Pastors Who Like Guns

by Nicole Plyler Fisk

Because today is Sunday, I’ve decided to write about a perplexing religious response to the Sandy Hook Massacre.

Some pastors like guns.

I’ve seen, through social networking sites, both pastors and their families (wives and adult children) indicate support not only for the NRA and “2nd amendment rights” (never mind that the 2nd amendment is about well-regulated militias) but also for the proliferation of assault weapons . . . as self-defense.

Because, they argue: assault weapons = powerful = the best gun for self-defense when a criminal, who might have an assault weapon, knocks at your door. Yes. This is a paraphrase of an actual argument.

When I told my friend, Natalie, about it, she — as always — got to the heart of the matter in record time:

“Well that’s just nonsense. The ONLY way an assault rifle is effective for self-defense when guys with assault rifles knock on your door is when 1. You’re not taken by surprise and are as prepared as, if not more prepared than, your attackers; 2. You live in a fortified house that’s going to stand up to a barrage of bullets from multiple guns; 3. You answer the door ready to shoot every single time you answer the door. The person who satisfies all three of those is likely to be a paranoid schizophrenic who is more likely to shoot up a school than save his family. Number 3 will result in shooting a Girl Scout selling cookies.

And, really?!, when do guys with assault rifles ‘knock’ on your door? And when are guys with assault rifles coming after you in your house? When you’re a criminal and the police aren’t so much ‘knocking ON’ as ‘knocking DOWN’ your door. That’s when. Meanwhile the ‘logic’ that s/he should get to own an assault rifle just because criminals might get one is, frankly, f*&^ed up. Criminals get all sorts of dangerous things–that’s why we call them criminals. Are we going to legalize crack because criminals can get it? Meth labs? Plutonium? WMDs?”

An atheist, Natalie isn’t as bothered by the fact that these arguments are coming from people who identify as Christians. But, coming from a more conservative Christian background and identifying as a (very) progressive Christian as an adult, I don’t know what to do with a response that seems both violent and fear-based from people who are supposed to be peace-loving and working toward making things here on earth as they are in heaven, a la “The Lord’s Prayer.” Call me crazy, but: I imagine there would be less, not more, guns in heaven.

But, not all pastors like guns, of course. Our pastor, Dr. Roger Ray, does not. And, I’ll close with a sermon I recently read, by Rev. Stephen E Carlsen, Dean and Rector of Christ Church Cathedral (thanks to Elizabeth Broadbent for directing my attention to this one). The sermon, entitled “Don’t just grieve. Do something” is available, in full, at:

Here’s an excerpt:

“By nature I am not prophetic in my preaching. I prefer to be pastoral, to be theological. I have come to the conclusion that I am a poor pastor if I merely ascend this pulpit after these shootings, one after another, and merely comfort, merely mourn, merely sooth. I’m done with that.

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So, with many other exhortations, [John the Baptist] proclaimed the good news to the people.

The Good News is not always comforting. Sometimes it provokes us to change our ways. That is the Good News for us on this sad occasion: not just to comfort, not to sooth, not to mourn, but to provoke. We need to mourn but not stop there—to go on and work at stopping this carnage. We can start by common sense measures.

My son just got his learners permit to drive a car. We had to fill out much paperwork, to register, to show proof of insurance. He had to pass an eye test and a written test. He needs to keep a log of his driving. Six months later, he can get his license after a driving test, but it will still be restricted for a long time afterward. No driving friends for months. He like us all must wear his seat-belt. If we accept this level of regulation to drive a car, why not restrictions on guns?

No one needs assault rifles, large capacity ammunition clips, hollow point bullets—not for sport, not for hunting. Get rid of them. Letting nearly everyone carry concealed handguns is lunacy. Letting them in schools and universities, and in bars, [which] was approved by the Michigan legislature on Friday, is bordering on evil . . .

Don’t just grieve. Do something. This is not a reality that we must accept. Start today.

I use my authority as Rector today to declare that guns are not welcome in this sanctuary . . . Turn your assault weapons in to the police for disposal. If you hunt or shoot as a sport, unload and lock away securely any firearms. On the public level, pressure timid politicians to enact common sense laws. Learn, speak out, vote.

You brood of vipers! John said. This is going to happen again. I will again ascend this pulpit and speak out until this scourge, this culture of death, this cult of violence is purged from our land.”

At this cultural moment, we have “men of God” falling on both sides of the gun-control debate. I’ll be standing alongside the ones who are furthering the kingdom of God.

I’ve never cared for vipers.