Leave ‘em home

Daniel Schultz, a minister, reflects on concealing weapons and bringing them to church.

The Roman Catholic priests in Wisconsin issued this:

“Wisconsin Catholic bishops are asking parishioners to avoid carrying guns into church, now that a new law permitting residents of the state to carry concealed weapons has gone into effect.”

Reminds me of a famous picture of the Pilgrims going to church.

I myself have snarked when states such as Louisiana or Arkansas have considered legalising guns in church. The idea must seem particularly absurd when viewed from the UK, where gun laws are strict. Here in Wisconsin, though, it’s no joke. It’s a huge headache.

Let’s be clear about the situation. First of all, Wisconsin is not the Wild West. Nor, despite its proximity to Chicago, does it have a rich tradition of gangsterism. In fact, until the new law took effect, Wisconsin was one of only two states in the nation banning concealed carry. And while “open carry” – displaying a weapon on a side holster, for example – is legal, it’s never been part of tradition, as it is in some places in the south.

So despite the headlines, Wisconsinites are hardly bloodthirsty savages clamouring to arm themselves to the teeth. Certainly there’s been no rabid upsurge among Christians. It’s really only a very small number of people who wanted concealed carry. Unfortunately, they happen to be backed by conservative dogmatists in the Republican party of Wisconsin. You will be safe and even receive a warm welcome should you visit America’s Dairyland. Still, to be on the safe side, I would exercise caution the next time the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears square off at Lambeau Field….

And while a church or a business is permitted to ban weapons, it can be held liable if it fails to enforce the rules. The law is again a bit murky, but the general drift is that if you know someone has a gun and don’t do anything about it, you can be sued should they shoot someone on your property. Meanwhile, organisations that don’t prohibit are absolved of any responsibility, which falls solely on the armed citizen. This is perhaps the most controversial provision of the new law, and it is unlike any other in the nation. It is hard to see it as anything other than an attempt to get guns into as many places as possible. It makes it very difficult for any organisation to ban guns, particularly small churches like my own, which simply don’t have the resources to check for weapons, and who have no stomach for confronting fellow members.

Which brings us back to the bishops. They’re trying to evade some responsibility by leaving it up to local parishes to decide if they’ll ban guns or not: since the dioceses own the buildings, they could presumably make the rule themselves. But, ultimately, they’ve come to the same conclusion as my church and many others, both liberal and conservative. An official ban would be too onerous to enforce and potentially risky. Better, then, to skip the legal pronouncements and try to set an informal expectation that Christians leave their pistols, hunting knives, crossbows and other deadly weapons at home.

So it is that on Sunday morning I will climb into the pulpit at Salem United Church of Christ – the very name of which is derived from the Hebrew word for peace – and beg my congregants, despite what the law says and for the sake of all that is holy – not to pack heat on Sunday morning. As I do so, I’m sure I will wonder how it has come to this, and I will think fondly of the sanctuaries I visited in England, where the most dangerous things to be found are a boring sermon and those damned narrow kneelers.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Scott Eaton

    I think Rev. Schultz is over reacting.

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    It is unlikely a person with a concealed carry will actually harm someone accidentally. It is also unlikely that someone with a concealed carry will help solve a standoff or prevent someone from being harmed.

    That being said, it seems quite out of place to bring a weapon into a church. Historically the concept of sanctuary meant a place of safety and a place of peace. Intentionally bringing a weapon into a church would seem to communicate either a serious lack of trust in God for protection, or a serious misunderstanding of what is supposed to be going on in worship.

  • Win

    No states in the south have open carry. Arizona does. I think one other state does also. Carrying concealed weapons does not make anyone savage or otherwise less peaceful. It actually has the opposite effect. One should really educate themselves more before making such sweeping stereotypes. Pretty offensive stuff. I doubt this person has ever even shot a firearm.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Love it. I was just telling my wife’s aunt (who introduced my wife and I to each other so many years ago) that when I was at a church meeting a few years ago with 10 of us present, the pastor asked how many were toting. I was surprised to see 8 of 10 carrying a weapon to church. Absolutely freaked me out.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    ….oh, I forgot to mention, the Pastor of the church encouraged the armed people to “take out the guy’s knees” if someone was threatening and not to shoot to kill. What a nice guy.

    I love rural VA.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Win, we have open carry here in VA, though I am not sure about open carry in church.

  • Chris Miller

    I’m glad I live in Canada and you guys have to check your weapons at the border.

  • Bob Smallman

    Our church’s building policy (in northern Wisconsin) had originally prohibited weapons (except for law enforcement members, of which we have many). But, following the passage of the new concealed carry law, our elders recently eliminated that prohibition — largely because of the unique language of the Wisconsin statute which would have opened us to liability if we did not actively monitor whether worshipers were carrying or not. (Lawyers here are saying that posting a sign prohibiting weapons is, in effect, making a warranty to those in attendance that there are no weapons present.)

