“You know you are a sitting duck up there for twenty-five minutes every week. Don’t worry though, I’ve got your back.”
This statement was made to me by a church member as I was walking into the sanctuary to lead worship. When he said he had my back, he pointed to the side of his leg, right where someone would carry a concealed gun. Two thoughts immediately came to mind;
Have I really been preaching for twenty-five minutes lately?
Why is the person bringing a gun to church with him and what exactly does he think is going to happen?
This conversation was top of mind as I heard the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, this time at a church in Texas. This one hits close to home. I’ve spent many a Sunday behind a pulpit or lectern looking out at people whom I dearly love who have given up a few hours of their time on Sunday to worship and be in community together. It’s one of my favorite views. It is a place of peace and centering for me. I’d be lying if I said that after the comment was made to me, it’s a little less peaceful.
Churches, by nature, are different public gathering spaces. For one, you are hoping to see people, lots of people, that no one else recognizes. A Monday morning with a full visitor list is a preacher’s delight! Second, every door in the building is unlocked. You want to allow as much access as possible on a Sunday morning, even for those who might accidentally stumble into your building. In this day of high alert and high surveillance, the church goes against the grain. It is counter cultural. There is no physical screening process to enter the doors of a church.
Reading the list of places mass shootings have occurred is like reading a litany of places we frequent; Schools, malls, work, and concerts to name a few. Still no action, no real conversation on the epidemic of gun violence. Yesterday a church was once again added to this tragic list. The place where people gather to be transformed to live as the one we call Prince of Peace lived. With our lack of action and the fear that permeates everything we do, maybe it was only a matter of time. I can’t even believe I am writing that previous sentence, but its true. We fell behind the moment something in our culture triggered the need to begin bringing our guns to church to protect ourselves. When we looked at our worship leaders as “sitting ducks.”
Anytime I write or speak about guns, I offer this disclaimer. Guns have not been a part of my life. Growing up, we did not have one in the house, I’ve never been hunting or sport shooting, and I’ve only shot a gun twice in my life. I have no desire to do so again. I understand and respect that guns hold a different place in others lives, including many of the folks whom I call friends and family.The person who told me that “he had my back” was well-meaning and offered in the spirit of friendship and respect.
Here is what I don’t understand- how much longer must we write “how long O’ Lord?” Why are we not willing to at least have conversations about guns and about our addiction to violence and fear that would necessitate one to carry a gun wherever they go?
Yesterday, the first tears were God’s. Will this be the event where we say “enough” and are at least willing to have the conversation? I hope, with the greatest of hope that it will be. Because this is enough. its past time to do something.