What gun would Jesus carry?
An absurd question, perhaps. What prompts it is an upcoming event at New Bethel Assembly of God in Louisville, Ky., advertised as an “Open Carry Celebration” and described as follows:
“In Celebration of July 4 and our rights as Americans, New Bethel Church will be hosting an Open Celebration Church service for all who support 1st and 2nd Amendment rights. It will be held on Saturday, June 27, the weekend before July 4. We are asking responsible handgun owners to attend this service openly wearing their sidearm. There will also be a raffle to win a handgun. All that is asked is that you bring a sidearm, a friend who has a sidearm and a canned good for local food bank.”
As someone who is both an advocate of the Bill of Rights and a believing Christian, I find this call more than a bit strange and disturbing. Have we gotten to the place where this type of event can be conceived of and promoted by a Christian congregation? Apparently so. It should be noted that the guns openly displayed are to be unloaded.
We have seen events in the news involving guns and churches. This past March there was the murder of a pastor in Illinois who was confronted by a man bent on killing him, which he accomplished when he shot the pastor during a worship service. And in May the killing of a doctor, who was passing out bulletins in the foyer of his church in Kansas, when he was gunned down by a radical anti-abortionist.
And, of course, there are many other tragic events where the widespread availability of guns to persons, who would ordinarily have no business purchasing or owning such weapons, have led to mass shootings, such as the one seen at Virginia Tech.
Bloggers and pundits have argued that such events could be halted if others at the scenes of the tragedies themselves had guns, which they could have used to stop the killer. Serious arguments have been made suggesting that universities abandon their policy of no guns in favor of allowing persons to carry, with the implication that less violence would result.
In other words, the solution to gun violence is more guns, carried by those with permits who know how to use them. Add in the acquiescence and pandering of politicians worried about taking on the guns-rights lobby, and you have a society that experiences more violent death through the use of guns than any other industrialized nation.
Much more commentary can be offered concerning the upcoming “Open Carry Celebration.” There could be discussion concerning the appropriateness of displaying national symbols in churches, the combining of patriotism and Christian faith or the merging of political agendas with contemporary interpretations of the gospel.
Christians will continue to agree to disagree on these and many other issues. But can we all, in the spirit of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, agree that promoting the carrying of guns to church is not anything to encourage, much less celebrate, inside a Christian church?
While asking the question “What gun would Jesus carry?” might sound flip to some, the answer might just offer guidance to modern believers who confuse constitutional rights with the call of the one who says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (Mark 8:35).”
Roy Fuller is adjunct professor of religious studies at the University of Louisville and is an active member of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.