Guns in church — my perspective

Mark Westmoreland's picture

Consider for a moment a nightmare scenario: A person walks into your worship service and brandishes or, worse still, actually fires, a weapon.

Now, because your church has opted into our state legislature’s new law allowing licensed gun owners to bring weapons to church, several folks in the congregation are able to draw their guns and return fire.

Now, look into that scene and tell me truthfully: Does the second half of that scenario make you feel safer? In the chaos of such a moment, are worshipers in LESS peril because MORE people are shooting?

As I said, it’s a nightmare scenario ... any way you cut it. Whether it’s one “crazed gunman” or one gunman and five lawful citizens shooting, the consequences are horrific.

From a purely practical perspective, therefore, I cannot buy into the argument that we are made safer in our houses of worship by the presence of more weapons.

I’ll admit, however, that my perspective, like any personal view, isn’t simply practical. My opinion is shaped by my Christian faith and beliefs.

You see, in my church there’s just no getting away from the cross. It’s behind and before me every Sunday, silently proclaiming the suffering and forgiving Christ who rejected the world’s violence, the same Christ who was raised on Easter, the same Christ whose kingdom is truth and peace. His way is grace. And the Bible tells us, despite evidence to the contrary, it is HIS way, that when all is said and done, wins.

For a little while on Sunday we step into that space defined by the cross — the space called “sanctuary” — an old word that speaks of the safety and peace found only in God. And in that space we hear the gospel that rejects vengeance for forgiveness, coercion for peace, hatred for love.

And in that space we remember who we are. And who we are, by the grace of God, is the Body of Christ, called to take up the cross and share the gospel that can change the world.

I’m not saying there is no place for power or weapons in the protection of the innocent (my own son is a police officer, and people I love and respect are in the military). I AM saying that guns in the church are:

• a danger to the very people we would protect,

• one more barrier between us and Christ, and

• no more than the illusion of security.

Are you a church-goer? Then your salvation is not the firearm in its holster but the grace of God in your soul, and your calling is not to stand guard in fear but to go boldly with love.

So leave the gun; take the cannoli ... or casserole. The way of the cross is true and good. Be not afraid.

[The Rev. Mark Westmoreland ( is senior pastor of Fayetteville First United Methodist Church.]

G35 Dude
G35 Dude's picture
Joined: 02/15/2006
Pastor Westmoreland

John Lott, economist and gun-rights advocate, has extensively studied mass shootings and reports that, with just one exception, the attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011, every public shooting since 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns. The massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary, Columbine, Virginia Tech and the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, all took place in gun-free zones.

The above quote is from this article:

Pastor you have the right under this law to decide for your church whether or not to allow your people to come to church armed. Just be aware of the facts.

ptctrader2010's picture
Joined: 03/06/2010
Crime and criminals do not stop at the door of a church

I appreciate the remarks of the pastor, but I am also enough of a realist to know that a house of God, a school, a theater, a home.... Makes no difference. I am with the group here who believes we should have a right to defend ourselves no matter where we are. Like it or not, the safest place these days is in an airport on the other side of TSA. And that is not fool-proof.

I do not feel that being armed to protect myself stands between me and Christ. And I do feel that stopping an attack in progress can save lives, versus no intervention because no one is armed.

stranger than f...
stranger than fiction's picture
Joined: 06/27/2012
Then you serve a very weak god

If your deity is so puny that he can't even protect his own house, why do you bother to waste your time visiting him on Sunday?

Truth is stranger than fiction!

Spyglass's picture
Joined: 01/28/2008
IF only criminals respected the law..

Gun Free zones would be the perfect solution for ridding the world of shootings.

Davids mom
Davids mom's picture
Joined: 10/30/2005

Thank you Reverend Westmoreland !

brewster's picture
Joined: 01/14/2011
Now that's scripture

He who liveth by the sword shall be stucketh.
Fred G. Sanford Edition 1973

stranger than f...
stranger than fiction's picture
Joined: 06/27/2012
Thank You - Rev. Westmoreland

Thank you for your reasoned perspective of the logical consequences of turning the church into a shooting gallery. How nice to know that some leaders in our community recognize that moral principles outweigh right-wing political ideology.

The Godfather reference is icing on the cake!

Spyglass's picture
Joined: 01/28/2008
I would rather be with a hundred permitted owners

Than 1 criminal. What say you?

A Preacher is free to make his own rules as he sees fit, IYAM.

stranger than f...
stranger than fiction's picture
Joined: 06/27/2012
Spy - I can see that you are RIGHT

Who in his RIGHT mind would go to church and trust his safety to a second class deity who couldn't even protect his son against a Jewish mob when the real god - the National Rifle Association - offers authentic protection? I guess Rev. Westmoreland is unfamiliar with the new golden rule of god's true prophet, Wayne LaPierre: God is so weak that he can only protect those who arm themselves.

Silence Dogood
Silence Dogood's picture
Joined: 11/25/2007
Nice Anti-Christian Rant

Mr. STF we get it. You believe Christianity to be a fairy tale. Thank your for your input and your position is duly noted. Now please stay on topic rather than ridicule a faith you clearly misunderstand and despise.

Peace to you always.

PTC Observer
PTC Observer's picture
Joined: 04/23/2007
Reminder STF

If you don't go to church you don't have to worry about someone shooting you.