Bring your Bible to church? Check. Bring your gun? Yes, say some leaders after Sutherland Springs

A week ago, I highlighted the first wave of church security stories that followed the Sutherland Springs massacre. Our own Terry Mattingly tackled the issue again later in the week.

My original post prompted an interesting comment from reader Steve Weatherbe, who complained, "No story yet has referred to the 2007 shooting at a Colorado church, where 5 were killed in the parking lot but when the gunman entered the church itself he was shot by a church member and volunteer security person who was a police officer too."

Religion News Service national reporter Emily McFarlan Miller must have read Weatherbe's mind. Or great minds think alike. Or pick your own cliché ... 

But just about the time Weatherbe made his comment, RNS published a piece by Miller focusing heavily on the Colorado shooting. (Full disclosure: I write occasional freelance stories for RNS.)

The lede on Miller's story:

(RNS) — In 2007, the unthinkable happened at New Life Church in Colorado Springs.
A gunman opened fire outside the church, just as its midday service had dismissed. His bullets hit several members of the same family as they left, wounding David Works and killing his two teenage daughters, Rachel and Stephanie.
More than 600 people were on the church campus when Matthew Murray — a 24-year-old man armed with an assault rifle, two pistols and enough ammunition to kill 100 people — made his way inside the building, church pastor Brady Boyd remembered.
“I know there’s a great theological debate about what Jesus would do,” he told RNS. “I just know firsthand for me, on the day the shooting happened on our campus, we lost two very good, sweet, young teenage girls, and that was awful and horrific, but we could have very well lost 100 people that day.”
Boyd believes that didn’t happen because Murray ran into Jeanne Assam, a former police officer and member of the church security team who was legally carrying a pistol. Assam returned fire, ending the attack that had started 12 hours earlier, when the gunman had shot and killed several others at a nearby mission center.

The weekend drew more major coverage of God and guns from two of the nation's leading newspapers — the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Both papers published stories (with Godbeat pros Laurie Goodstein of the Times and Ian Lovett of the Journal as the lead writers) on churches that see a need for armed protection in the wake of the 26 deaths at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

"Welcoming Worshipers With Open Arms and Concealed Ones, Too" was the Times' headline.

"This Sunday, Some Churchgoers May Choose to Pack Guns With Their Bibles" was the Journal's version.

Both stories are timely and thought-provoking.

As I mentioned earlier, I wrote a piece after the 2015 massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on "God, guns and keeping churches safe." One question I posed in that article: Would Jesus pack heat?

I was curious to see whether the Times and/or Journal would delve into guns at church from a theological perspective (along with the obvious safety questions).

In both cases, the theological side gets a little ink. 

The Times had this nut graf:

Around the country, a string of threats and attacks in recent years have led many houses of worship to take steps to secure their sanctuaries. And after 26 people were killed at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Tex., last Sunday, one of the worst mass shootings in American history and the deadliest ever at a church, many more have begun looking hard at whether God’s protection might need some armed backup.

And there was this mention later in the story:

Mr. Darsey, the pastor at Redeemer in Georgia, acknowledged that some might find it odd that so many deadly weapons were being brought into a building dedicated to worshiping the man the book of Isaiah calls the Prince of Peace. But he cited Romans 13, which allows earthly authorities to serve as “agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

Meanwhile, the Journal had this nut graf:

Houses of worship are among the softest of soft targets, with inherent missions and traditions emphasizing peace and welcoming. Since 2012, there have been at least a dozen deadly shootings at houses of worship. Churches, synagogues, mosques and Sikh temples have struggled to balance their desire to provide an open sanctuary for the community with security. In recent years, many houses of worship have installed cameras and hired armed guards.

The Journal, like the Times, sticks mainly to the safety issue. That's understandable.

I do think, though, that there could be a fascinating piece if a major paper addressed the God and guns question purely from the theological perspective. What arguments for and against guns in the sanctuary do church leaders make based on the Bible?



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