    I’m not sure where Pastor Schultz’s church is located, but I can assure him that support for concealed carry in the north woods is hardly limited to a “few people.” In truth, however, I think all the ardor for concealed carry up here will dissipate after a month or two, as people realize what a hassle it is. Nevertheless, thousands of people are signing up for permits, aided no doubt, by a recent decision not to require ANY training! (Scary!)

  • Josh

    I don’t see the problem. Over the last few years there have been quite a few shoots INSIDE a church. Some of the murders were stopped by people in the church caring firearms. I cringe to think what would have happened if those members would have left their guns at home…. (i.e. the death total would have been higher…)

    No, this whole thing about guns making people evil is a total red herring. Carrying a concealed firearm is a form of protection as you can not always count on the police saving you (i.e. they have to be called, then they have to drive there…etc.).

  • http://www.normmacdonald.wordpress.com norm

    Open carry is a right. Although it causes concern for many who “witness” it, it is not illegal to my knowledge in any state of the Union. Concealed Carry – for lawful citizens – is restricted by state guidelines.

    Regarding carrying in church. I’d rather that then the alternative. Our church, ave. several thousand each morning. We have a security guard and an occasional Sheriff running around but not much for so many. So I’m pleased there are several in our church, that I’m aware of, that carry. Something you would never know unless they told you. That’s why they call it “Concealed carry.”

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Folks, how many churches are there in the US and how many people have experience an shooting problem. Fear is the problem and weapons in church exemplify fear.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Folks, they have already won if we are carrying firearms to church. Don’t you see that?

  • cballard

    Another one of those “only in America” moments for me. Where on earth was the church during the debate on this legislation

    Another one of those “only in America” moments for me. I am struck virtually speechless by the madness that possesses Christians who think that carrying a weapon is OK in the first place, let alone carrying one in church!!
    Serously one has to wonder……

  • Fish

    I would not attend a church where the members carried guns. To kneel down and take communion next to someone with a Glock? I will pass.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    I doubt many people expect to have to shoot someone at church. (Though, to be fair, the need occasionally arises.) But if you’re planning on going anywhere after church, it’s safest to keep your weapon on you rather than leave it in your car where it could be stolen.

    No one expects to need a gun at Luby’s, either, but that event so many years ago is the very reason Texas has concealed carry.

  • Rick Cruse

    I wonder what a body scan of the ” last supper” would reveal? Ten of Twelve packing? Amazing how Christians are so much more conformed to an American as opposed to a biblical worldview. Absolutely ridiculous…but of course the appeals will be to the constitution rather than scripture.

  • Robert A

    We have more than several members who carry concealed weapons. We’ve asked them to leave them at home. They are not willing since their conceal carry license overrides our ministerial authority (irony here.)

    What we worry about most isn’t a single shooter walking into our midst and shooting me, the minister, but that any numbers of these guys jump and and try to “take him out” but as a result wound or kill others who aren’t the shooter.

    We do have a number of uniformed police who we hire on Sundays to help with traffic and security. We don’t worry about them.

  • http://www.normmacdonald.wordpress.com norm

    Robert A … Let’s play this out. Someone walks in during service, doesn’t stop, simply walks down the center isle toward the pulpit. You don’t know the person, never seen him before. What’s your reaction? I’m sitting in your service and notice the person. I’m immediately on alert. Not reaching for my gun mind you simply on alert. If he presents a weapon and shoots you, its likely most people will hit the floor or run to the door. Others might rush the guy before anyone in your congregation who is carrying can determine their options. (We do assess options.) The person is subdued, problem solved except for you of course. That’s one scenario.

    Second scenario, the person shoots you then immediately turns and starts firing on the congregation as people run or take cover. Since you’re dead you can’t care what happens, but I DO! I’m protecting myself and my family. Best case scenario, my family and I walk out and the shooter doesn’t. Worst case scenario, one or two rounds miss their mark and put a hole in the baptistry, then my family and I walk out and the shooter doesn’t. Either way, your dead and I’m not.

    Most of us who carry train regularly, take the responsibility of carrying a firearm seriously, and often think through multiple scenarios in every environment we find ourselves in BEFORE something happens. Those who don’t most likely won’t use their firearm under stress – they’re in flight mode not fight mode.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    @Rick, two were packing, if Peter is to be believed.

  • Rich D

    I’m intrigued by the idealism of so many. Last I checked, we still live in a fallen world. There are still bad guys who won’t be stopped just because we make the sign of the cross in front of them.

    Our response? Some advocate pacifism – trust God and if we die, we die. Others advocate a robust defense – use whatever means God gives to protect people from evil. Many will fall somewhere between those two extremes.

    Rick (#16), a body scan at the last supper would have shown only two of the twelve carrying weapons. After telling his disciples to sell their cloaks to buy a sword, Jesus said, cryptically, that two swords was enough (Luke 22:36-38). I’d be okay with 16.7% of the disciples in our church carrying a gun, the modern-day equivalent of a sword. I would not be okay with even one non-disciple concealing a sword.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X