Monday, December 10, 2007

Guns in Church?

One of the Colorado church shootings over the weekend ended thanks to the quick thinking of an armed church security guard. It brings to mind this interesting discussion thread over at Andrew Conard's blog about the appropriateness of bringing concealed firearms to church. Some churches, as Andrew notes, have put up signs to forbid taking concealed firearms on campus. What do you think?

Should churches forbid concealed firearms on campus?

Further thoughts from Art Ruch, Andrew Conard, Gavin Richardson, and BeneDiction.

52 comments:

DannyG said...

I was thinking about just this on my drive home this evening. This isn't the first time that a deranged person has come into a sanctuary with guns blazing. This is the first time that I recall someone being able to provide an armed response. The guard probably saved many lives in this situtation. It is worth pointing out that the locations choosen by the recent crop of mass murders have all been places where guns are (usually) expressly forbiden: University campus, Mall, Church. Perhaps adding "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition" to the hymn rotation might not be suc a bad thing in this day and age. (Peter used to carry a concealed weapon, if memory serves).

Dan Trabue said...

Actually, Peter was told by Jesus to specifically go and buy one (and that, for the purpose of fulfilling prophecy - NOT to use, if you'll recall), indicating that the disciples did NOT carry weaponry as a rule. When they went out into the dangerous highways, they were specifically told what to take and a sword was not in that list.

Our church has always been in the rough part of the city. Winos, strompets, deranged, angry... we've had them all along in our history (for 125 years now).

And according to our church records, back in the 1940s, the deacons carried sidearms to church, to verify the offering made it to its appointed destination.

These days, we place our faith in God and one another, not upon weaponry. And we've had death threats and violent behavior in the time that I've been there (usually from some of our beloved friends with mental problems). We take it seriously, but we don't take it on armed and dangerous.

Rather, we put on the full armor of God, who is our deliverance. Seems right to us. As God repeatedly told David, Gideon and others in the OT, "If you have a strong army, then when your enemy is vanquished, the people will say, 'It is by Israel's hand that we have been delivered.' I want you to trust in Me and by MY hand be delivered."

Or words to that effect.

Earl said...

With respect, I prefer to carry a weapon. When possible that weapon is a suitable semi-automatic pistol or possibly a revolver. Otherwise it is a knife or, as last resort, MACE. My daughters have been taught how to protect themselves using common sense and, if need be, whatever weapon comes to hand.

Regrettable evil people will continue to prey upon those they deem defenseless. I will not idly stand aside and permit senseless violence to be visited upon innocent persons. If in this I am wrong, God will sort it out.

Dan Trabue said...

I will not idly stand aside and permit senseless violence to be visited upon innocent persons.

With respect, neither would I nor anyone in our church. It's just that we prefer to place our trust in God and one another for defense.

We have a drop in center for the homeless and mentally ill. Most of our years we've had this, it has been run by one relatively small woman or another. On those occasions when one or another fella or gal gets out of line, our women have been more than strong enough to handle the situation. Peaceably.

Not to mention that most of our homeless friends wouldn't hesitate to step up to the defense of our managers if need be (and they often have - needed or not).

The Bible tells us rightly that a soft answer turns away wrath and that we are to overcome evil with good. It has been our experience that this works fine.

DannyG said...

Our church secretary in Daytona opened the door to someone seeking assistance, and was assaulted and murdered, in the church. As nobody else was there at that moment concealed carry would be moot, but as I said before, the perp knew there would be no weapons to opose him. Perhaps if that wasn't the case, if there was some inkling of doubt, it might have made a difference.

psychodougie said...

obviously not a big issue in Australia, mainly, in my opinion, because weapon ownership by anyone escalates the uptake by others.

tho obviously not the reality you guys have to live with.

i would be interested to know the response particularly post the massacre in the Amish school - are people wishing they were more pro-weapon-bearing?

an israeli judge ruling on the use of torture to fight terror, said that it's better to fight fairly - tho it may be with one hand tied behind your back, than to use all and any means possible.

i would think this would apply with stopping the escalation of weapon ownership - better to be safely conservative than gun-toting.

but again, i can only begin to imagine your context.

larry b said...

It seems to me that if you are going to allow concealed carrying, then one could expect that Christians who choose to carry would live up to their responsibilities in regards to carrying their weapons, and there would be no overwhelming reason to disallow the weapon in a Church than in any other area.

Gord said...

Outside of military chapels in war zones there should be no guns or weaponry of any kind (concealed or otherwise) in a church period.

Dan Trabue said...

Can you imagine the Early Church - persecuted as they were - being full of sword-toting believers?

Earl said...

My comment was not meant to be critical. Situations are not uniform. With regard to dealing with criminal conduct, blanket policies are only a paper comfort that offer little practical insulation from the cold realities of calculated evil. In practical application one often has to adapt. I do not write in a vacuum but from experience that includes a significant amount of inner city ministry as a student and staff member as well as personal experience of being on the receiving end of violent crime.

The most important thing is that one have a plan. Confronted with violence, one then responds in as logical and legally defensible a manner as is hopefully possible. Reacting according to "seat of the pants" impulse will not likely yield as positive an outcome. Further to expect other innocent individuals to inject themselves into a volital and potential violent situation is not well considered. In such a circumstance those rushing to provide help are made vulnerable to being victimized thus compounding the tragedy.

