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Churches and guns: a fatal combination

In December of 2007, a gunman opened fire on Christians in a Denver area missionary training center, then later in a Colorado Springs church. He killed four young followers of Christ (and injured several others) before being shot and wounded by a church security guard, then finally killing himself.

In July of 2008, a gunman entered Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and killed two. Adkisson, the shooter, plead guilty and will live out the rest of his life (he’s 58 years old) in prison.

A couple of months ago, in Maryville, Illinois, a gunman walked into First Baptist Church and shot down the pastor, Fred Winters. He wounded a couple of others before being apprehended.

While other similar events have occurred around the country within the last three or so years,  these three in particular seemed to spark heated discussion over the issue of local churches having the right/need/opportunity to be armed during worship services and gatherings. For example, following the slaying of Fred Winters, Marc Driscoll from Mars Hill Church presented five questions for church leaders:

  1. Does your church have a series of written, known, and practiced emergency plans?
  2. How secure is your children’s ministry?
  3. Does your church have security?
  4. Does your church have a warm relationship with the local police?
  5. Does your church have a policy for potentially dangerous people?

These questions are important for local bodies to discuss, depending on how their particular church is structured (e.g. some congregations do not have children’s ministries). And none of these questions in and of themselves speak to the issue of a congregation being armed. But they definitely create the atmosphere for what I believe to be a vital and healthy discussion.

The upcoming series will be something of my voice into this discussion. While I have made statements here and there in the past, I have not made a firm effort to present more complete thoughts with extra background. The reason for the series is because in our local church one of the councilmen is taking up the task of creating a real emergency, security plan. My fear is that the church will embrace armed security measures. While I cannot see the future and really need to wait and see what they present in a draft of the plan to be sure, I have several reasons why I believe this is a strong possibility (even likelihood). Either way I would like to make the case for Christ as clear and emphatic as I can. To go down this route, for any church, I believe is to lay down the cross of Christ (problem 1) and do as Peter did when Christ was arrested, using the sword to attack the aggressor (problem 2).

In this series I will offer that no local congregation should ever consider armed security (regardless of whether or not this is legal in the state their in). This may end up discussing nonviolence (and nonresistance) in general as the way of Christ, but my intention is to focus on security and local congregations. And I definitely do not want to leave things as “You’re wrong. I’m right. You’re doing it wrong.” and not offer viable, Christ-like alternatives.

Hopefully no one has forgotten Monday, 2 October 2006.

That’s right. It has been a little over two and a half years since Charles Roberts walked into the Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania and took the lives of five, injured five others, then took his own life. I am quite convinced the Amish did everything in Christ-like, exemplary fashion during this ordeal, especially when they simply forgave. They suffered, and endured a great loss in their community, then forgave. Marie Roberts, wife of the assailant, wrote these words to the Amish community:

Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. Gifts you’ve given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you. (Source)

They are making a great impact on this world for the Kingdom, and not by choosing to arm and defend themselves. They are doing so by holding strong to the cross and loving everyone.

3 Comments

  1. Hi. Thanks for reading through the post and commenting. But, if you could, please elaborate a bit. Simply stating “Nehemiah 4″ isn't really much of a dialogue. What do you mean by that? How are you connecting the passage to the topic of this post?

  2. Nehemiah 4, therein, the people doing God's work were arming themselves and being watchful against an enemy who intended them violent harm.

    Peter's violence at Jesus' arrest was preemptive (bad!) and rash, and in defiance of the local government, and Jesus had to die this way, it was the will of the Father. John 18:11/Luke 22:49-50 has dubious relevance to psychotic killers targeting churches today; Jesus' prohibition was event-specific. Especially since Luke 22:35-38 came out of Jesus' mouth too.

    I do not believe defense against criminals who are in violent defiance of God's Law and local authorities is wrong, and is even sanctioned in the Old Testament. I like reading your perspective though, I've never actually looked deeply into the Bible's take on self-defense before.

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