How Much Protection Do You Need in Church…? January 1, 2012

How Much Protection Do You Need in Church…?

Reader Peter sends along this conversation he had recently:

I am a physician and had a patient come see me. He is a retired police office but works for a “Church Security” company.

“What is that?” I asked.

He replied, “Most people don’t know that about 90% of churches have at least one person inside with a concealed weapon.” So there are now security people who specialize in churches. Mostly they are there for petty theft, etc. But there is more concern these days with potentially violent individuals.

This past year has seen a lot of debate regarding the subject. In Georgia, where guns are banned in religious institutions, one group filed an appeal to overturn that law.

Drawing by M J Shepherd

But, as Peter writes, isn’t it a bit ironic that concealed weapons would be required in churches in the first place? If you don’t think God’s gonna protect you in a place o worship, what good is it to believe in him at all? I’ve been to plenty of churches and I’ve never had to worry about my safety. What am I missing?

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  • Tricky question. I’m Jewish, & acts of anti-Semitism often come in the form of damaging synagogues. Though, fortunately, these don’t usually occur when people are inside, there’s of course always that fear. Now, as a Reform Jew, I don’t know any people of my faith who believe that God protects us, period, blindly, no matter what. If that were the case, there would be no deaths to any sort of accidents – no car accidents, no freak accidents, no acts of terror that wipe out dozens or hundreds. For the most part, if Reform Jews believe in God at all (many don’t), we believe that (S)He is the sort of God who gives us free will & essentially watches from afar. This means we’re not safe by God’s protection from violence in any form, in the synagogue or elsewhere – so at Yom Kippur services, after a major anti-Semitic incident, or just at Shabbat services at very large synagogues, you’d better believe we’ve got an armed guard at the door.

  • Anonymous

    So is thanking G-d common amongst Reform Jews? I understand and accept that you don’t expect protection, but when for instance someone makes it through a cancer for which the prognosis was extremely poor, or comes out of a major car crash with only minor injuries, is thanking G-d for his/her/its protection common?

    If not, it’s a coherent stance. Not expecting protection is perfectly in line with the observable world. However if one does thank a god for their “help” when some expected bad outcome does not occur, implicit in that thanks is that G-d does intervene to protect some people, and thus chooses not to protect others. This is a huge issue for me with Christians (“A Godly hand cured my child! It’s a miracle!” while the parents in the next room are mourning a child apparently unworthy of such intervention) and I wonder if the same sort of things come up with Jews.

  • Conspirator

    A few years back I decided to buy a gun, then a few guns, and got really into the hobby for a while.  Even had my CHL but let it expire this past summer as I never felt a need to carry.  Back when I was shooting more often I used to participate in a few gun forums, and once read a thread where people were discussing carrying at church.  A few said they were ushers on occasion at their church and would always carry then.  I guess it was the closest they could get to police or security work and it made them feel special.  They talked about how they felt it was important to protect all those people.  If I remember right they even used the term sheep.  To them, people who don’t carry are victims and must be protected by those brave souls willing to stand up for their second amendment rights and blah, blah, blah. 

    There have been a few shooting incidents at churches over the years.  Much like there’s been a few school shootings.  It’s not common, and most people have a minuscule chance of ever witnessing one.  Of course the 24-hour news cycle contributes to the paranoia of such things.  And the gun nuts are just certain that if someone wants to go on a shooting spree they’ll choose the place where people can’t carry.  

    Look at it this way, churches are almost always conservative.  Many of those on the right are just scared.  Scared of terrorists and 9/11, scared of people with dark skin, especially those that may take their jobs.  Republicans have trained them to live in fear and vote for republicans who will protect them.  That is their mantra.  Fox is adamant that there is a war on christianity, Rush believes Obama sending troops after the Lord’s Army in Africa is because it is a christian army.  Naturally the churches feel they need security.  

  • Anonymous

    If guns are to be banned in religious institutions, then they should be banned anywhere large numbers of people can be expected to congregate: Theaters, supermarkets, malls, sporting events, demonstrations etc. People should not have some special right to be safer when going to church/temple/etc. than when going to anywhere else in the world.

    Then again, being half European I find American gun laws horrifying overall. I’m a radical pro-1st amendment person, but I’d be happy to see the 2nd amendment die.

  • Hemant,

    When I was a pastor I attended several pastor’s fellowships where I saw men carrying concealed weapons. Even then, I thought, why do these guys need to carry a gun? I have since concluded that these preachers wanted to be be thought of as “big men.” a fundamentalist version of whose penis is bigger.


