What would Jesus pack?

Here’s a chance for Christians to ask: What do guns and church have to do with each other?

So, do you feel blessed today, punk?

So, do you feel blessed today, punk?

Photo By john kloss

It’s getting a little weird these days, at least where God and guns are concerned.

For instance, last February, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed a bill to allow concealed weapons permit holders to bring their guns to houses of worship. House Bill 1237, the church-guns bill, was killed—literally, but not with bullets—in the Senate. The failed bill’s sponsor, Beverly Pyle, cited a series of church shootings as her impetus. Among those incidents was the shooting of Little Rock pastor John Phillips, who wasn’t a proponent of the bill. He was shot while in the pulpit in 1986, but still thinks that guns have no place in church.

Would Phillips’ attack have been averted had a choir member been loaded for bear? He doesn’t think so. “It was utter chaos when I was shot,” Phillips told reporters in Arkansas. He believes there would have been “carnage” in his church had others been armed at the time of the attack.

But not everybody agrees with him. On the last Sunday in June, Kentucky pastor Ken Pagano invited church members to an “Open Carry Celebration” at their worship service, complete with a handgun raffle and firearms safety videos. But he did require that the guns in church not be loaded.

So maybe Christians ought to consider what kind of heat will match their Easter bonnets. That does, of course, create a fashion question: Which gun really says “He has risen”?

As is typically the case when God and firepower are united in discussion, references to the Old Testament buffet the pro-gun argument while secular ideology, including state vs. church rights, covers the flanks. Meanwhile, one key figure’s perspective is glaringly absent: Jesus.

His input can put a damper on such discussion: All that dribble about turning the other cheek and laying down swords. And if his reaction to commerce in his temple was any indication, I can see why the pro-guns-in-church folks avoid him. The gun thing would really tick Christ off.

All I know is that, amid California’s economic crisis and the ensuing climate of fear, solidly moderate citizens are using terms previously reserved for survivalists. Storing grain and shoring up the “compound” doesn’t sound as paranoid as it did a year ago. Meanwhile, gun sales in California are soaring. Also soaring, according to some local pastors, is church attendance.

That doesn’t mean there has to be a union of church and guns. Still, given even the remote possibility, I find myself revisiting the hackneyed but pointed question, “What would Jesus do?”

Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane may provide one of the more poignant answers to this question. There, at his most vulnerable, the text does not tell us, “And, lo, Jesus was comforted as He felt the cool steel in His shoulder holster.” No. He packed not so much as a peashooter and later rebuked his disciples for lifting swords in his defense.

That’s a tough act to follow. Who of us, in our darkest hours, left alone while friends sleep, enemies advance and death encroaches, wouldn’t appreciate weaponry? Personally, I’d prefer grenades—something annihilating, allowing for bad aim, that I could toss underhand while crouched behind a large olive tree.

Unfortunately, I remember something troubling that Jesus said with enough frequency to underscore its importance: “Follow me.” In other words, do what I do.

I’d rather he’d said something sensible, like, “Protect thyself, by all means, even carrying a gun in my Father’s house.” But he didn’t.

Then again, he couldn’t have known how unsafe the world would be today.