Guns in church — my perspective
Consider for a moment a nightmare scenario: A person walks into your worship service and brandishes or, worse still, actually fires, a weapon.
Now, because your church has opted into our state legislature’s new law allowing licensed gun owners to bring weapons to church, several folks in the congregation are able to draw their guns and return fire.
Now, look into that scene and tell me truthfully: Does the second half of that scenario make you feel safer? In the chaos of such a moment, are worshipers in LESS peril because MORE people are shooting?
As I said, it’s a nightmare scenario ... any way you cut it. Whether it’s one “crazed gunman” or one gunman and five lawful citizens shooting, the consequences are horrific.
From a purely practical perspective, therefore, I cannot buy into the argument that we are made safer in our houses of worship by the presence of more weapons.
I’ll admit, however, that my perspective, like any personal view, isn’t simply practical. My opinion is shaped by my Christian faith and beliefs.
You see, in my church there’s just no getting away from the cross. It’s behind and before me every Sunday, silently proclaiming the suffering and forgiving Christ who rejected the world’s violence, the same Christ who was raised on Easter, the same Christ whose kingdom is truth and peace. His way is grace. And the Bible tells us, despite evidence to the contrary, it is HIS way, that when all is said and done, wins.
For a little while on Sunday we step into that space defined by the cross — the space called “sanctuary” — an old word that speaks of the safety and peace found only in God. And in that space we hear the gospel that rejects vengeance for forgiveness, coercion for peace, hatred for love.
And in that space we remember who we are. And who we are, by the grace of God, is the Body of Christ, called to take up the cross and share the gospel that can change the world.
I’m not saying there is no place for power or weapons in the protection of the innocent (my own son is a police officer, and people I love and respect are in the military). I AM saying that guns in the church are:
• a danger to the very people we would protect,
• one more barrier between us and Christ, and
• no more than the illusion of security.
Are you a church-goer? Then your salvation is not the firearm in its holster but the grace of God in your soul, and your calling is not to stand guard in fear but to go boldly with love.
So leave the gun; take the cannoli ... or casserole. The way of the cross is true and good. Be not afraid.
[The Rev. Mark Westmoreland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior pastor of Fayetteville First United Methodist Church.]