Open Carry

I remember a story that a guest speaker told in my church growing up about a Baptist preacher in the wild west who once chased a pair of gun-toting thieves out of his tiny wooden church with a shotgun he had hidden under the pulpit. I don't particularly remember the moral of the story--my guess is that it was a bit of a stretch. But I am 100% sure that the lesson was not supposed to be "pastors need to be armed."

I am fuzzy on the details now, but the story was told with humor--it was an ice-breaking intro into a sermon. And we laughed, back then, because it so clearly WAS a joke. Not only was the image incongruous with our idea of who a pastor was, it was incongruous with the very idea of church, with our very idea of what a lawful society was like. This was a (fictitious) story of the frontier, where laws did not apply.

And yet, churches in Texas are being forced to decide if that is exactly the kind of church they want to run. With new open-carry laws, churches must sufficiently notify congregations and visitors if firearms are not allowed in the building. I almost wrote "whether or not firearms are allowed" but that's not the case. By default, you can carry your guns into church. And, as the article below points out, even if you do forbid guns in the building, there is no legal way to prevent armed people from loitering in the parking lot. This applies to all religious buildings, including mosques and synagogues, and minority houses of worship. The possibilities for intimidation and abuse are staggering. Is there truly freedom to worship when you have to walk through a picket line to do so? That's a rhetorical questions. There isn't.

I get that people are afraid. There's a lot to be afraid of. But this is appalling, and churches should be fighting this legislation tooth and nail. Our fear is driving us to accept the unacceptable, and to grasp at an illusion of safety at the expense of real peace. An arms race between "good guys" and "bad guys" (and who gets to make that call anyway?) is not the antidote to fear. There are only three things that kill fear that I know of, and churches should be stocking these in abundance: Hope, Joy, and Love.

- Ben

Read "Texas churches grapple with open carry firearm policies" on Baptist News Global here.