NRA members hold annual prayer breakfast; 'Jesus loves me and my guns,' one prominent member's shirt says

Retired major league ballplayer Adam LaRoche earned cheers at the annual National Rifle Association (NRA) prayer breakfast in Dallas last weekend as he wore a shirt that outlines exactly what the NRA believes it's all about.

(Reuters/Lucas Jackson)Attendees look at Browning handguns inside of the convention hall during the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, U.S., May 4, 2018.

During his testimony in front of his fellow NRA members, LaRoche paused and took off his sweater to reveal the black shirt he was wearing underneath. On it were the words, "Jesus loves me and my guns," which the crowd loved.

LaRoche explained to The Washington Post that the message on his shirt meant that Jesus himself was not opposed to arms even if He preached on love and mercy. The former baseball star cited Matthew 10:34 to further explain that Jesus was not exactly a pacifist as the Bible verse said He "did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

The NRA is not a religious organization, and there are neither public records nor statistics on its members' religious faith. The organization's philosophy, however, reflects a conservative, right-leaning Christian belief.

"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," Donna Hyde, 68 and a long-time NRA member, told Washington Post. "That's what the NRA is," she added.

Aside from LaRoche, Christian award-winning music producer Scotty Wilbanks entertained the attendees with songs like "Lord, I Need You." Retired Marine officer Oliver North also shared war stories and preached about religion.

Photos from the NRA convention in Dallas also showed that it was a family event as some came with their children. They tested out weapons and also listened to demonstrations on gun safety and ownership.

Outside, however, protesters gathered to call out the NRA for influencing lawmakers to delay gun reforms because of their financial support to politicians. Actress Alyssa Milano led the protest with her group, No Rifle Association (NoRA).