By Bob Allen
An independent Baptist pastor in upstate New York is offering a drawing for an AR-15 assault rifle on March 23, one-upping the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s controversial “Second Amendment Celebrations,” which give away shotguns and rifles to lure hunters to evangelistic events.
“Does the Bible defend my right to keep and bear arms?” Grace Baptist Church in Troy, N.Y., asks in a flyer promoting the giveaway that also quotes Jesus’ words in John 14:26, “My peace I give unto you.”
Pastor John Koletas adds in a letter that the church decided to hold a special service honoring “hunters and gun owners who have been so viciously attacked by the antichristian socialist media and antichristian socialist politicians the last few years. Our country was built with the King James Bible and the gun.”
The church plans to give away a New York-modified and legal AR-15, a type of weapon originally developed as a small-arms rifle for the U.S. armed forces that was reportedly used by Adam Lanza to kill 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.
“I’m just trying to be a blessing and a help to the gun owners and the hunters and give away a free AR-15,” Koletas told the Albany Times Union. “It’s the right thing to do.”
News about the giveaway follows on the heels of controversy in recent weeks about a similar event at Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky., as part of an “affinity evangelism” approach promoted by the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
“I brought a gun with me tonight,” Chuck McAlister, leader of the KBC evangelism and church planting team said in introductory remarks at the March 6 event reported by NPR. “I know that’s very controversial.”
“There’s no government on the face of this earth that has the right to take this gun from me,” McAlister said to what NPR described as “thunderous applause.”
Koletas told the Times Union the constitutional right to own a gun should not be abridged, any more than First Amendment rights should be.
“If someone doesn’t want to own a gun, that’s their right,” he said. “At the same time, I don’t think we should be critical of legal gun owners who gave us our freedom.”