The first time I was confronted with the idea of a gun being in a church was when I visited The Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, KS. I walked into the church and I saw a small sign on the window. The sign had a picture of a gun surrounded with a red circle and a red line going through the gun. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, do they have a gun problem here? In the ‘burbs?”
With gun legislation on the President Obama’s agenda and the National Rifle Association fighting against more gun restrictions, it seems every organization in our culture is thinking about guns. That includes churches. Many states, mostly in the Mid-West and the South, have laws protecting a gun owner’s right to carry a concealed weapon in a house of worship. Arkansas’s Senate just approved a bill that will allow handguns in churches and North Dakota is eying a similar bill.
With Sandy Hook still fresh on our minds, a number of politicians have come up with ideas on how to solve the problem of mass shootings in schools. In the same vein, church leaders are considering how we can better protect churches. Evacuation plans, lock down procedures, and child protection are all issues that pastors and lay leaders are looking at. But, should a plan include guns?
Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor, pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas was interview about his state’s bill on guns in churches. He said:
“I can’t imagine the need to bring a gun into a church. I just think that’s unnecessary, and I think it sends a terrible message… Religion can be an emotional thing in people’s lives. I would hate to see guns present when people’s emotions are running high.”
Firearms are a part of the history and fabric of our nation… The Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees an individual right to “keep and bear arms,” while also making it clear that this right is “not unlimited.”1 Nor should it be. The liberties we enjoy are often in tension with one another and no right should be so broadly construed as to undermine the ability of the broader community to maintain order and the peace necessary for human life and flourishing.
Does allowing a gun in a church conflict with this idea of maintaining “order and the peace”? This is the tension that the above statement addresses. Perhaps instead of coming out and making a statement, I’m pondering these questions:
- Do we feel more safe with guns in church? Or does it make us more fearful?
- Does a weapon belong in God’s house of prayer?
- Does the need to carry a weapon in church send the wrong message to those affected by violence?
- If we call our places of worship “sanctuaries”, do guns follow the concept of having a religious place of refuge and protection?
What is your response to guns in churches? Read. Respond. Render.