  • Anonymous

    Our local atheist meetup has been trolled by fundies often enough that I bring a concealed handgun to our meetings.  No one in the group knows, and this is the only time I’ve ever mentioned it.  I hope I never need to use it,  but I wouldn’t allow some nut job to harm anyone.  

    I’m a regular poster here, but im going to post anonymous today.  Flame away.

  • Revyloution

    Nice,  Patheos keeps your profile even if you change your name to anonymous.  I guess I’m outed 🙂

  • Rich Wilson

    You need to keep a completely separate browser available for such instances.  Or just be out and let the flamers flame themselves out 🙂

  • Rich Wilson

    What am I missing?

    You sold your soul on eBay and you can’t answer that?  Geez Hemant, haven’t you ever heard:

    God works in mysterious ways

  • As an atheist, southerner, and a firearm owner who carries a concealed handgun routinely, I can relate to you something even more disturbing.  I have a close friend who is employed as a large local evangelical church in maintenance who has been sent, at church expense to extensive firearms tactical training.  He has been sent along with many other church employees, many of them outside of their security department.  I am a staunch advocate of the 2nd amendment but I do have to say that I find it odd that a church has trained an armed response team.

  • gski

    The canard that god helps those that
    help themselves may explain the need for an armed guard. After all,
    if the security guard needed to shoot someone, the faithful would
    thank god for saving them.

  • Have had a concealed weapons permit and familiar with a couple of states’ laws on it, they are banned from many of those places in your list.

  • Anonymous

    All part of their plan to take over society 😉

  • JenL

    I have to wonder how closely correlated this “must have armed security (both professional and trained amateur) in the church” movement is to the “mega pastor makes *tons* of money” movement?  

    Because I’ve heard of people independently carrying their own weapons to small churches, but I’ve only heard of this kind of formalized, church-organized, security “operation” in big churches with big budgets.  And I’ve always assumed it said less about the average attendee than about the average mega-pastor….

  • PJB863

    It actually makes sense in a way:  a lot of churches do things that piss people off.  All it takes is an off-balance person to pose a serious thrueat to the congregation.  It also is a good way to enforce dogma – permanently eliminate the dissenters.  Stalin would be proud……

  • I think that you certainly make a valid point.  This particular church is quite large. 

    I would also point out that crazy attracts crazy.  Even though the church thinks it is sane it is intelligent enough to know that people who are wishing to escape reality at times wish to escape on a permanent basis.   

  • As much as I’d like to not think that I have to wonder. 

  • Old Fogey

    If you are a genuine Christian (or Jewish) believer, why are you carrying a gun?

    Thou shalt not kill.

    Where are the exceptions listed?

  • Anonymous
  • The

    Sounds like you are fauling the churchies forhaving guns, but from my point of view you are just showing your own ignorance. Just as you have a responsibility to be vaccinated, and to have your kids vaccinated, becuse the small risks involved in receiving a vaccination are overwhelmed by the species benefit from checking disease, you have a responsibility to have the tools and knowledge to defend yourself. The small risks involved in gun ownership are overwhelmed by the prophylactic benefits for society, and especially for repressed minority groups.

    The gay/lesbian community has the Pink Pistols, the Jews have JPFO, MLK Jr.’s followers were armed, and they all poll more positively than atheists. 

  • Philbert

    Churches have insurance policies, first aid kids, sprinkler systems, and security guards. They are all concessions to the reality that there is no man in the sky protecting them. 

  • Yup, the 2nd Amendment is outdated and has only led to high rates of murder, suicide, and “accidental” shootings. (I maintain that there is nothing “accidental” about them, as it takes deliberate thought and action to fire a gun.)

  • Oy, just read the Bible — it’s full of exceptions. Amalekites, for one. Disobedient children. Rape victims. Those horrible people who don’t worship the “right” god…

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    There are plenty of atheist that carry concealed and I’m one of them. Don’t feel bad about being out about it.

  • I conceal carry to my local atheist group meet ups as well.  I’ve never hid it but I don’t advertise it either.  Most of my local group probably knows though, I’m pretty outspoken about my views on firearms.   

  • Anonymous

    my favorite was always Jobs children. i mean, really? hey, little girl. you have to die. your dad needs to learn a lesson and his Loving Gawd (TM) has to kill you to make a point. sorry. 

  • Anonymous

    dood, people =/= germs. 

