“Git out the old six-shooter, Ma, we’re goin’ to church.” That might sound like it’s from a Hollywood western, but it may not be fiction for long.
Some said-to-be-enlightened politicians want to make it a law that allows churchgoers to tote their guns along with their Bibles on Sunday.
It sounds like a relic from the range wars, but this gun-toting law-to-be comes from the far side of the Mississippi River. It crawls from under a rock in the state of Georgia.
Jim Beck, leader of the Georgia Christian Coalition, is urging his legislature to support a “guns-in-churches bill”.
The bill has passed the Georgia Senate, and the House is now going over it with a fine-tooth comb.
The gun bill would expand places where a law-abiding citizen can carry a concealed weapon. They don’t want to offend the National Rifle Association by suggesting guns might not be a good idea for churches. Any grade-school student could tell them it is not smart, but when did politicians ever listen to the voters?
There was a time in the Old West when a preacher would throw his side-arm on the pulpit next to his Bible and preach away. Choctaw Bill Robinson did that very thing. He was from North Carolina, but by the 1860s he was preaching all over central Texas.
T.R. Havins, my favorite Howard Payne University history teacher, called Choctaw Bill “a contentious Baptist.” My Presbyterian friends ask me if there is any other kind.
In the 1830s, when Davy Crockett came to Texas, carrying a gun was pretty natural, even to church services. A preacher friend of Crockett’s was Zacharius N. Morrell. In Morrell’s autobiography he writes that he and Davy Crockett had planned a hunting trip south of Marlin late in 1936. Davy missed that hunting party, having stayed too long at the church (the Alamo).
Morrell was known as “Wildcat,” due to his impulsive nature and fiery temperament. Once while preaching to the settlers, some Indians appeared within sight of his congregation. Two fellows, standing a short distance from the service, were killed by the Indians. (That was one day they should have been in church with everybody else.) Wildcat broke off his sermon and with some deacons took after the Indians.
Getting back to the present, would this gun-in-church law involve the expense of building gun racks here and there in the sanctuary? Building expenses in most churches are already pretty high.
The whole Jim Beck gun law has built-in problems. Could anyone wear two guns, or only the minister? Would a rifle or elephant gun be permitted? You never know when another war of the denominations might break out. Hunters might like it; they could head for the boondocks immediately after the benediction.
Somewhere back in time it was said that he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. Even earlier in history, there was a word from the God of Israel that the Hebrews should not put their trust and hope in horses and chariots down in neighboring Egypt. But I digress again.
If the wisdom of Georgia should approve taking guns to churches, I would not want to be in one of their pulpits. It is already difficult enough sitting in church with only a hymn book and a pew Bible. What will it be like when a fed-up man or woman uses his or her government right to end the sermon as quickly as the Indians did back in the 1860s?
Britt Towery is a former teacher, missionary and pastor who lives in San Angelo, Texas. His columns appear in the San Angelo Standard-Times and Brownwood Bulletin.