Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Armed Pastor?

I just read this interesting blog entry by fellow United Methodist pastor Donald Sensing on why he recently bought a small pistol to carry on walks:
"I am not really worried about a human attacker but I am legitimately concerned about the four-legged kind."
That seems right to me. I love to hike, but not in areas where I share the path with creatures capable of killing humans that I may not be able to avoid. Fortunately, that isn't an issue locally yet.

Sensing also makes interesting related points:
"1. I carry a pistol to defend myself and my loved ones, not to defend you. A carry permit does not make me the Fist of Justice. It does not give me police powers. If I face criminal danger in public, my number one choice will be to flee, not fight. Having no other choice, I will draw or use my pistol to save my children, my wife, myself. Not you. (Relevant: See my posts on why permit holders could not have saved the day in the movie theater murders in Aurora, Colo., last summer.)

2. I will not put my life at risk to protect property. Nothing I own is worth risking death for. Nor is it worth killing for. So I will not shoot someone just to protect property. But if someone attempts to rob me or invade my home, my default setting is that they also mean to do me and/or my family harm.

As an Illinois resident, where carrying a pistol by ordinary citizens is never allowed, I was particularly interested in this comment:
" If you are an adult, no one is more responsible for defending you than you. If you find yourself unarmed and needing defending, it is because you decided to be. Bluntly put, I am not going to put my life at risk to subsidize your stupid decision. I might be morally justified in defending you with lethal force, but I am not morally obligated to do so."
I've never owned a gun, other than a BB pistol once, but Sensing makes a good point. My only counter-argument is that perhaps he might consider also defending poor tourists from the only state stupid enough to still forbid carrying a pistol either openly or concealed. Oh, and he also might want to defend widows and orphans. God seems pretty cool with that throughout the Bible.

Sensing enjoys sport shooting, as do I. Taking an NRA class recently was great fun, as was another recent civilian police academy class. For now, I can rent guns when I visit a range, but the selection is limited enough that I'd prefer to just buy a .22 pistol (cheap to operate) and learn to use it well, as soon as I'm comfortable with getting it legally to and from the range, and have friends with whom to shoot often enough to maintain skills. (If that's you, let me know please.)

Fortunately, a U.S. appellate court decided yesterday that the Illinois total ban on concealed carry is unconstitutional, and gave the legislature six months to pass a more reasonable law. Here's hoping they do!

Update: I was delighted to meet a Catholic brother in vestments at the range yesterday. He mentioned serving in a tough neighborhood. There IS precedent - Peter carried a sword, at Jesus' request.

I was less happy to read a letter from fellow retired United Methodist pastors in Central Illinois in our conference newspaper yesterday, basically asking for lots of guns and stuff to be banned and for whatever isn't banned to be registered and regulated by the Federal government and the U.N.

Ironically, the very next page featured stories about churches being closed because folks are no longer giving as much to U.M. churches. If I'd read such a letter from the pulpit of any of the churches I served there, I'd have been lucky if anyone even showed up the next week, let alone put anything in the offering.

(I was once dumb enough to preach against eating too much meat, and had to let the head of the local Farm Bureau preach an opposing view the following week. Fortunately, that church saw breaking the rough edges off new pastors as part of their job.)

My advice to anyone sympathetic to the idea of any additional regulation of guns or ammo to first go spend an hour at a range. (If you know me, consider yourself invited.)

And fellow Methodists, before trying to ban anything else dearly loved by fellow adults, patriots and Christians, ponder deeply the consequences of your previous attempts to ban something millions of Americans didn't want banned (alcohol.)

Update#2: Rev. Sensing has posted another entry about specific four-legged pit bull attackers that have now inspired him to carry a 9mm pistol on his walks. Details here.

Update#3: The retired UM pastors whose views on gun control so bothered me above have apparently also gotten an earful from others, as they put a more sensible letter in this week's conference newspaper.
This time they note (correctly and relevantly) that "99 of the 102 counties are not reporting persons to the [National Criminal Background Check System] database, and out of 130,000 clinicians, only 83 of them make reports to the database."

They also correctly note that "There was a time in the 1970s and 1980s when Illinois had one of the finest mental health systems in the nation and then it began to be dismantled," though I find myself suspecting they were in favor of that at the time as a way of respecting the rights of mental patients.

I chuckled as I read of one of the writers saying "Pastorally, I do have to tell you that the level of your anger causes me to be concerned for your soul because anger will eventually destroy you."

Sadly, they also repeated such inaccuracies as that "30,000 Americans are killed each year by gun violence," either not knowing or not caring that most of those deaths are suicides, and most of the rest criminal-on-criminal violence using illegally-obtained guns.

Update #4: Another pastor, John Linneham, just supported the second amendment by wearing a Ruger 9mm as he preached:, saying “I don’t normally pack a gun. I don’t usually do it, but today I wanted to take a stand so there’s no misunderstanding as to where we stand.” Picture and more here.

Update #5:  An area church responded to the recent outrage of a boy suspended for chewing a Pop Tart into what he said was a mountain but a teacher thought looked like a gun, by having a Pop Tart gun-making contest in Sunday School as part of Second Amendment Sunday. What got my attention most was this:
"The reason this country is in this condition is not because sinners act like sinners, it’s because Christians don’t act at all.  And pastors?  They’re notorious cowards … anything that will come between a filled pew and a filled collection plate … the hirelings scamper away.  Having said that, I have been contacted by three other pastors each from a different state who want to know more and asked me to send them material.”  The pastor went on to say, “There will always be a remnant …"


  1. Jim, thanks for the link! Yeah, I did ponder the question of what to do if children are in danger because of a criminal acts, such as the Oregon mall shooter this week. I think that, while the question's answer is highly situational, I think that I would engage in order to give the kids time to escape.

    I would not want to face myself in the mirror each day afterward knowing that I had done nothing to save the truly innocent and defenseless who were not so by their own choice.

    Sometimes all courses of action are undesirable, but, within the law, it is sometimes true that "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." You have to do what you know you can live with, and what you know you can face Christ with, unafraid.

    Somewhere is here is a nexus between "Who is my neighbor?" and "no greater love." And there is no way to know where that nexus is until the time.

    1. Jeepers, sorry for the lousy typing in my comment!

  2. Welcome! In many ways, you're my hero, and this isn't the first time I've based a post on something you've written. I love learning from pastors and others who have thought much more about important issues than I have yet myself!

    For example, your analysis today from Aquinas on why a pastor who finds it necessary to kill, even though in accordance with just war theory, should perhaps not thereafter be the celebrant at communion seems very sensible to me, and is an aspect I'd never considered.

    Thanks again for another great article!


Welcome! Feel free to disagree, but please try not to be disagreeable about it. Like my dad, I'm often wrong, but never in doubt.