  • Pseudonym

    Actually, they are insurance to the reality that accidents happen to the evil and the good, and fires hit both the righteous and the unrighteous. Besides, if there was a man in the sky protecting religious people, there would be no such thing as a martyr.
    I should point out that, while I’m not American and therefore think the idea of people guns around is dangerous and stupid, the last abortion doctor to be murdered in the US was killed in his church. At least these security people are responding to a demonstrated threat.

  • Pseudonym

    …and that’s why MLK Jr is still alive today.

    On the other hand, the US has the fourth-highest rate of firearms-related deaths in the world, beaten only by South Africa, Colombia and Guatemala. You are three times more likely to be killed by a firearm in the US than in the most dangerous places in Europe. Rather than getting involved in an unwinnable arms race, it would probably be easier and cheaper to move.

  • Pseudonym

    Congratulations, you have a more wicked imagination than most churches.

    Were someone to be shot in a US church by someone acting on behalf of the church, for heresy or otherwise, I’m pretty sure it’d have made international news, or at the very least I’d have read about it on FA. I’m no psychic, but hereby predict that it ain’t going to happen, ever.

    But just in case it ever does happen (there are small cults, like the WBC, where it could possibly happen), I can predict with certainty that it will be the last time it ever happens.

  • The assumption that carrying weapons leads to an increase in crime is simply a prejudice; it is not supported by the data. When states liberalize their concealed carry laws, violent crime rates almost invariably drop.
    BTW, George Tiller might have been well-advised to carry his gun to church. Maybe he’d still be alive.
    Among the Western nations, Switzerland has the highest gun ownership rates, and one of the lowest crime rates. Japan bans all guns for civilians, but their suicide rate is among the highest in the developed nations. There is simply no consistent pattern when comparing gun laws vs. crime by nations.

  • The

    So you are OK with being killed by a person but not a germ. That’s fine for you but what about the innocent people who die because of the expectation – set by you and those with your attitude – that attacking atheists is safe because they won’t defend themselves.

  • The

    The USA’s murder rate has little to do with firearms and  huge amount to do with social tensions intrinsic in our “melting pot” approach to integration. Whenever Europe approaches their racial and ethnic issues in anything close to as head-on a way things get ugly and  a half over there.
    Besides that, your math or history knowledge suxs. Averaging over the last 100 years the USA is below Europe in the murder of unpopular minorities by more than a few orders of magnitude.

  • Charles Black

    This shows how much faith churches have that their imaginary sky daddy will protect them, just like the pope having to travel in his bulletproof popemobile in his public appearances.

  • EJC

    you lay claim to non-supported data in one instance where there IS evidence and then lay claim to the opposite when there isn’t. What you try to arrive at is nothing more than VERY loose correlation without causation.

    Anderson, you seem to talk out your bum quite a bit

  • TheOnlyKarsh
  • Anonymous

    I like the part where a couple of children taunt a bald man and god sends a few bears to eat them

  • Pseudonym

    The USA’s murder rate has little to do with firearms and  huge amount to
    do with social tensions intrinsic in our “melting pot” approach to

    That can’t be the whole story, since Australia has a similar, if not higher, level of multiculturalism, but a relatively small rate of firearm-related deaths. This was true even before the gun crackdown in 1996.

    And yes, my statistics are all from the last couple of decades. I also excluded deaths perpetrated by US citizens outside the US (e.g. Iraq and Afghanistan), which you should probably have incorporated in your last paragraph if you’re going that route.

  • Pseudonym

    FWIW, I agree with you. Despite the existence of countries with comparable histories, multicultural mixes and gun ownerships, it seems to be only the United States which has a serious gun problem of all “first world” nations.

    The problem isn’t guns. The problem is that Americans can’t be trusted with them.

  • Thought of another one: Jephta’s daughter. Sorry, kid, your dad promised God he’d sacrifice the first living thing he saw when he got home…

  • Shores11

    I still say a church steeple with a lightning rod on top shows a lack of confidence. – Doug McLeod

    Same might be said of armed guards.

  • Anonymous

    That or he doesn’t exist, and the saying is nothing more than a platitude to cover up the obvious.

  • Rich Wilson

    Abraham and Isaac for me.  And for once I’ll skip the Hitchslap 🙂

  • “Most people don’t know that about 90% of churches have at least one person inside with a concealed weapon.”

    This is the part where I have a heart attack and die of NOT SURPRISE.