There will be times when simple quiet talk will not resolve a problem. Further one has a responsibility to not allow others to be put at risk by one's personal choices. While I might be willing to accept personal risk, as a pastor I am responsible for those who I serve. Such responsible conduct is expected when we are leading children and youth in our care. Surely none of us would in idealism refuse to act if while in our care a child or youth were threatened. The Biblical image of the shepherd is not simply one who leads and provides but one who protects. It is part of our responsibility as shepherds to make those decisions that will provide thoughtful protection for our parishioners. We do this with insurance polices on real property, etc., first aid kits and emergency medical policies and, if need be, we do this by well reasoned security policies.

As regards carrying a weapon, that is a decision one must arrive at after due prayerful reflection. Such a decision is not easy nor should it be. It should be a matter of struggle and the decision arrived at should reflect conviction that one is following the clear will of God. In the last 21 years I have not had to use any weapon beyond my hands. For that I am deeply thankful. However over the last 28 years I have personally witnessed seven instances in which firearms were used to stop individuals from acting with criminal intent. The individuals involved in these situations have been men and women who were vulnerable to and absolutely at the mercy of those who threatened to victimize them.

Jeff the Baptist said...

I wrote a post that touched on this topic a while ago. Firearms ownership is very much like eating food offered to idols, some people will have a problem with it and others will not. I think carry is a very personal decision that should be made by individuals with prayerful consideration.

With that in mind, I am of the opinion that churches should not forbid concealed firearms. I would never forbid carry in the same way that I would never require it. I don't think it is a decision which should be made corporately and, even though I have never carried a gun in a church in my life, I would not attend a church that forbade carry as a matter of church policy.

~c. said...

As a pastor, I would not permit firearms in the church. I would even excommunicate a member if she/he tried it, if logic, reason and Christian virtue didn't change their mind. I would rather have someone shoot us all dead than the people of God to return violence for violence. As far as it being God's will that the woman killed the perpetrator in Colorado, I find that a horrific interpretation of events. At best, it was a regrettable circumstance with only evil choices (kill or be killed). And before we get on the everyone-needs-to-be-armed-if-there-is-ever-to-be-peace trip, let us not forget that plenty of poeple are murdered where guns are prolific.

Stephen said...

I have to admit when I heard the news the first thing I thought was, "They have ARMED security guards patrolling at Ted Haggard's ex-church, I didn't know things were that bad."

It gives a whole new meaning to those trying to "sneak out the back" in order to beat the rest of us to the red lobster. :)

John said...

All of the arguments for bringing guns to church make sense from a civil liberties point of view, as well as pragmatic reasons for defending oneself and one's loved ones from harm. But to bring a weapon into the institution founded by Jesus Christ seems so...icky. I know that it's not an argument, but Dan is correct that it would have been unimaginable in the ancient Church.

Dan Trabue said...

"Dan is correct," everyone see that?

Make a note of it, it happens so rarely...

Earl said...

We are not the ancient church. With reason we have an obligation to anticipate and prepare for what the early church would not have imagined would ever become our modern day reality.

Keith Taylor said...

I am late to this but I see it this way.

Is pain, suffering, death, injury, bloodshed the work of the God or the enemy? Obviously we know the answer to that.

The security officier that drew her weapon and killed a murderer who was in the process of causing more pain, more agony, more death, more distruction, etc., was she doing the work of the enemy or the work of the God? I can't say, but I know this. If a child was kept from being orphaned, if a mother was kept from losing a child, if a father was kept from being cripled or maimed for life by her actions, she was not doing the work of the enemy.

Yes, the murdered was killed, but the Good Book is pretty clear about that.

I'm sure if I were at church and bullets started flying and I dropped to my knees and prayed to God for help, it wouldn't really matter to me if the "help" were Micheal the Archangel himself with a flaming sword or if a young woman carrying a 9mm stopped it by deadly force, I'd be just as greatful to God for His deliverance for my own person and my own family and the families and persons of others.

And if anyone with a family or loved ones or just likes living themselves doesn't admit that, they are either (1) a fool, or (2) a liar.

Dan Trabue said...

You're making the presumption that one could be safer with a buncha armed folk going around prepared to "stop the bad guys" than we are in our urban (and therefore considered "dangerous" by some) setting.

Not only do I think that we are called to be peacemakers/non-violent responders because that's what the Bible teaches, I think the Bible teaches us that because non-violent answers tend to work best.

In short, our church would reject the notion that we would be safer if we had armed guards "protecting" us. You can make that decision at your church if you want. I'm just telling you what we think in our church.

And we are neither fools nor liars.

I will tell you this, my 11 year old daughter can walk through the slums and past the homeless and mentally ill of Louisville feeling less fear than many grown men I know.

Anonymous said...

John,

I am happy to see this post. I carry a side arm to church (at the request and knowledge of my pastor). I was at Wedgwood when the gunman shot and killed seven of my friends.

As Jeff mentioned on his blog, those who advocate NOT carrying guns but simply trusing in God, do you have fire insurance, flood insurance, do you wear a seat belt? I would bet that you take all the above precautions.

Dan . . . God bless you - I know you and Michael are of the "peacemaking" variety. If you want to take a bullet for someone you can do that. If you want to be a martyr (e.g. God not stepping in and protecting you) then that is your business.

