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June 10, 2009

Good Idea or Bad Idea?

Ap_ken_pagano_090605_mn A pastor in Kentucky is encouraging his congregation to bring their weapons to church to promote responsible gun ownership. Pastor Ken Begano of New Bethel Church in Louisville calls it "Open Carry Celebration" and it will feature gun safety videos, patriotic songs and a $1 raffle to win a handgun. He said, "As a Christian pastor I believe that without a deep-seeded belief in God and firearms that this country would not be here."

(Image © Ed Reinke for the AP)

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Diane Singer

I don't have a problem with it as long as safety rules are strictly observed. However, I once knew a pastor who came to church armed (a discreet ankle holster). There had been several news reports of gunmen entering churches and killing people, and he figured part of his job as "shepherd" was to protect the flock. The other thing he did, after one of the women in his church was attacked on a busy highway in broad daylight, was to offer self-defense training to members of his congregation. Since he was (I think) a ninth-degree black belt, it was a natural thing for him to do.


The idea is good. But why exactly is a church organizing it? Having a day to remind people to be safe and that carrying guns is a Constitutional right is a great idea, but hardly something that promotes the Gospel. I just wish the article had spent some time on the why.

Dan Gill

I'm a shooter, hunter, and advocate for self defense. This does seem outside of the church's arena, though.

For a time, I (legally) carried a firearm at our church. There have been many church shootings and many innocent people could have been saved if someone had been there with a firearm. I stopped carrying at church when I learned that we always had plainclothes police officers present.


I'll bet he has a "no weapons" policy for church board meetings... ;-)

Billy Atwell

I think this is a great idea. Acting as if crime doesn't happen is silly. We are called to be stewards in protecting ourselves and our families. This pastor is holding this in the name of safety and responsibility. I've had experience with Mr. Helmke before and he's never satisfied with any effort that promotes guns in any way. Unless it's taking something away he's not happy.

Those statistics are often flawed because sometimes a legal self-defense in the home is recorded, in some states, as an accident or something other than crime-related (bizarre).

Lastly, keep in mind Luke 22:36. Christ tells the disciples to buy a sword if they do not have one. Granted, I don't know the deeper theology behind it but it seems to indicate that self-defense is a perfectly reasonable measure to take, when necessary. Christians have always been a target for violence because the Gospel is revolutionary and counter-cultural.

We should also pray for Tiller because, as Christians, we cannot let the devil have any more souls. Christ came for all, even him. Of course, pray for the lives he stole from us as well.

Dan Gill

Lee, a minister I know is a competitive pistol shooter. His comment is "It keeps elders meetings short."

Jason Taylor

Of course this is Kentucky. They are Scotch-Irish you know.

Actually it does seem inappropriate. Though their are counter-examples. Puritans used to store the militia's powder in Church. As a result they couldn't light the furnace even in a New England winter. They considered it a point of honor not to shiver and when they did the preacher would shout out: "STAND! And hear the word of God!"
They raised them tough then.

British regiments for several generations had the custom of taking their arms to Church in India because of the Great Mutiny. And there is one Scottish one that still ceremonially posts guards because they were decended from Covenanters and once had to watch for government spies.

But with all that, somehow it really does not seem quite appropriate to have weapons in Church. It is not necessarily a matter of morality. It is a matter of appropriatness.


In some areas of the country, if this is part of the local culture, who knows, it might be a way to draw a bigger crowd to church. But it could be best done as a separate event, not part of the service.

As for Christ telling his disciples to get a sword, well, he was pretty clear (to Judas's great distress) that he wasn't here to lead a standard issue revolution. Hence his healing of the high priest's servant's ear after hasty Peter cut it off at Jesus's arrest.

We must not project onto Christ our own agendas, lest we miss out on his agenda for us.

Jason Taylor

Maybe the real reason these Kentuckians are taking all their guns to Church is in case some Revenuers try to get in...


An armed church is a polite church ;-)

Jason Taylor

And an armed Church is also a Church with well-guarded stills...

Benjamin Ady

Looks like a bit of a grab for media attention to me. But then I'm way too cynical sometimes.

I can totally see Jesus telling the apostles to pack some heat to the garden of gethsemane that night. Could have prevented so much pain and suffering of innocents.

Jason Taylor

Actually Benjamin, the argument over Jesus and Gethsemane has only partial application. Firearms are part of the culture in Kentucky and while many would make NRA-like references to self-defense and the citizen-soldier's code and all that sort of thing, basically they are hunting weapons. There is not really that much crime there, and killing an animal with a gun is in away more aesthetically pleasing then eating at Macdonalds. A hunter observing proper limitations is just another predator and at least the deer has a fair chance of getting away which the steer destined for Macdonalds does not.

It is not necessarily a question of pacifism, even Amish hunt sometimes. It is a question of the symbolism which a gun has. In many circles it carries quite naturally, connotations of bellicosity. What you may not realize Benjamen is that in some circles it also carries connotations of self-responsibility as for example the willingness to kill one's own meat. And as referenced, the willingness to give it a fair chance of getting away.

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