Piece be With You
The debate over guns at church. A ready defense or an overreaction?

Two weeks ago an armed man entered Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, and shot Dr. George Tiller. On March 8, a gunman walked into the sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Maryville, Illinois, and killed senior pastor Fred Winters. Last summer a man walked into a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, pulled a shotgun from his guitar case, and opened fire on a children's performance. Two people were killed.

The news reports are horrifying, but despite the wide publicity these crimes garner, there have been less than a dozen church shootings in the U.S. in the last decade. But that is little comfort for some church leaders who are seeking new security measures to protect their flocks

and themselves.

Pastor Ken Pagano from New Bethel Church in Kentucky is encouraging his parishioners to bring their guns to church for an "Open Carry Celebration" to celebrate the Fourth of July and the Second Amendment. "We're not ashamed to say that there was a strong belief in God and firearms," says Pagano. "Without that this country wouldn't be here."

Other churches are hiring armed security to patrol their property on Sunday mornings to create an atmosphere of safety. But there is an increasing number of churches using armed vigilantes–volunteers with nothing more than a concealed weapon permit–to deter any assailant. These people are the ecclesiastical equivalent of the air marshals who anonymously fly commercial airliners.

But are these security measures warranted? And are churches unknowingly creating more risk, not less, by encouraging members to carry concealed weapons?

Richard R. Hammer is an attorney and the editor of Church Law Today, a resource of Leadership Journal. In this video Hammer explains why armed vigilantes at church is a bad idea, and offers helpful suggestions for churches still concerned about safety.

What is your opinion about guns at church? Should we be encouraging members to exercise their Second Amendment rights as a way of deterring violence? And what about hired or volunteer security–is it a practical necessity in our fallen world or an overreaction? And does the presence of armed security give worshipers peace of mind, or will it only deter visitors seeking an oasis from the values of the world?

June 10, 2009

Displaying 1–10 of 52 comments

Daniel

October 14, 2009  8:02am

I'm from Australia and recently some friends of mine have been on a holiday to america where they stayed at the house of a Christian friend. This Christian friend of theirs said to them that if Obama came to their house to take their gun, they would shoot him themself... Also my friend coming home late one night was greeted by looking down the barrel of a gun when he entered. This to me is simply ridiculous. Submission to authority, and 1 Corinithians 10:23 comes to mind, that everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Please realise that although you have the 'right' to bear arms, you are called to forgo your rights in order to reach everyone. Wasn't it also Paul that said to die is gain? Why are we so afraid of it then? And yes I do believe that this is the cause. Fear. Also to the person that was talking about Luke 22 and Jesus telling the disciples to carry swords, in verse 38 He says that 2 swords are enough. Seeming to say that he was using hyperbole as he often did in his illustrations. verse 50 also shows us that he rebukes Peter for using the sword he had. So I really don't think that that passage is sufficient evidence to end the life of another, especially in light of the multitudes of teaching by Him to 'turn the other cheek' etc. I pray that you can see yourself from another perspective, where christians all over the world are living just fine, and flourishing without needing guns to protect them.

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Gloria

July 08, 2009  5:58am

It is interesting that Biblical references in this discussion are so limited. Where would the talk go if we reminded ourselves that Jesus was, and is, the Old Testament God incarnate?

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Gordon

June 19, 2009  1:02pm

In the video above Rick Hammer uses the term "Vigilante". Wikipedia defines it this way,"A vigilante is a person who violates the law to exact what they believe to be justice from criminals." This is a very negative term. It is basically a person who unlawfully goes after another, after the crime, to take revenge. What we are talking about here is the lawful protection of the innocent to prevent a crime and then letting the police do their job afterward should something happen. If he intentionally used Vigilante in this way, he is displaying a severe bias in his views rather than objectively discussing the issue as he should. Other than that he raises many valid issues about liability and the responsible implementation of security measures.

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Gordon

June 19, 2009  11:37am

On the spiritual side, without God we become self centered and evil. Unfortunately, many in America are systematically destroying the Godly influence in our culture and the obvious results are violence, destruction, and death. On the political side we have power hungry dictators wanting to consume and control the world and gangs wanting to consume our communities. Together they form a threat to innocent people everywhere and a need for protection. " willing to lay down your life for a friend" is referring to your love for others. As a father would you stand by and watch a thug rape your daughter or a dog tear her apart? If you do not love her enough to protect her by any means possible you are either a beast or a coward. Does it really matter if it's gun or a baseball bat? A good soldier is just a father who loves his country enough to lay down his life to protect his fellow countrymen. Without them our country would be overrun and destroyed by others. Unfortunately millions of Europeans have found this out the hard way and died for it. A good police officer is just a father that loves his community enough to put his life on the line for his neighbors. A good volunteer security guard is just a father who loves his church and family enough to lay down his life if need be to protect the innocent in the church. A gun in these hands is a wonderful tool to serve and protect those we love. However a dangerous weapon is a huge responsibility. A soldier would never be asked to go to battle without proper training. So even the security guard should be responsible enough to get appropriate training. We should applaud all those, from the father to the soldier, that have the LOVE and COURAGE to take on this huge responsibility to serve and protect others.