However, for our part the church that I am inovlved in has no problem with myself or anyone else who has a state CHL and additional training to carry within their building.

Best Regards
Joe

Dan Trabue said...

If you want to take a bullet for someone you can do that. If you want to be a martyr (e.g. God not stepping in and protecting you) then that is your business.

Thanks for the blessing. But it's not really about wanting to be a martyr nor wanting to take a bullet but, as I've already indicated, it's simply a matter of

1. wanting to be faithful as I understand the teachings of Jesus and
2. honestly thinking the best, safest, soundest and most ethical way to live is non-violently and without relying upon weaponry.

See my previous responses.

A soft answer DOES turn away wrath. We CAN overcome evil with good.

Those aren't merely powerless platitudes, but genuinely wise ways to live. Or at least that's what we teach at our church.

Dan Trabue said...

Earl earlier said:

We are not the ancient church. With reason we have an obligation to anticipate and prepare for what the early church would not have imagined would ever become our modern day reality.

And I'm not entirely sure of what he meant by that. But if he was indicating that the early church didn't know how violent today's world might be, well, clearly they lived in an even more violent time.

No one's throwing folk to the lions these days.

But perhaps that wasn't Earl's point.

Keith Taylor said...

Dan wrote:

But if he was indicating that the early church didn't know how violent today's world might be, well, clearly they lived in an even more violent time.

No one's throwing folk to the lions these days.


Uh Dan,

There are more Christian martyrs in the world today in 2007 than at any point in the history of the Christian Faith including the Roman Empire under Nero. You're right, no one is throwing them to the lions. They are being starved, beaten, shot, drowned, beheaded, and persecuted at an alarming rate.

And I have another question. It is my understanding that New Life Church is not in some slum area of Colorado Springs, it is a pretty upscale area. So I am little confused about your comments concerning walking thru the slum areas of Louisville have to do with anything. To me is just demonstrates that the enemy has no boundaries as to where his evil work can be demonstrated.

Earl said...

As regards my earlier response, please excuse my lack of clarity. I will now be more precise.

We are not the Church living in the ancient world. We are the Church living in the modern world where criminal violence is a regrettable but unavoidable fact of life. How the Church in that ancient world responded to state sponsored violent persecution is not relevant in considering how those charged with pastoral and administrative oversight of a local Church in this modern era should formulate policy as to how to respond to criminal violence that touches upon the life of congregation.

It is not possible to know what was the level of criminal violence experienced by the ancient Church. Their's may have been a more violent world, but any such assertion is merely unsubstantiated opinion. Not a matter of opinion but a fact well substantiated is that criminal violence directed against local churches has reached a level that is unprecedented. Twenty years ago such would not have been imagined. I can not speak for twenty centuries ago. I do seriously doubt that any of the ancient church would have imagined that churches of this modern day would face the current level of criminal violence that has been directed at churches

Dan Trabue said...

There is a miniscule chance that today, some nut will walk into a church and do violence. You're suggesting that, against that miniscule chance, pastors have an obligation to at least consider having some armed protection.

In the Early church, there was a reasonable chance that the gov't would break down the doors and drag them away to prison and/or death. The early church's pastor, by this reasoning, should have considered being armed and ready to protect his congregation because it would have been "negligent" on his part to not do so.

I'm saying that this would have been scoffed at in the early church.

I'm not sure that the source of the threat (gov't vs random violence) makes a difference to our response. You'd think the early church would have been right to meekly go to their deaths at the hands of the gov't but they should have engaged in a showdown at the hands of random violence?

What's the difference?

If anything, I'd advocate stronger resistance (still not deadly violence, though) against a totalitarian gov't than I would a likely mentally ill person.

Dan Trabue said...

So I am little confused about your comments concerning walking thru the slum areas of Louisville have to do with anything.

I'm saying that folk who desire to protect themselves with weaponry live in greater fear and less trust of God than my 11 year old daughter does walking through "the valley of the shadow of death."

I'm suggesting that it is a false bravado to think "I'll just pack some heat so that I can stop any bad guys - I'll be a hero, used by God to smite the wicked..."

Yes, we live in a violent world. Yes, there is a tiny chance that some off individual may find their way into your place of worship or work or anywhere and try to do violence.

YES, if that happens, I'd be right there trying to stop the person, as would nearly anyone at my church.

And we have.

But, I'm suggesting that it is our experience that the best way to overcome evil is with good. The best way to stop violence is with non-violence.

Might someone be killed using a non-violent response against a violent threat? Sure. But that is exactly true of a violent response to a violent threat.

The difference, we believe at our church, is that we have been commanded to overcome evil with good, to not resist violence with violence. We're no fools, we just think non-violence is the best method for dealing with violence.

Understand this, too, though: Many of us have worked in violent situations (with the mentally ill, at places for troubled children, etc) and we have received training in forcibly stopping violent behavior. We don't think that, for instance, forcibly grabbing someone to stop violence (as a last resort) is a bad thing. We're opposed to the reliance upon and use of deadly violence, but not firm response.

I mention that just in case you're picturing us bowing and praying as the guy runs around with a gun shooting. That's not the sort of non-violent resistance I'm speaking of.

