I don’t really have a problem with that. It’s no different to me than a truck driver who puts John 3:16 on the back of his tractor trailer. Effective? Eh, maybe, maybe not, who’s to say? But illegal? Nope. Unethical or problematic, or even as you say, a misuse of scripture? When is sharing the gospel a misuse of scripture?

  5. Jonathan says:

    Kennethos: I’m happy we agree that this is a misuse of scripture. And I guess we’ll have to disagree about the proselytizing nature of this…I maintain that aligning the Christian scriptures with military weapons could very easily give the impression that this war is being fought for religious reasons, like a crusade, and hence could be seen as proselytizing.

    Further, I disagree that the fact that this story broke is “the real story.” That’s as if to say that the real story of the prisoner abuse scandal is that someone shared the pictures. True, the end result is embarrassing for the military, but does that mean someone should not have brought attention to it.

    Just because the text is small and the message is “coded,” doesn’t make this an obscure detail.

    Joe: Thank you for the clarification, though I think the fact that this is a company that makes optics exclusively for weapons doesn’t change my characterization all that much.

    I do think this is very different from a truck driver putting a scripture reference on his truck, unless of course he uses that truck to intentionally run people over. And calling this “sharing the gospel” is probably a point you don’t want to make because if that is the case, if these verses share the gospel, than it is absolutely proselytizing and therefore forbidden by the military.

    If rather you suggest, as Kennethos does, that the obscurity of these references means they’re not sharing the gospel, and therefore not proselytizing, than I think you’d be hard pressed to make the case that aligning scripture with this war is not a misuse.

  6. Joe O'Neal says:

    Actually, yes if you consider putting scripture references “proselytizing”, than sure, that’s what it is. So what?
    If the US Military wants them to remove it, fine. I have no problem with that. The problem I have is that you and ABC have made a giant leap that Trijicon is using scripture to promote a sort of holy war on the enemies of America.

    If you take 5 minutes to browse their site, you’d realize that the inclusion of scripture references on their products is merely a reflection of the values they hold as a company. One of them being Biblical morality and subsequently, the gospel.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Joe: I do not believe that Trijicon is using scripture to promote holy war. They make sights for guns, if one of their sights is on a hunting rifle it is not a holy war against deer. That is not what I’m saying at all. Trijicon has every right to put whatever they want on their products and to have an impossible to type brand name.

    What I am saying is that this fact, however, should disqualify them from being a vendor to the US Military who is actually concerned about giving the appearance of proselytizing.

  8. Mark W says:

    As a vendor to the U.S. military, I would imagine that they supply optics for a vast number of weapons. Some of which are used in Afghanistan/Iraq, and some of which are used elsewhere. Should they be disqualified from being a U.S. military supplier, or should their products simply be restricted to non-middle eastern use? Don’t forget that just because we’re combatting insurgency in the middle east, we still have troops stationed EVERYWHERE around the globe protecting our empire freedom.

    Also, I would question, what is and isn’t an appropriate use of scripture? Presumably, if you’re a Christian working for a company that makes optics to be affixed to military weapons, you have minimal/no issues with current U.S. military actions/foreign policy. In this case, is it any more wrong for Trijicon to unobtrusively “infuse” their products with scripture than it is for In-N-Out Burger to do the same? (I would imagine Christian vegetarians may take issue w/ the latter.) You may take moral issue with U.S. military actions in which case the conflation of scripture with U.S. military equipment seems perverse, but if someone believes U.S. military actions are right/moral, I don’t see why this would be or should be problematic.

  9. Joe O'Neal says:

    But lets be honest, there SHOULD be a holy war on deer.

  10. Dustin says:

    as a christian vegetarian, In N Out does me right via the grilled cheese, animal style. i don’t see the Bible forbidding meat for everyone, but i do see intelligent care and respect for creation therein, leading me to at the least treat animals well, and for “sentimentalists” like myself, not eat them.

    scripture on guns is simply asinine, and depressing. it is not so much any issue with proselytizing, which is probably not going to happen via a letter-soup nod to 2 Cor. or whatever.

    The issue is implicitly linking the gospel to warfare of any kind, a sad irony on the life of Jesus, who pissed off those who wanted him to come kick Rome’s ass as Messiah, not ask his people to give their clothes to their oppressors.

  11. Mark W says:


    Let me preface this by saying that I am opposed to current U.S. foreign policy; believe that our military should not be in Afghanistan or Iraq (or really, anywhere other than America and international waters/airspace); and think that the vast majority of military action (especially U.S. military action for the last century) is unjustified.

    That said, don’t make Jesus one-dimensional. He came as a suffering servant in the gospels. In Revelation, he comes back to kick everyone’s ass (as you so eloquently put it) who doesn’t bow to him as Lord. The final victory of Christ over all evil and the subjugation of the world to Him is as necessary a part of the gospel as his crucifixion. In the Bible, God never condemns military service or war outright, and on several occasions commanded it. Yes, we’re in a different phase of redemptive history now where God’s people are no longer defined by national borders or allegiances and spread the gospel through suffering, dying and sacrifice rather than force, prosperity, and victory. But at the same time, don’t act as though there is no place in the character of God for war, violence, or a concept of justice that includes the infliction of pain/death. Jesus talked about hell more than anybody and Romans 13 is in the New Testament.

    I think the assertion that this is flat out a misuse of scripture has to rely on the belief that military action is illegitimate for one who believes the gospel. If that’s the case, then putting verses on a military rifle scope is akin to putting them in a porn video. But if military service (and current military action) is legitimate, then making assault rifle optics with a reference to the gospel is no different than making car parts with John 3:16 inscribed on them. Just as all truth is God’s truth, all work is God’s work if it serves the Creation mandate to fill the earth and subdue it. We can have a debate about whether or not the military can be involved in “God’s work” at all, but I think that’s where the debate must be. Luke 3:14 is also worth thinking about.

  12. Nick Aceves says:

    Nope, my reaction wouldn’t be different if it said “You shall not kill”. Heck, it wouldn’t be different if it said “All hail Allah the supreme ruler of the universe”. It puts bullets where they need to go: in bad guys. That’s what matters.

  13. Jonathan – I have to agree with those who say this is neither illegal nor unconstitutional. A government vendor can put whatever they want on their equipment. The government does not have to purchase them.
    The vendor is obviously proselytizing, but that is their constitutional right in a free society. The purchaser has the responsibility to do his due diligence and if the purchaser doesn’t like the product, either ask that it be revised or not purchase the product. Hopefully the government will ask this vendor to remove the references from the sights that they purchase. Also to characterize this company as a “weapons manufacturer” is poor journalism, and your less than educated old teacher thinks you can do better. – Keep up the good work though – we need some alternative voices.

  14. Jonathan says:

    Woah, harsh Mike, but true. Somehow criticism comes easier or is more welcome from one’s teachers. Thank you.

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