I’ll pass on being armed in church

Published 6:00 am Sunday, April 3, 2016

By Sid Salter

In thinking about the so-called “Mississippi Church Protection Act,” or House Bill 786 — which I was pretty sure about four seconds after it hit the legislative hopper would be adopted by the Mississippi Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant – I’m reminded of a loud and animated exhortation I heard from a church choir director busily rehearsing for an Easter cantata in an otherwise empty church sanctuary.

After a pretty noticeable mistake by the choir, the director dropped his arms in exasperation, leaned forward and bluntly shouted to the choir: “You aren’t paying attention! Look at me! Watch me! I’m the only one in here who can help you!”

Email newsletter signup

As both a backsliding Methodist sinner and a registered non-denominational smart aleck, my internal reaction to that input was rather swift: “Hmmmm … I’m standing here in the house of God singing about Jesus dying on the cross for my sins and then rising up from the dead to offer me eternal salvation and the only one here who can help me is the fellow human being with the baton in his hand?”

Luckily, I was able to stifle saying that out loud and just thought it — which probably saved me from being stabbed in the chest with the maestro’s baton. But the truth is, I think “help” in the greater sense is abundantly available in that setting.

And before we go any deeper into this subject, a few confessions are in order.

I like guns. That’s why I own and operate several of them. I’m a hunter, and while not obsessed with mounting wall trophies, I like putting a little meat in the freezer and I don’t see much difference in getting it at Kroger or out of a scope of hardwood bottom woodlands.

I have no lack of will to use a weapon to protect my loved ones, but I hope to never be confronted with that choice. I live in a nice, safe neighborhood, but each night I lock the doors to the house and turn the alarm system on.

The guns are locked in the house with me at night and at least one is stored safely within reach should something ominous go “bump” in the night.

Which brings me to the point of this piece: Do I think I need to pack a piece to be safe when I’m in church? Do I need to be armed to protect my family while I’m in church?

At funerals, the preacher always cites Psalms 121, which reads: “I will lift up mine eyes to hills, from when cometh my help, my help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

Later in the passage, the psalm concludes: “The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil, he shall preserve thy soul, and the Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even forever more.”

So if I confess that I’m comfortable with the notion of guns in the house, then why wouldn’t it be an easy leap to embracing the notion of guns in church?

I suppose that’s a personal thing. I certainly don’t have the market cornered on right and wrong on this or any other topic. But to me, it’s one thing to be prepared to protect innocent people while they sleep alone or in small numbers in a private home, perhaps isolated, at night.

It’s quite another to think that we’re not safe in a group of fellow worshipers in the house of God on a Sunday morning unless we’re in control of a weapon. That notion makes God sound weak and powerless.

Sorry, that doesn’t work for me. I suppose at some point we have to have some faith in God to keep us safe.

I’m sure I have some friends in the Legislature who will remind me that the Lord helps those who help themselves. Maybe so, but if we have to go to church armed, going to church becomes much like going to a bank. Walk past the guard, get in line, attend to your business and leave. I want more than that. I believe in more than that.

If it’s all the same, I think I’ll pass on being armed in the house of God. But if you feel the need to be, bless your heart.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him