Anonymous said...

Dan, John, Earl, et. al.,

Dan, I think that in your last post the one right above this one that you misrepresented a great many of CHL holders in our nation.

We don't go around saying or thinking things like "Packing heat," etc. Rather, many of us have also been in situations where we were forced to defend ourselves and/or loved ones with deadly force. It is an event that will be with us the rest of our lives.

Through much prayer, and Scriptural consultation we have decided that for us protecting ourselves with a firearm is an option. It isn't THE only option but it is an option. Don't castigate us for the direction that we believe God has brought us.

I have addressed the disconect between many of those who would not use deadly force and their myopic reading of primarily the Old Testament but selective reading of the New Testament as well.

Should deadly force NEVER be used by anyone protecting their family? I think that if one holds to this statement then they are selectively reading both testaments. Should it be one of the absolutely LAST elements in a situation YES.

Likewise, in our litigious society if a pastor and his governing body (deacons, elders, etc) believe it to be necessary to protect their congregation it is up to he/them to come to terms with the decision. I would advocate much prayer, Scriptural reading, and conslutation with an attorney.

Lastly, you nor anyone else has touched on the point of "trusting" God for other elements in life. Do you wear seat belts? Do you have fire insurance or flood insurance? Do you look both ways before crossing the street? I would argue that the answer is "yes" to all the above questions. They are not a disconnect from this topic but rather you are taking some kind of step to protect yourself from a violent death. We who arm ourselves are doing likewise.

Best Regards
Dr. Joe

John said...

Earl wrote:

We are not the Church living in the ancient world. We are the Church living in the modern world where criminal violence is a regrettable but unavoidable fact of life. How the Church in that ancient world responded to state sponsored violent persecution is not relevant in considering how those charged with pastoral and administrative oversight of a local Church in this modern era should formulate policy as to how to respond to criminal violence that touches upon the life of congregation.

I don't understand this distinction between violence from the state and violence from criminals. Why should Christians arm themselves against one but not the other?

It is not possible to know what was the level of criminal violence experienced by the ancient Church. Their's may have been a more violent world, but any such assertion is merely unsubstantiated opinion.

On the contrary, the persecution of Christians during prior to Constantine's conversion was brutal. Glancing through Justo Gonzalez' The Story of Christianity v.1, Nero blamed Christians in Rome for the city-wide fire, and executed great numbers of them, some by setting them on fire (33-36). Domitian ordered the execution of Christians due to their affiliation with the rebellious Jews (36-38). Trajan's agents forced Christians to either recant their faith or be imprisoned and executed (40-41). Marcus Aurelius blamed Christians for imperial troubles in his reign, sent a violent wave of persecution through the empire (45-48). Septimus Severus had Christians killed because he saw them as foes to his proposal to united all religions so that the empire would be united (82-85). Decius made a concentrated effort throughout the empire to crush the religion once and for all (85-88. Diocletian, the great organizer of late Rome, created a system for torturing Christians into abandoning their faith (103-104).

Back in those days, people didn't express hostility to Christianity by saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". They expressed hostility by killing Christians. And these were not lone, crazy killers. These were state-sponsored efforts directed by the Emperors themselves.

When the President of the United States orders that your church be burned to the ground and your pastor tortured and killed, then you can say that the two situations are comparable.

Earl said...

The potential for violent crime is not uniform across all locations. If one serves in a high crime area, it is part of your responsibility as a pastor to take well reasoned steps to deal with the potential threat. If a incident occurs you will not regret having such a plan in place. The pastor and administration of New Life Church anticipated and took wise well reasoned steps that prevented further tragedy.

The competent professional courageous response of Assam contrast strongly to the at best incompetent reaction of the other two security guards at New Life Church. Their failure is hauntingly reminiscent of a similar failure by security officers to act decisively that was a major factor in the Columbine massacre.

As regards state sponsored violent persecution, I do not consider the stereotypical response of the early church to be normative for our day. The early church had little other choice in an era when weapons were almost impossible to obtain except through the military. A better response would have been that of the Macabbeans or the Jews of Warsaw. Please note that while millions of Jews were marched off to the ovens of the death camps, the Jews of Warsaw ghetto, using what weapons they could capture, were for quite some time able to stand off Hitler's vaunted SS. Had all the Jews of Europe acted in the same manner, likely Hitlers goon squads would likely have ended up staying in Berlin practicing their goose step. (In truth, had Europe and specifically Chamberlain not been so weak in the matter of Czechoslovakia Hitler would not have been able to continue his expansionist policies).

Had pastors of congregations in the early church had the means to resist, it is unthinkable that they would have been so unconscionable as to fail to act to protect their loved ones and the members of their congregations.

Scripture condemns standing aside when one has it in ones power to act positively (Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:14-26). This is true when confronting human need and this is true when confronting unrestrained evil. Ms. Assam demonstrated outstanding personal courage, professional competence and faith in God as she acted to stop a criminal's violent rampage. The proper response of all concerned should be to thank her and commend her. Her response was absolutely correct in stopping a criminal bent on outrage. The same would be true in resisting a totalitarian government (Fascist, Nazi, Socialist, Communist, etc.) bent on destroying human life and liberty.

John said...

