Churches offering free items, services or even doughnuts to their neighbors isn’t news.
When they offer 25 long guns and shotguns as door prizes, however, people (and the press) take notice.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Lone Oak Baptist Church in Paducah are making headlines this week for doing just that: inviting 1,000 or so unchurched, mostly young men to a free steak dinner and gun giveaway Thursday night labeled as a “Second Amendment Celebration” in hopes of “luring them to Christ.”
The Louisville Courier-Journal reported on the Southern Baptist-affiliated event in its weekend edition a few days ago, and since then several news outlets have picked up the story.
Who does the best job of shining a light on (nearly) every angle of the story? The Courier-Journal, whose story was picked up by Gannett flagship USA Today. While every story I read does the subject justice, the outlet goes deeper and wider to include more perspectives and history than the competition:
The goal is to “point people to Christ,” the church says in a flier. Chuck McAlister, an ex-pastor, master storyteller and former Outdoor Channel hunting show host who presides at the events as the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s team leader for evangelism, said 1,678 men made “professions of faith” at about 50 such events last year, most in Kentucky.
In Louisville, he said, more than 500 people showed up on a snowy January day for a gun giveaway at Highview Baptist Church, and 61 made decisions to seek salvation.
McAlister’s boss, Paul Chitwood, the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s executive director, said such results speak for themselves. “It’s been very effective,” he said in an interview.
We hear from an independent Baptist church minister and former director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, both of whom line up on the opposing side of the gun giveaway. And we’re told of two more individuals who didn’t want to participate, including a spokesman for the National Rifle Association and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chief spokesman James Smith.
The most sobering argument, though, comes in the form of a school shooting victim just 12 miles away: