By Bob Allen
A Southern Baptist Convention seminary is giving away guns and an African safari to lure hunting enthusiasts to an outreach event open only to men and boys.
Door prizes to the Feb. 20 Men’s Game Banquet on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, include rifles and shotguns from Winchester, Savage, Benelli, Henry, Remington and Marlin and a Beretta Silver Pigeon shotgun signed by presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz.
Hunts include an African safari for two, including daily and trophy fees; Texas hunts for whitetail deer; and turkey hunts along the Rio Grande. Youngsters will walk away with Red Rider BB guns, all thanks to more than $20,000 put up by sponsors including the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“This is about nothing in the world but reaching lost men for Christ,” said seminary Presient Paige Patterson, a keynote speaker for the event along with Outdoor Channel personality David Morris, head of Tecomate, a wildlife management consulting service and evangelical Christian.
Patterson said a lot of men and boys would never come to a church service, and large hunting-themed evangelistic events invariably produce large numbers of first-time professions of faith.
In 2014 the Kentucky Baptist Convention adopted a similar strategy called “affinity evangelism” featuring gun giveaways at “Second Amendment celebrations” held at churches across the state including one not far from the site of a 1997 school shooting.
Some Baptists say giving away guns in a church is a bad witness for the Prince of Peace. Alan Rudnick, executive minister of DeWitt Community Church in DeWitt, N.Y., who serves on the Mission Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, said in a 2014 Baptist News Global Perspectives commentary that church gun giveaways send the wrong message.
“A church is sanctuary, a place of safety,” Rudnick wrote. “In a time where churches hold gun turn-in programs, gun giveaways send the wrong message to local communities.”
Promotional videos for Southwestern’s giveaway feature Patterson dressed in hunting apparel displaying weapons used to take down big-game trophies that decorate his office.
“Come find out how you stay alive hunting dangerous game,” he invites unchurched men.
Patterson’s arsenal includes a Thompson submachine gun, which he says comes in handy when in range of a stuffed lioness displayed inches away. In one video Patterson promises to explain how to kill a Roan antelope with a long-barrel handgun, adding in another geared to church members, “You will not have to use something like this to entice your lost friends to come to Southwestern Seminary on February 20.”
“Just tell them they are going to be viewing beautiful animals like this and a great deal of hardware,” he said. “They want to come and maybe win an important rifle or shotgun. Invite your lost friends to be there.”
Patterson said in a press release that a lot of men who attend such events don’t want to put their own life in jeopardy by going out “where the big ones prowl,” but “they are curious about an idiot who will do that” on a regular basis.
“So they will come, and they will hear the message,” he said.