new to you friday–armed service

In light of Terry Jones‘ recent behavior, today seemed an appropriate time to revisit another arena of congregational nuttiness. When I originally posted this, most people wanted to discuss my (intentionally) hyperbolic statement about the death penalty more than they wanted to comment on the prospect of hundreds of people packed into a church building with guns. If I had a chance to do it again I’d probably tone that sentence down—a bit. Wait, this kind of IS that chance, isn’t it?…………………ah, well.

I think love of God and country are both fine as long as we remember they’re two different things. I think everyone should read Columbine. And if this is a fake and Jones goes through with the Quran burning after all, endangering hundreds or thousands of American soldiers, I might change my mind about the death penalty.


openCarryFamilyShopperSmallFirst of all, I’m not questioning your constitutional right to have a gun (although after reading Columbine I’m less convinced than ever that our current system is working—sure, eighteen year olds should be allowed to purchase semi-automatics at a gun show).

What I am questioning is why pastor Ken Pagano recently encouraged his flock at New Bethel Church in Louisville, KY to come to church armed.

This Saturday New Bethel is hosting an “Open Carry Celebration,” featuring videos promoting gun safety, patriotic music, a raffle—and extra security.

“As a Christian pastor I believe that without a deep-seated belief in God and firearms that this country would not be here,” Pagano told ABCNews.com. “I’m not ashamed of that fact. I’m proud of it.”

Evangelical Republicanism, otherwise known as “you can’t kill ’em but we can” (NO to abortion and stem cell research, YES to capital punishment and war), has many adherents who confuse love of God with love of country. When patriotism = freedom and freedom = guns, you have a conservative who values the 2nd amendment. When patriotism also = Christianity, you get statements like Pagano’s.

And I get heartburn.

For one thing, I know plenty of Christians who have enough crazy already, thank you, and don’t need to be attending pentecostal worship services with handguns.

Second, the whole “permissible but not beneficial” thing comes to mind. Is this really the best way to present the Gospel to lost people? I know churches are questioning the whole seeker-sensitive model, but that doesn’t mean we have to become seeker-scary.

And think about the energy New Bethel’s investing to promote, plan, and defend this event. There really wasn’t anything more Kingdom-building to do in Louisville?

Ironically, this story hit just days after George Tiller was killed for performing late-term abortions. He was shot. In a church.

We may differ on the ideal balance between church and state, but can’t we agree on separation of church and ammo?

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