Dear Pastor Bret,
In light of recent tragic church shootings, should churches consider having members carry concealed weapons to church?
Thanks in advance,
Thanks for writing.
I will answer this question in terms of the laws of the State of Michigan. In Michigan, Shawn, those with a concealed carry license cannot carry on any property or facility owned or operated by a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other places of worship, unless the presiding official allows concealed weapons. So, in Michigan, one can legally according to Michigan state law conceal carry in Church if one has secured the presiding official’s permission.
Some would counsel to consult law enforcement for expert advice and perhaps even training for those who desire it before the presiding official allows such carry and I would concur with that as long as it was only one factor in the decision-making process. People must realize that law-enforcement officials could well have an interest in making sure only they are the ones carrying weapons. All because someone is in law-enforcement doesn’t make them singularly able to provide counsel on this decision. The decision process should also realize that a Church that is declared as a gun-free zone is a church that is advertising to potential wolves that the gathering of the saints is also a gathering of easy picking sheep. The decision process should also include considering the many recent church shootings where the mortality rate may have been far lower if someone in the congregation where the shootings occurred had begun shooting back at the sociopaths who were discharging their weapons against judicially innocent church-goers.
Secondly, common sense teaches that owning and carrying a gun is a reasonable means of protection. A recent Pew survey reported that two-thirds of American gun owners cite protection as the major reason they own guns. Now, Shawn, some well-intended but misguided people might somehow extrapolate that Pew survey to mean that people are relying on guns as idols instead of relying on God for protection. Such thinking is most unfortunate. Carrying a weapon no more proves that one is not trusting in God than carrying a chainsaw proves that someone who wants a tree cut down is not trusting in God for the tree to come down. Carrying a weapon no more proves that one is not trusting in God than a Chef carrying a frying pan proves that the Chef is not trusting God for the meal to be prepared. A gun is a tool, much like a chainsaw or a frying pan. Having the proper tool for the proper job that might need to be done should not inch us towards concluding that the one carrying a chainsaw, a frying pan, or a gun, is treating that tool as an idol. Such reasoning is quite beyond suspect. American gun owners carry guns because that is one tool God has provided in order to to be protected.
Another truth we might offer here Shaun is that guns do not create the problems they solve. The problems guns solve are men with wicked hearts who wish to bring harm to us, our friends, or our families. Guns don’t create sociopaths who might well show up in Church to do harm. Guns are just one solution to sociopaths who might well show up in Church to do harm.
We should be a people who rely on God as we rely on more potential shooters as the solution to a potential active shooter situation. If we don’t rely on God this way we should seriously examine our hearts to ensure that we have not misplaced our faith by trusting in God in such a way that doesn’t include using all the tools that He has put at our disposal for safety. We need to be careful that we don’t become the butt of that well-known joke,
“Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.”
The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.”
So the rowboat went on.
Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.”
To this, the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”
So the motorboat went on.
Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.”
To this, the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”
So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.
Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”
To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”
If we refuse to carry weapons to Church and end up getting shot by sociopaths in Church God may well reply to us upon our discussing the matter face to face with him,
“I sent you a Ruger, a Smith & Wesson, and a Glock, what more did you expect?”
Scripture clearly teaches that self-defense is biblically set forth (Exodus 22:2-3). To insist that one should not make provision to defend themselves so they might instead just trust God is its own kind of specious idolatry.
Finally, on this score, we should consider our history on guns in Church. There is a long storied history of guns in Church that even found, at times in history, guns be required by force of law to be carried to Church. In her book, ‘The Sabbath in Puritan New England,’ we learn this from author Alice Morse Earl,