Secret Bible Codes on the “Spiritually Transformed Firearms of Jesus Christ”

Seth Dowland

ABC News reported this week that military contractor Trijicon, recently awarded a $660 million contract to provide rifle sights to the Marine Corps, has been placing “secret Bible codes” at the end of the serial numbers on its rifle sights. The serial numbers end with references to Bible passages such as JN8:12 (John 8:12) or 2COR4:6 (2 Corinthians 4:6). Apparently Trijicon has been placing Bible references on its rifle sights for years, though the U.S. military learned about the practice only recently. Religion Clause blogged about this story already, as there are obvious First Amendment questions raised by the placing of New Testament references on military equipment. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is protesting Trijicon’s practice and asking the military to remove the offending sights from its arsenal. (Somehow I don’t think the MRFF will be satisfied with the defense of the rifle sights offered by one Trijicon supporter in the ABC News report: “For those of you who aren’t Christians, well, you know, get over it.”)

Leaving aside the theological issues associated with putting New Testament verses on lethal weapons, the historical connections between conservative evangelicals and the military make this story almost wholly unsurprising. (In fact, a friend pointed out that Trijicon’s practice reminded him of the movie Saving Private Ryan, which portrayed sharpshooter Daniel Jackson reciting Psalms as he sighted his German targets.) Anne Loveland’s book American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military traces the growing influence of conservative evangelicals on the military throughout the post-WWII era. More recently, I talked with Matt Sutton about his current research, which reveals the influence certain generals wielded among evangelicals in the 1950s and 1960s. My own research examines how the Christian right trumpeted missile defense and the stockpiling of nuclear arms as a way of ensuring “peace through strength” in the early 1980s. And proselytizing at the Air Force Academy in recent years led to a lawsuit (later dismissed) and task force recommendations for officers and cadets to foster religious pluralism. Whatever the outcome of the Trijicon case, the historical connections between evangelicals and the military will remain strong.

I suppose another friend with whom I shared this story had the best response. If Trijicon knows its Bible so well, the company ought at least to use more appropriate passages on their weapons. How about: Psalm 58:6 ("Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions!”) or Psalm 21:12 (“For you will make them turn their backs when you aim at them with drawn bow.”)?


Nice post, Seth. I shared many of your thoughts when I saw this. Of course, my preference for Bible verses would have been Isaiah 2:4, substituting "rifles" for "swords."

Then again, perhaps the irony quotient for that verse was exhausted in 1959 when the Soviet Union donated a sculpture to garden of the United Nations headquarters in NYC entitled "Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares." According to the UN website, "the bronze statue represents the figure of a man holding a hammer in one hand and, in the other, a sword which he is making into a plowshare, symbolizing man's desire to put an end to war and convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all mankind." That's worked out quite well, eh?
Randall said…
Seth, fascinating post. The stealth component is something else. The story sounds like it could make a great plot line for a Frank Peretti novel.

"Let Us Beat Plowshares into Swords, and Yea, Let Us then Etch Secretly Coded Scripture on Ye Swords. Verily, that Would Be the Coolest, Nay Sickest Thing Ever." -The Gospel of John Birch
Seth Dowland said…
Wow, a John Birch gospel -- great idea, Randall. I'm sure we could have a field day coming up with scriptural passages for that book. And Brantley -- I didn't know about the USSR statue, but the irony is rich (and tragic).
Christopher said…
A John Birch gospel is a fun idea. And of course, it would need to include something by Mormon church president Ezra Taft Benson, one of the JBS's biggest supporters:
The John Birch Gospel also would need to include the verse, "The U.N. Meditation Room is a Luciferian trust!" That's what a Goshen-area Bircher yelled during a 50th anniversary of the U.N. celebration back when I was an undergrad. Needless to say, "Luciferian trust" found its way into many conversations that semester.
Randall said…
Thus saith Ezra Taft Benson. Loved the video.

What a great name. Ranks up there with Nehemiah Jefferson Longshanks or Abraham Ezekiel Adams.
Seth Dowland said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seth Dowland said…
Thankfully, Stephen Colbert is on top of this story, too. He suggests Trijicon add "hand gre-Bibles" and "promised land mines" to its arsenal.
Colbert: "When you look back and only see one set of footprints on the beach, it's because Jesus blew your legs off."

I'll never think of "Footprints in the Sand" in the same way.


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