So it’s been a week now, and after thinking about it nearly every day, I’ve come to a decision…
I still do not want you to bring a gun to church to protect me. Sorry.
I’ve listened and watched several news stories about the unimaginable horror wrought in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and I am amazed.
- I am amazed that yet another mass shooting is not causing 2nd Amendment supporters to think twice about whether Devin Patrick Kelley really needed to own that many
- I am amazed that some people still think that carrying their own guns is a way of protecting themselves and those they love.
- I am amazed that people think that innocent people aren’t going to get caught in a cross-fire battle, should they decide to wage a return attack on an assailant.
- I am amazed that some Christians feel that having armed guards (especially outside of a church) provides safety and security to those within.
When I read the Bible, and specifically the words of Jesus himself, I cannot imagine he would think that having weapons for protection in a church would be desirable. “Well, it’s a different, more violent time today,” you might say. Really? Because I’m thinking that a culture that crucifies, tortures, mutilates, and feeds people to lions is a fairly violent culture — and that was Rome, friends. The times now are not any more violent than they were back then, and actually, I think most would say that the American legal system is a bit more fair and proper than the trial Jesus endured before Pontius Pilate.
The real “kicker,” though, is to remember what happened in Luke 22:50-53. An angry crowd led by Judas has come to take Jesus away to be tried and tortured. In a fit of rage, one of the disciples (John 18:9-11 claims it is the ever vociferous, ever well-meaning Simon Peter) decides to step in and cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave. What does Jesus do? Does he pick up a sword and start fighting back alongside Peter? Does he attack his assailants with a rock, a club, or whatever was on hand? He does not. Jesus instead says: “‘No more of this!’” And he touched his ear and healed him.” (Luke 22:51, NRSV). Jesus knew that fighting back would not make the situation any better, would not ease the heightened passions of the situation. Furthermore, Jesus does what he always did — he reaches out and touches someone who is in pain, and in this case, heals the slave’s ear.
Please understand, I am not saying the people in that church should have curled up and given in to that awful gunman. What I am saying is that carrying a concealed weapon in some situations will not guarantee your safety. That’s right. I’m saying no one is safe. We are all going to die, and it might be from someone shooting us, or from stepping in front of a speeding vehicle, or from cancer.
That is what I think is truly at the deepest heart of the matter: facing the fact that we are endangered every day by forces we do not even know about and that are out of our control. To think that we have the power to defend ourselves from absolutely all of those things is a fallacy, and thinking that using a gun will increase our chances of survival is not true. Studies have demonstrated that using a firearm as a method of self-defense does not help decrease injury during or after a struggle between a victim and a perpetrator. It is more effective to use mace, to yell or make noise, or to run away, and to hide if possible.
Further, having a gun in the home actually increases the chance of injury, as most guns are not locked away safely from teenagers and children. It is actually more likely that those guns will be stolen by someone who should not have them.
So it was indeed fortunate that someone used a gun to chase away Kelley, but I would argue that it was a unique situation. What if, instead, someone in the congregation had taken out their concealed weapon to shoot Kelley and accidentally shot a congregation member? The idea that no innocent bystanders will be shot during a gun battle is only in the movies. It is much more likely that someone else would get caught in the crossfire.
What makes more sense for us as Christians is to pause and consider why our government refuses to consider looking at altering even the tiniest bit of gun legislation, and yet, seems surprised and grief-stricken as these horrors continue happening.
The space of a church is a holy one, meant for worship, reflection, song, and comfort. Sacred things happen in this space. As a society informed by science, I think we forget that the Christian religion is rooted in Jewish mysticism and the principle of upholding places and things as holy. For years, the tabernacle was a place where God resided behind a curtain; to be in God’s presence could actually mean death. After Jesus’ crucifixion and the tearing of the curtain in the temple, we know that we can come directly before God. Nevertheless, to do so is to come before a holy being, and in a holy place that is set aside by and for Him.
I hope I won’t have to wake up and hear about yet another grisly shooting, but I know I will. At some point, we have to be willing to accept the argument that even though “it isn’t guns that kill, it’s people that kill,” it is also people who must decide to stop living in fear, and stop allowing ourselves to be controlled by it.