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Rixx

June 19, 2009  9:33am

I attend a large-ish church. I suppose it's a megachurch. We attract people of all sorts and at all stages in their walk with God. Things get a little rough now and then...domestic disputes, child custody battles, stalkings, etc. I think it's prudent to do our best to protect those who attend - especially our children. I'm not big on everyone in the auditorium packing heat but a few police officers or professional security guards make sense to me.

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Horrid Bruce

June 18, 2009  8:28am

Ahh. Listening to "Christians" argue, such a joyous sound to the devil's ears. There is nothing he enjoys more than to hear the "children" of the Living God bicker, fight, throw hateful words at each other. Conversations like this truly further the devil's mission by pushing people away from Jesus. Non-believers see discussions like this and see the way "Christians" hatefully attack each other and think "I can get more love sitting in a circle smoking a joint with some folks than I can at church." The question I have is why are the devil's people more accepting and easier to get along with than "Christians"? Aren't "Christians" supposed to be Christ-like and didn't Jesus talk about Love...all the time? Remember that your "church" isn't a social club where you surround yourself with like-minded individuals and only associate with those who agree with you on the issues. The Church is the world-wide collection of Christ followers who's mission it is to reach out to the lost and share the Love of Christ with them. Arguing over BS like this only encourages atheism. Love your neighbors folks... Basil, "Two Dead in Theological Dispute over the Rapture." I especially liked this one though. That was funny.

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Mark

June 17, 2009  10:34pm

Thank you to our international brethren for their thoughts on this. It's true that we have a lot of guns here in America, but something else we have a lot of is gun laws. Gun control doesn't work-ask the Brits how that's going for them. I live in Obama's backyard-Cook county, IL, where it's very difficult to legally purchase a handgun, and yet we have major gun violence here. More laws aren't the answer.

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Martin

June 17, 2009  6:16pm

I am a pastor in New Zealand. It staggers me that any pastor could endorse bringing sidearms to church. In New Zealand (like most other countries) the possession of a sidearm in a public place is prohibited. I understand that there is a cultural difference between our countries in relation to firearms, but it seems to me that the 'if you live by the sword, you die by the sword' concept is relevant here. Reponding to threats to the church with guns just escalates the violence problem. What about the churches together advocating for more constraints on guns? What about the churches being the instigators of a new amendment to the constitution and removing the right to carry guns (which is surely a remnant from another era!)? How easy 'Thou shalt not kill' has become 'Thou shalt not kill, unless threatened.'

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still

June 17, 2009  7:43am

“Do you believe in God?” For a Christian, this is a walk-in-a-park question. But it will turn out to be a walk-through-the-valley-of-the-shadow-of-death when a 12-gauge shotgun stares eyeball-to-eyeball at us, restlessly waiting for our answer. Such hypothetical terror-stricken scene is plucked out from decade-old Columbine Shootings. Silence seems to be the safest answer, as life-and-death questions engross our Doubting Thomas human thoughts: Is God real or not? Will He save me now? This is natural. But, supernatural answer is what God expects from authentic Christians when He asks: “Will you really lay down your life for me?” John 13:38 The moment of truth for each one of us can come anytime - inside or outside the church.

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Anna

June 16, 2009  10:20pm

Early Christians did not carry weapons because they didn't believe in it as Jesus taught. In fact they lived many times in caves hiding from the outside world during times when Christians were being hunted and killed or captured because they weren't allowed to carry weapons even in self defense by their religion and by their government. Usually the only people allowed weapons were soldiers of the conquering rulers or the legal government, not civilians. Obviously, man has changed Christianity in regards to weapons holding. Today it's too easy for someone who has a temper or perceives the world owes them a living to get a gun and go hunting for humans. These nut cases aren't even known by the victims and aren't even members of the churches they do the killing in. I don't want any gun near me because people can't control their anger these days. We have generations of me, me, me people and not us people. And those wanting to carry a gun for "self-defense", ya, right, it's all about the power and not self-defense. If noone had a gun they would have to go to knives or fists to solve anger and victims would have a better chance of survival or of running away because you'll never stop the anger or the right to kill attitude, never, because it's people involved, you need to change the weapon or remove it from all people. A bullet just has too much speed and accuracy to it and on top of that Christians aren't supposed to have or use weapons if you follow Jesus and not man.

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