Two men get killed. Some members of the Christian right are calling the man who killed them a hero and a patriot sent by God. Something isn’t adding up here.
On August 25, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse grabbed his AR-15 style rifle and left his home in Antioch, IL, to head over to Kenosha, WI. He was responding to a call from a group that had asked the County Sheriff to deputize them to aid in the response to protests about the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The Sheriff refused to do so. Later, Rittenhouse used that semi-automatic weapon, which he was too young to carry, to kill Anthony Huber and Joseph “JoJo” Rosenbaum (CNN).
Rittenhouse has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide, reckless homicide, attempted intentional homicide, recklessly endangering safety, and possession of a dangerous weapon while under the age of 18. His lawyer has argued publicly that the shootings were in self-defense.
A whole lot of privilege
The video that I’ve seen gives an incomplete picture of Rittenhouse’s interaction with the two men he killed. One thing is very clear, though. As he walked towards the police presence gathering up the street, he had his AR-15 style rifle strapped around his chest and put his hands in the air. People had fled when the gunshots were heard, so there was no one else in the street. Just him, hands up, assault weapon across his body. People can be heard on the recording shooting that he was the shooter. Armoured vehicles can clearly be seen driving towards him and then proceeding past him to where the victims’ bodies lay. Rittenhouse leaves the scene of the shooting unimpeded.
Contrast that to two days earlier, when police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back. If that’s not white privilege, I don’t know what is.
Whether it was self-defense or not remains to be seen in a court of law, but regardless, it was not a good situation, and it resulted in two lives lost. There’s no winner in this situation. Yet that’s not how a certain segment of the Christian right sees it.
Crowdfunding for Rittenhouse’s defense
Over $450,000 has been raised for Rittenhouse’s defense on the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo, according to a CBC article dated September 9. There had been a GoFundMe page, but the site took it down. GiveSendGo defended its choice to continue hosting the fundraiser, despite a petition organized by Faithful America asking them to stop, as well as the Discover credit card company blocking payments to the campaign. Apparently, Facebook has also censored links to the GiveSendGo campaign, although I didn’t come across a statement from Facebook confirming this.
The GiveSendGo campaign page says that Rittenhouse was the target of a “brutal attack by multiple members of the far-leftist group ANTIFA.”
An August 28 update note adds that “Kyle now faces the wrath of those who would see us stripped of our God-given rights and reduced to servitude.” Of course, the unalienable rights that the Constitution names are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so when we’re talking about the taking of lives, something’s not quite right.
Here’s a selection of comments left on the GiveSendGo page.
“God Bless this young American Hero“
“I watched the videos. God is on your side. Thanks for being a patriot and defending the American way of life from those who want to destroy it.“
“You are a child,you are braver than most men I know. Let God protect you. You and your family are in our prayers. You kid have lit the fuse Patriots have needed for over 2 years. Bless you kid. Bless you.“
“Someone finally stood up against those bullies and god sent you, I know it’s not much because I’m struggling but you’re struggling even more and I’m looking out for a fellow america, we need more of you and us true Americans appreciate what you have done, god bless you son, we are with you! Screw BLM!“
“The competence and courage of Kyle Rittenhouse will serve as an inspiration to many during conflicts to come. Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.“
“WAY TO GO KYLE!!! Standing up for your rights, being prepared and taking a stand in dark times. False accusation and slander I command them to come down now in Jesus’ name and I pray that ministering spirits guide you down a safe path free from demonic influence. Amen #justiceforkyle“
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ find you and comfort you. I watched His Angel’s guide your hand in conflict. He has not abandoned you now! Good things will come to you! Praying from Florida!“
“God bless you, protector of family and community, soldier of Christ.“
“God give you the increase, provision and protection from the enemy. Build a high hedge of protection around you and your family. In Jesus’ name AMEN.“
“We are praying for you! You are a part of the good fighting evil – so remember that God knows this and is with you!“
“The Holy Ghost was with you Kyle. God bless you and God help heal you.“
“Kyle seems to be as good of a kid as you can meet nowadays. He should be free and become a police officer one day. We need more Knight of Christ protecting the innocent.“
Why is religion involved?
I get that some people are fervid believers in the right to carry a gun and kill people with it in self-defense. What baffles me is when people try linking all of that to religion.
Do these people think God was kidding when he told Moses “thou shalt not kill”? Are they somehow seeing “thou shalt carry and be prepared to shoot an AR-15” instead? Did Jesus tell his disciples that vigilantism to try to protect property was of greater value than the loss of human lives? I don’t think so.
Granted, as an atheist, I don’t know the intricacies of the Bible and the Christian faith, but I know the gist enough to be fairly sure that what these people are talking about is not what the Bible is talking about.
So, why have these particular folks decided that God is on Team Kyle? It seems like a certain segment of the population, when they’re looking for justification for judging others, will try to drag God into it to help them feel self-righteous or whatever else their aim might be. It gives the impression that they’re trying to put words in God’s mouth, which is a rather strange direction for any word-putting to be going in.
Humanity can do better
The comments on the GiveSendGo were also peppered with conspiracy theory talk about the deep state, communism, anarchists, and the media. There was also quite a bit of racism, with a little bit of antisemitism thrown in for good measure, plus mentions of MAGA and Trump, including the expectation that Trump will pardon Rittenhouse.
All of this seems like a whole lot of fear and a big lack of empathy and compassion. And maybe that’s a much better focus for these people’s religious devotion than the heroification of a 17-year-old kid who killed two guys with a semi-automatic weapon he was too young to carry.