‘Jesus loves me and my guns’: Faith and firearms touted at the NRA’s prayer breakfast

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For The Washington Post

DALLAS — Midway through his 15-minute testimony at the National Rifle Association’s annual prayer breakfast Sunday, retired major league first baseman Adam LaRoche took off his sweater.

Underneath, LaRoche — who hit 255 home runs in a 12-year career — sported a black T-shirt with a message that drew cheers from the firearms-friendly crowd of about 1,300.

“Jesus loves me and my guns,” it said.

“Don’t get me wrong: Jesus is all about love, grace, mercy,” said LaRoche, 38, an evangelical best known for walking away from a reported $13 million contact with the Chicago White Sox in 2016 after the team asked him to bring his son into the clubhouse less often.

But that doesn’t mean Jesus “was a pacifist and always carried a white lamb around and tiptoed through life avoiding controversy,” he added. He pointed to Scriptures such as Matthew 10:34, where Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

The event came two days after President Trump made international headlines with a splashy, campaign-style speech Friday at the NRA’s 147th annual meeting. More than 80,000 attendees assembled from Thursday through Sunday.

The smaller Sunday-morning gathering — a $40-a-plate affair advertised as “a time of inspiration and encouragement” — took place mostly out of the media spotlight.

Despite the prayer breakfast’s lower profile, the Christian crowd that filled a ballroom at the Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas represented “such a nucleus of the NRA,” said Donna Hyde, a 68-year-old grandmother and matriarch of three generations of lifetime NRA members. She wore buttons with messages such as “I’m the NRA, I Voted.”

“It’s about God, country and the protection of our freedoms,” said Hyde, of Mabank, Tex., about 55 miles southeast of Dallas. “We don’t think we can be good Americans without this core value of Christian faith in Christ that gives us our freedoms of everything, and that’s what the NRA is.”

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This story appears in the Acts of Faith section of The Washington Post. Among other major papers picking up the story: the Salt Lake Tribune and The Virginian-Pilot.

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