Days after the Rev. Kenneth Walker was killed in Phoenix with a .357-caliber gun owned by fellow priest Rev. Joseph Terra, Georgia churches are welcoming guns. Thanks to arguably the most lenient US gun law ever passed, church goers no longer have to risk being attacked and mugged by bad guys in the pews.
Luckily some religious leaders see the obscenity of armed worship. “I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to talk about what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the 21st Century,” said Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta whose109 parishes will not welcome firearms. “Even though permission has been given to have guns everywhere, that stops for us at the sanctuary. This is a gun-free zone.”
But other religious leaders, in Georgia and elsewhere, seem comfortable with armed sanctuaries and even “carry” themselves. They often say they “pray” that they never have to use their lethal weapons and kill someone as opposed to, say, turning the other cheek.
A year ago, prominent Atlanta bishop William Henry Murphy III allegedly tried to board a airplane with a loaded 9 mm handgun at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Atlanta’s airport led the nation in such gun confiscations even before Georgia’s new law. Authorities also found 10 rounds of ammunition in the minister’s bag. He “forgot” about his lethal carry-on, said Murphy.
In March, the Rev. John Koletas of the Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York, announced plans to raffle off a Smith & Wesson M&P semi-automatic rifle during a Sunday service. Why? To honor “hunters and gun owners who have been so viciously attacked by the antichristian socialist media and antichristian socialist politicians the last few years,” said the peace-loving pastor.
And last month, Pastor Heath Mooneyham of Ignite Church in Joplin, Missouri also raffled off lethal weapons, The grand prize in the raffle was a Black Rain AR-15, which Pastor Mooneyham called “the Lamborghinis of AR-15s.” The pastor says he is not encouraging violence because, “The first murder recorded in the Bible was with a rock” and “If we can get more people to follow Jesus, I’ll give away 1,000 guns. I don’t care.” Ignite Church is a youth oriented ministry with live music and counter culture elements used in worship.
Then, there is the Pentecostal preacher James McAbee, of the Lighthouse Worship Center in Beaumont, Texas, who wears two loaded guns to church, one on his hip and one on his ankle. His wife also packs for church. Rev. McAbee is such a gun enthusiast, he also teaches gun classes. Is he cultivating violence? No, he says citing Psalm 144:1, which reads “The Lord has trained me for battle”; and Luke 22:36, in which Jesus instructs the disciples to arm themselves.
Many gun carrying religious leaders say they are “carrying” because it is a different world today. Right. It is a world in which religious leaders are willing to kill.