By Bob Allen
A moderate Baptist ethicist faulted Kentucky Baptists’ method of giving away guns to lure unchurched men to outreach events for politicizing wild game feasts that have been popular in rural America for decades.
“There is no conflict theologically between Christianity and hunting,” Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, said in an interview on the Voice of Russia American edition from Washington.
Parham said by renaming this week’s “beast feast” a “Second Amendment Celebration,” Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky., shifted the focus from hunting to a celebration of guns.
“I think the event runs the risk of being politicized, pitting gun control advocates of faith against anti-gun control advocates of faith, and that’s divisive and counterproductive,” Parham said.
Parham said wild-game dinners traditionally have been a time of fellowship and outreach, celebrating God’s bounty and welcoming visitors to church.
“When so-called ‘beast feasts’ shift from celebrating God’s bounty to the Second Amendment, then the tradition begins to break down, and the event shifts from God’s blessing to political posturing,” Parham said.
Parham said America is a “gun culture,” so it’s misleading to isolate one particular example in Kentucky as representing something out of the mainstream.
“Not only do events like this go on at churches in Kentucky, they go on in Alabama and Texas and really across rural America, and they’ve been going on for decades probably,” Parham said. “It’s always been a celebratory time to share God’s bounty.”
“Hunters bring in their game,” he said. “They fix it in a variety of ways. It’s a way to have a fellowship, to welcome visitors to church. So it’s a longstanding cultural tradition in rural America. But what is new, apparently, is shifting from it being a wild game meal to focusing on the Second Amendment.”
Parham said God is not separated from politics, but God’s ministers must avoid partisanship.
“God is no more a Republican than a Democrat, a Tea Party member than a liberal,” he said. “God transcends all political parties and expects religious leaders to speak morally without proclaiming the divine favor of one particular ideology, whether that is an anti-gun control ideology or a pro-gun control ideology.”