Keith wrote:

There are more Christian martyrs in the world today in 2007 than at any point in the history of the Christian Faith including the Roman Empire under Nero. You're right, no one is throwing them to the lions. They are being starved, beaten, shot, drowned, beheaded, and persecuted at an alarming rate.

Yes, in China, and much of the Islamic world. Just not in America. That's an important distinction.

Earl said...

In response to "I don't understand this distinction..." There is no difference. One should not submit to violence by state or criminal. To do so only makes one an enabler of evil.

"It is not possible to know what was the level of criminal violence... On the contrary." There is no doubt the early church faced periodic state sponsored violent persecution. It was only with the Nuremberg Trials that the world community finally concluded that such activity was at heart criminal. The sentence specifically mentions "criminal violence." Any reasonable reading of the sentence in its context leaves no doubt that reference is not to state but an individual such as Murry. In that context I am not aware of any reliable data on what criminal violence the early church may have faced.

Dan Trabue said...

Dr Joe said:

I think that in your last post the one right above this one that you misrepresented a great many of CHL holders in our nation...It isn't THE only option but it is an option. Don't castigate us for the direction that we believe God has brought us.

The point was not to castigate you or the guard who shot this attacker nor CHL holders. I apologize if that was the way it sounded.

The point was to say, THIS is what we do at our church, this is the conclusion we have reached at our church and there's no need to castigate US for coming to that conclusion, as it is quite well-founded biblically and logically, in our opinion.

In other words, I was writing what I wrote in response to comments such as this one: One should not submit to violence by state or criminal. To do so only makes one an enabler of evil... and this one: if anyone with a family or loved ones or just likes living themselves doesn't admit that, they are either (1) a fool, or (2) a liar.

There are quite biblical reasons for our position. We are absolutely not enablers of evil nor fools nor liars. The accusations were made of us, I was merely defending our position.

As I have stated, we don't think the Biblical commands to overcome evil with good are merely powerless platitudes, but genuinely wise ways to live. Or at least that's what we teach at our church.

I understand that others may reach other conclusions. And I leave you all to do that as being between your church (or the individual) and God. I feel no need to condemn your decision, although certainly SOME people who have pursued armed defense have done so out of a sense of machismo or out of a culture of fear.

Dan Trabue said...

As to this comment:

Lastly, you nor anyone else has touched on the point of "trusting" God for other elements in life. Do you wear seat belts?

It's quite a different situation. God has nowhere condemned the wearing of seatbelts and by wearing a seat belt, I do not threaten anyone else, nor do I support a paradigm that conflicts with the Bible.

Pursuing violent solutions, to our church DOES threaten others and it DOES conflict with biblical injunctions.

When I get a chance in the next day or two, I hope to address this a bit further, in terms of the paradigm of trust and the paradigm of deadly defense.

Earl said...

One may for oneself advocate a nonviolent response to such evil as occurred at Columbine, Vir. Tech. or New Life Church. As long as such advocacy only puts one's self at risk there is no real problem as each of us are free to make our own decisions. We also live with the consequences of those decisions.

When one is placed in a position of responsibility, duty demands that one act in the best interest of others rather than indulging ones personal preferences. As regards criminal violence, it is reasonable for members, guest and visitors to a church to expect that those in positions of responsibility will assess risk and act reasonably to assure some degree of safety. Safe Sanctuaries exemplifies this line of reasoning as regards the care of children and youth participating in church functions. A church using security lights and volunteer or paid security persons exemplify a thoughtful response to potential criminal activity. The steps taken by NLC demonstrate a reasonable anticipation of risk and a measured appropriate response that saved many lives. Anything less would have been an irresponsible failure of duty.

Anonymous said...

Dan,

Your last post cleared up a great deal of confusion on my behalf. I thank you for your post.

I for one will NOT castigate you or your church for the stance that you take. As I wrote it is the responsiblity of your pastor and/or his staff to make those calls. If you all have come to the conclusion that non-violence is the way to go I for one will stand by you.

The bottom line - we each and all have to live with the decisions that we make in life. We have to face ourselves and those who depend on us. You know the Scriptures and you know the Spirit - if He is leading you to this decision I cannot quibble with you.

We may agree to disagree on what is right for each congregation but we should remain brothers in Christ in my opinion.

Best Regards
Dr. Joe

Dan Trabue said...

Agreed, Dr. Joe.

As to this:

When one is placed in a position of responsibility, duty demands that one act in the best interest of others rather than indulging ones personal preferences.

I don't disagree. Where I disagree is that it is responsible or in the best interest to have armed guards. As stated, I think it NOT in our best interest to have armed guards.

Not only do I think it a conflict of biblical doctrine, I think it contributes to making us LESS safe, not more safe.

I agree that it is the church's responsibility (here, I might disagree with you, Dr Joe and say, "the church's" - not, "the pastor's or staff's") to act in the best interest of itself and its guests, but I disagree that armed guards do so.

It's like this:

Suppose a person wanted to ride a bike for transportation, thinking it the best, most morally responsible way of getting around. BUT, they thought, it's not safe because of the danger of cars.

And so they conclude that they'll get a small car to get around, as that is more responsible than a big guzzler. BUT, they think, it's not safe to drive a small car because of the danger of all these large hummers out there. And so, for safety's sake, they get the largest tank out there. Because, after all, they have a responsibility to their family to provide safe transportation.

