A Georgia Baptist preacher filed a lawsuit last week with a gun rights group to ensure that church members can be armed in worship.
Jonathan Wilkins, pastor of Thomaston’s Baptist Tabernacle, and GeorgiaCarry.org said in their suit that Wilkins needs a gun “for the protection of his flock, his family and himself.”
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the lawsuit said that “he is in fear of arrest and prosecution under the carry ban for doing so [carrying a gun in church]. The Tabernacle would like to have members armed for the protection of its members attending worship services and other events at the Tabernacle’s place of worship.”
The paper reported that Georgia changed its gun law earlier this year to prohibit guns in certain places – including places of worship and nuclear power plants.
“The question is why do you want to disarm people in church?” asked John Monroe attorney for Georgiacarry.org. “Things happen in church…. What we really want is the state not to say what can happen in church.”
Yes, indeed, “things happen in church.”
That, however, is an ambiguous reason to advocate for turning churches into mighty fortresses armed with guns.
Another Atlanta Journal-Constitution article cited an “ethics specialist” with the Georgia Baptist Convention, Ray Newman, who said he did not oppose a law that would prohibit law-abiding folk from having concealed guns for their protection, noting that churches “need security.”
A deacon at Antioch Baptist Church in Atlanta, Joe Beasley, compared guns in churches to the “old wild West” and said that a “church is a place where there is peace and love.”
The Georgia lawsuit was filed after Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana) signed into law a bill that would allow concealed guns in houses of worship.
Not everybody in Louisiana favored the idea of guns in churches.
John Raphael, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in New Orleans, told UPI that guns in church are “anathema” to the nature of the church.
“Great tragedy would follow if someone (inside) ever felt the need to use a gun,” he said. “That would do more to harm the mission of the church, than to help. It’s a matter of faith that we trust God to protect us more than we trust our own ability.”
State Rep. Mickey James Guillory (D-Louisiana) defended his support of the guns-in-church bill. He said church members “can go to another church” if they don’t like that fact that their pastor has signed off on concealed weapons in church.
“If that’s how they feel, that’s why we have so many denominations,” he told Fox News. “That’s why you have choice of religion.”
Mixing guns and God isn’t new.
Earlier this year, Vickie Jordan, wife of the pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Selma, N.C., had a dream in which God told her to name their gun store “Second Amen-ment Gun Shop.”
St. Louis’ KSDK-TV reported about Jill McClelland, a grandmother and member of First Baptist Church of Wentzville, Mo., who teaches firearm safety as part of the church’s “sport shooting ministry.”
With confidence in Christ, McClelland said, “I’m not afraid to live alone because I have my brothers – Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson – with me.”
McClelland’s confidence in firearms isn’t shared in many Baptist communities where churches work with law enforcement for safer streets.
Four Nashville-area Baptist churches were drop-off locations in June for “illegal, unused or unwanted firearms,” according to WKRN-TV.
Shiloh Baptist Church in Vineland, N.J., was another location of a gun buyback program in June.
Charles Jenkins, pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, spoke in May in favor of the city’s gun turn-in program. He said it “brings more support to the whole effort to get the guns off the streets.”
With a report on Detroit’s increased murder rate last year, Charles Williams, pastor of King Solomon Baptist Church, called on law enforcement to implement a gun buyback program.
“Of course we won’t be able to cleanse the city of illegal weapons but this will really help bring down the number of illegal guns driving the violence in the city,” Williams told the Detroit News.
Some Baptists have a distorted reverence for guns. They see protection in faith and a firearm. For these Baptists, the church is a mighty fortress – fully armed.
Other Baptists have a realistic understanding of guns. They want guns off the streets and out of homes. For these Baptists, the church is a place of peace where disarmament takes place.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.