Just two weeks after a gunman entered a Florida high school and killed 17 innocent people, a small church in Pennsylvania has brought together its congregants and their rifles for a commitment ceremony.
Photos of the event show women in tears, clutching at their AR-15 semi-automatic rifles. Men can be seen wearing crowns of bullets. Still other men hold their semi-automatic rifles like soldiers in line formation, but with pink robes instead of camouflage.
The ceremony was hosted by the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfloundland, just 20 miles southeast of Scranton. The congregants had brought their rifles in adherence to their belief that a biblical mention of a “rod of iron” is actually a reference to the types of assault-style rifles that have become the weapon of choice for mass shooters in the United States.
Rev Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, the youngest son of the late Rev Sun Myung Moon led the ceremony, praying for “a kingdom of peace police and peace militia where the citizens, through the right given to them by almighty God to keep and bear arms, will be able to protect one another and protect human flourishing.”
“We pray they would stand as kings and queens with their crown and rod of iron,” he said.
The late reverend founded the Unification Church in South Korea in 1954, and eventually oversaw it sprawl across the globe in what some have come to call a cult. He was the self-proclaimed messiah of the church, which is most commonly known for mass wedding ceremonies — like the one in Pennsylvania this week.
The ceremony took place against a backdrop of an intense debate about America’s gun laws, and whether it makes sense for people to be able purchase guns that can unload bullets at a rapid rate.
President Donald Trump has signaled a willingness to sign bills to limit access to guns in some circumstances, and to improve the US federal background check system. He has also said that he would like to see a ban on “bump stock” accessories, which can make semi-automatic weapons mimic the firing speed of a fully automatic firearm.