And in so doing, they have forsaken the better, more responsible way of getting around. They have embraced a paradigm that leads to a LESS, not more safe society.

We reject the paradigm of perceived safety at all costs approach, believing it leads to exactly the undesired position we wanted to avoid in the first place.

For ourselves, at least. Being good (perceived) liberals, we're hesitant to force our will on others.

Bob said...

"A better response would have been that of the Macabbeans or the Jews of Warsaw. Please note that while millions of Jews were marched off to the ovens of the death camps, the Jews of Warsaw ghetto, using what weapons they could capture, were for quite some time able to stand off Hitler's vaunted SS. Had all the Jews of Europe acted in the same manner, likely Hitlers goon squads would likely have ended up staying in Berlin practicing their goose step. (In truth, had Europe and specifically Chamberlain not been so weak in the matter of Czechoslovakia Hitler would not have been able to continue his expansionist policies)."

I would say that an even better response would have been for the German people, the vast majority of whom were Christians, to say no to violence and refuse to take up arms in the first place. If our fellow Christians in Germany would have exhibited "the peace of Christ," and loved their neighbors as themselves, I suspect that we would never have had the horrors of Warsaw, Czechoslavakia, or the holocaust.

Bob

Earl said...

In a violent confrontation unarmed guards are absolutely and completely useless. At that point intellectual considerations are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is stopping a criminal from hurting innocent persons. If the criminal must be injured or even perish, it is not a matter of primary concern. Of first concern is to stop the criminal from hurting innocent persons. This policy is not a matter of seeking perceived safety at all cost. It is a matter of being very determined that innocent persons will not be victimized by those with criminal intent.

I am not aware of any Scripture that would support the idea that failing to take effective steps to maintain security is somehow a laudable expression of sincere Christian faith. Such failure makes no one safe and only makes a target of innocent persons. Taking wise reasoned steps to deal with potential or actual criminal violence does not stamp one with the mark of Cain. It does lead to more not less safety.

It would be unconscionable and indefensible for any pastor or staff person responsible for such decisions to put persons at risk simply because they wanted to cling to their own theory of how best to deal with violent crime. The lamentable tragedy that not so long ago struck a small Amish community occurred not because they were armed but because the perpetrators of that crime knew the victims would not be armed. In a 19th century agrian village society, the Amish would not likely have had to face such issues as criminal violence. Living in the modern world such is an issue with which they will have to contend.

The decision as to how to effectively anticipate and respond to such horror is not a liberal or conservative issue. Thankfully we can engage in this extended discussion because for most of us criminal violence is not our normative experience. For the innocent persons who this past Sunday attended New Life Church, the best response to criminal violence was not a matter of liberal or conservative debate. It was a tragically concrete matter of how a murderer could be stopped before he harmed other innocent people. The only person who acted effectively and stopped that deadly rampage was Ms. Assan. Had she or someone equally resolute not stopped Murray other people would have been injured or killed.

Dan Trabue said...

The lamentable tragedy that not so long ago struck a small Amish community occurred not because they were armed but because the perpetrators of that crime knew the victims would not be armed.

Sure, the Amish could arm themselves. But first, they would have to give up their identities.

You're free to think as you wish. I obviously disagree.

Peace.

Dan Trabue said...

But before I ride off into the sunset, perhaps a little song:

The Ballad of Sheriff Yoder
The Gunless Lawman


There came a stranger to our town, his hands were hard and blistered
He wore a white hat on his head, his face it sported whiskers
He wanted us to call him sheriff but we had our doubts
We just called him...Yoder (called him Yoder)

He was a Quaker from back east, he came with an agenda
To bring peace to the Wild Wild West, he wore a star on his suspendas
He rode an old gray farming mule he called Zechariah,
But we just called him Yoder (the man, not the mule)

Now, Black Bart was the meanest cuss that you ever laid eyes on
He liked to kick on dogs and spit on kids, he was a western python
He came to town to challenge Yoder to a deadly duel
Came to shoot poor Yoder (the gunless lawman)

Because ol' Yoder was a Quaker he didn't believe in fighting
And Black Bart was pistol packing and as fast as lightning
Take this, Yoder! Black Bart yelled as the bullets flew
Flew toward Lawman Yoder (Deadman Yoder)

Now, it's hard to fight with someone who will not fight with you
And the way that Yoder stared him down made Black Bart come unglued
The bullets bounced all around, one struck Bart in the foot
“The name is Sheriff Yoder!” (Sheriff Yoder)

The townfolks whooped and hollered as Bart danced all around
No one ever had the courage to face Black Bart down
The Quaker sheriff from the east had won our undying love
We called him Sheriff Yoder, Sheriff Yoder, Sheriff Yoder!

~c. said...

Redirect...What would Jesus do?

DaveW said...

~c

Actually it is not "What would Jesus do?"

It is "What did Jesus do when armed men came to take him to be killed?"

Earl,

So far as I am aware the gospels are very clear. Jesus knew they were coming to get him and kill him, yet he did not allow his disciples to fight back to protect him.

We know that Christ chose not to kill or injure to protect his body. If we agree that the Church is the Body of Christ then does that not tell us how to behave?

Earl said...

When confronted with the threat of criminal violence or facing a mob out of control, what did Jesus do? He did not meekly yield himself up to be victimized. Scripture tells us that "passing through the midst of them he went away." (Lk. 4:30). Exactly how he extricated himself from that volatile situation is not stated.

When confronted with a mob of men bent on victimizing a woman all in the name of truth, justice and the Pharisaic way, Jesus did not simply stand and stare. He penned "The Lost Letter of Jesus!" Sadly the autograph is gone with the wind. Because no copies were made we don't know the exact vocabulary he used nor the precise sentences he traced in the sand, but we do know what was the effect on and response of the crowd.

Had His little monograph failed to get that desired response, what would Jesus have done? Would he have demurely have stood aside and let the crowd have it's way with that woman? Maybe. Maybe He'd have told her that it would be a sin for her to resist those who sought to abuse her. Maybe He'd have held her hand and prayed with her. Maybe as the rocks began fly they'd have sang Kum-bay-yah. Maybe He'd have done a lot of things. But of one thing I'm certain. If one of those good ole boys had picked up a rock and started his windup, I'm absolutely certain that that's one pitch he would have never delivered!

Jesus knew what to do when confronting evil. He knew what to do when evil threatened innocent persons. Whether it was a sinful woman washing his feet with her tears, a broken woman cast at his feet or a blind man begging for someone to care Jesus did not stand aside and quote platitudes in the face of evil. If he'd take a whip to those who violated the Temple as a place of worship can there be any doubt that he would not stand and stare as someone violated or even destroyed an innocent person?

It is a matter of record that when armed men came to arrest Jesus he submitted to them. It would have not matter if they had been unarmed. Jesus had decided his course of action long before they arrived. They were not evil because they were armed. But they were used to perpetrate an evil. Being armed had nothing to do with it.

It is a matter of record that Jeus could have fought (Matt. 26:52-56). He forbid Peter to fight and choose himself not to fight because of his determination to "fulfill the scriptures." That he forbid his disciples to defend him and that he refused to defend himself does not constitute a command that we meekly submit to violence. Scripture does not indicate what he would have done had the soldiers attacked his disciples.

How are we to behave when criminal violence is no longer a issue of polite discussion but a cold hard reality? I think I'll do my best to do what I think Jesus would do. We may not agree exactly as to how that would best be done. And each of us will ultimately have to give an accounting of our actions. Hopefully each of us will so act that we will hear Jesus say, "Well done good and faithful servant."

DaveW said...

Earl,

Jesus got it. Martin Luther King Jr go tit when he said:

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

Why do you not get it?

John said...

Actually it is not "What would Jesus do?"

It is "What did Jesus do when armed men came to take him to be killed?"


Good point, Dave.

Earl said...

With respect, I think I very well understand exactly what Jesus taught on this subject. As we are not dealing with the civil rights movement, the quote from Rev. King is extraneous.

The rational foundation of the position which I hold is not simply the result of time spent in quiet reflection. I hold this position because of raw personal experience.

DaveW said...

Earl,

In your own earlier comment you detailed the responses of Jesus to violence and threats of violence. I totally agree he was not passive. But he was not violent, he did not take up arms and threaten or actually kill anyone.

There was a big temptation for him to do that. He lived in an occupied country with an invading army all around, he lived in an area where there was a guerilla war happening, he walked around an area with much violent crime (see story of Good Samaritan).

He did use a lot of symbolism (the driving from the temple, the fulfilment of prophesy with the swords) which is powerful stuff.

The example of MLK is relevant, at that time ordinary people rose up against injustice and evil, they did so non-violently and they effected change.

Now you could choose to do the same. Follow the Jesus way, rise up against those threatening violence in churches and schools.

Surely an easy choice? Either accept a culture of violence (that you have raw experience of) and go further into that culture with guns in churches or challenge it in every way at every level with Christian love and justice.

Earl said...

In responding to the topic, "Guns in Church?" I have for the most part tried to maintain my focus on that topic. Our appropriate response to an occupying power is an entirely different subject. For that same reason the example of MLK is superfluous as our response to criminal violence has nothing to do with effecting non-violent social change.

In the quiet calm of my den it is almost possible to forget those moments of stark terror that brought me to the position I now hold. My earlier comments reflect a reasoned response informed by Scripture and experience to that reality in which I have lived. To see an old woman stomped against the concrete because she refused to surrender her money, to have her assailant plainly tell you that he would cut you up and bleed you out if you try to stop him... these are the sort of things that will make you go back to your den and have a little talk with yourself.

To resolve not to be victimized by violent criminals does not make one violent nor does it mean one threatens anyone. It does mean that should someone decide to attack you or your loved ones they do so with the certain knowledge that by so doing they put themselves in jeopardy of grave injury. Should the result be the death of an assailant, it will be directly because of their own personal choice.

The choice not to be a victim is not easy. It means you must actually admit your vulnerability and then decide how you will proceed. It means you must admit the risk faced by those you love and determine exactly what you are willing to do to mitigate or eliminate that threat.

A generation ago we were told that because only women give birth only women should be involved in deciding when a pregnancy should be continued or ended. Maybe the same rational applies to the subject now at hand. Maybe the only persons with any real legitimate credibility to speak to the subject of violent crime are those persons who have had actual personal experience in dealing with violent crime. Surely any arm chair theory is trumped by their dearly bought experience.

In closing one never quite forgets being victimized or having a family member victimized by criminal violence and maybe that is for the best. There are some things you shouldn't forget. You live with it. Sometimes like plowing around a rock in a field, you have to live around these memories. Endlessly reliving traumatic memories is self-destructive. But it is the better part of wisdom to learn from those experiences so as to be able to avoid them in the future. It is the better part of wisdom to be so prepared that should the unthinkable become reality, you may respond in a manner that will protect the innocent and hopefully not lead to the harm of anyone, not even the criminal.

DaveW said...

Earl,

In no way do I intend to belittle your experiences or have anything but sympathy for what you have been through and for your difficult decisions.

But I still don't agree.

1. I think fighting against an occupying power would be seen as the most legitinate use of violence by most people.

2. In terms of Christian justice, wasn't MLK responding to violent criminal behaviour? After all his family were threatened with bombs etc.

I do want to say clearly that your experience is horrific, something that nobody should have to live through. There is no easy answer, no pain free solution that I know of. Everything I read says that you would have been damaged and scarred if you had been armed and killed even a violent attacker - difficulty though it is, they are also loved by Jesus, who died for them just as much as he died for the victim and for you.

I struggle daily with the challenges Jesus presents us with. I know I continually fail to live up to what I claim the gospel teaches us. But I find nothing in the teaching of Jesus that ever justifies violence, even in response to violence against innocent, defenceless people. The early church certainly saw it that way and they were willing to die in their thousands for that belief.

Jesus said "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." Matt 10:39 and similar in 16:25, Mk 8:35, Lk 9:24 & Luke 17:33

In John's gospel he is even clearer "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." Jn 15:13

Now I am not brave, my faith is often weak. I doubt I will ever be able to find the strength to love like that.

So a great fear for me would be having a gun and using it to kill someone because my courage, determination, & faith fail me, thus because I have the means I end up killing out of a failure to love.

By not having a gun my chances of failing the Lord of my life are that much smaller. Still I may fail to give my life for others, but at least I don't take other lives in the process of that failure.

I am a Christian, I believe in eternal life, death is not the end. Why would I be willing to kill to keep others from eternal life?

A generation ago we were told that because only women give birth only women should be involved in deciding when a pregnancy should be continued or ended. Maybe the same rational applies to the subject now at hand. Maybe the only persons with any real legitimate credibility to speak to the subject of violent crime are those persons who have had actual personal experience in dealing with violent crime. Surely any arm chair theory is trumped by their dearly bought experience.

Although I understand what you are saying I do not agree. Do I have to have been a slave in order to fight slavery? Do I have to be a refugee in order to fight for their rights and a voice for them? Do I have to be a woman to demand equal rights for women?

In the gospels we see Jesus challenging all sorts of people from tax collectors to religious leaders to adulteresses. He did so on the basis of his humanity and divinity.

At it's best the Church through the centuries has stood up for the oppressed, the suffering and the weak. Not to do so denies the gospel.

So Earl, I seek to listen to you. No I have not experienced what you have experienced and of course I cannot demand that you behave in a particular way.

But I do implore you to consider that the gospel does not support the use of might, that violence is wrong and that the gospel does point to an alternative albeit an expensive one that may mean taking up your cross that you may find true life.

Dan Trabue said...

Earl said:

Surely any arm chair theory is trumped by their dearly bought experience.

In case I have not made it clear here, I have been in violent situations more than once. I have had a knife pulled on me. I have been randomly attacked. I have intervened in at least three situations where a man (or group of men) were assaulting a woman.

I'm not alone in my church having these sorts of experience. I don't think urban living is nearly the nightmare experience that some people think it is, but there are some risks - especially if you choose to intervene in dangerous/violent situations.

I point that out, Earl, since you are feeling that you might have some experience in which others' may be inexperienced. Clearly, all our experiences are different - I have not experienced what you have nor have you experienced what I have.

I certainly sympathize with those who've experienced violence. And I don't condemn those who've experienced violence for their actions or responses. I know for many battered women, for instance, for "good church folk" to say they need to forgive the assailant is not usually helpful.

But neither do I think we ought to make policy based on fear of what might happen. The question posed here was "should churches forbid weapons?" I shared what we do at our church and our reasonings.

And we are a people not unfamiliar with violence. You must make your own decisions at your church.

But know that you are not alone in having experienced violence and that we surely have at least an inkling of understanding of where you're coming from, even if we disagree with your ultimate conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Most people are missing the point:

Part of the Republican agenda used the Christian Identity movement to achieve it's goals. An image was created of what a "real" American is: A "w.a.s.p." that is a fundamentalist Christian,xenophobic, gun-toting bigot who lives below the Mason-Dixon line. THAT'S what this is REALLY all about. Unfortunately, Bush and his cronies have created an entire generation of these goof-balls. It will be a long time before we get the real, free America back.
After reading some of the other comments, I'd like to add that comparing stories about "..what Jesus may have done..." can in no way be connected to today's churches in the USA. Two different subjects.

Right Rev. Rowland said...

Absolutely, guns in church! We have a responsibility to the people we invite into our home and place of worship, to have the means to keep them from harm. With a loonie, that means the means to stop them cold!
check it:
http://www.nolanchart.com/article6129.html

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