  • JenL

    And when it’s over, and the Big Guy has won his point, he’ll make everything a-okay by giving your dad even MORE kids than he had to start with.  
    Oh, I’m sorry, you thought somebody might make something up to YOU….  Girl, really, not even the boys got THAT…

  • JenL

    Shot by someone acting on behalf of the church, maybe not…  But we’ve had Jim Jones and then David Koresh, just off the top of my head.

    There was also that one horrible little cult where the “leader” ordered the rest of the cult not to feed the 2-year-old boy until he said “amen” after their pre-meal prayers.  The boy eventually died of starvation.  Shooting him would have been kinder.

  • JenL

    Makes me wonder if there’s a double meaning to “G-d never gives you more than you can *bear*.”

  • Panofsky

    Canada kind of craps out your theory too, not that it made any sense to begin with. All this needing a gun to defend yourself against the other guy with a gun is ridiculous since you’re most likely to be attacked by someone you know.

  • Demonhype

    Wasn’t it worse than that?  Not just “Dad needs to learn a lesson” but “God needs to win a bet”?  Not that there’s ever really a “good” reason for murder, but somehow kids (or anyone) being killed simply so God can win a bet against the devil…..I guess that’s one of the stories that really turns my stomach when it’s held up as an “inspiring” and/or “moral” story.

  • Anonymous

    If you’re referring to John Lott’s “More guns, less crime”, be aware that it has been exposed as totally fraudulent and dishonest, and even some gun nuts – the few with any pretension to intellectual honesty – have disowned it. As for Switzerland, most adult males are military reservists and are issued with a weapon to defend Switzerland in case of military attack – it’s not their personal weapon to swagger around with. And Japan may have a high suicide rate for complex social and historical reasons but violent crime against others is orders of magnitude lower than in the US.

    As for the original topic of guns in churches – here in Arizona, it’s very clear that for many people, guns are God.

  • Sue Blue

    For supposedly having the Master of the Universe on their side, they sure are scared all the time!  I seem to remember in just about every horror movie I saw as a kid, the terrified protagonist runs into a church to get away from the demon/ghost/psycho-killer that was chasing him/her.  Apparently the Jesus-y atmosphere or Presence of God or whatever can protect you from Satan and all his legions, but is useless against a lowly human nut with a gun.  I guess they figure that they better have a few armed wackos of their own just in case J.C. or God or the Holey Ghost is having an off-day or maybe just doesn’t give a shit.

  • Anonymous

    The more people in church with guns, the more people in church who are likely to be shot.  

  • So, can someone explain this weird gun fetish that America has? ‘Cuz, I don’t get it.

  • gsw

    “Every lightning rod on a church is evidence of the victory of science and
    of the surrender of religion” [David King]And I believe that Heinlein said something very similar!

  • Jamesprobis

    George Tiller was murdered in a church.

  • Emmet

    Seriously, you’re using the conventions of the horror genre as an argument against God?

    Premise one: a character in a film is saved from demons by running into a church.
    Premise two: Christians say God is all-powerful
    Premise three: In the film, God could only save the person once they were in the church.
    Conclusion: Therefore, God is not all-powerful, and so does not exist.


  • Mmm, yes, because God tends to manifest his powers solely in fictional movies these days.

  • Damn. Did I get re-directed to the Democratic Underground “Gungeon”?

    Dr. Tiller and the occasional kook from another church coming to deal with the people “preaching false doctrine”.
    Can’t really blame them. I chuckle at their “lack of faith” in the ability of their Sky Wizard to protect them, but can’t blame them for being pragmatic.

    Airplanes still have undercover “Sky Marshalls”, don’t they?

  • Duhsciple

    When there was the choice to save life by killing others in self defense versus losing his life, Jesus chose the latter. Sadly, the Christian religion has trusted violence and saving one’s life over practicing the Way of Christ. In Mark 8:33, when Peter resisted this new Way, the Lord rebuked him with shocking language. I hear Jesus confronting the church and those who carry concealed weapons in the place of worship with the same strong words.

    I do not assume “protection by God” as a high value, or premise, but rather the cross bearing Way of Jesus.

    Kindness to all, Duh

  • TheOnlyKarsh

    I’m failing to see where you’ve made or countered any points here.  What does Canada prove?  Why is being at least equally armed, hopefully greater armed then your opponent a bad thing?  What does knowing your opponent have to do with anything you’ve mentioned?

  • Anonymous

    Well the same argument works for exorcisms.

    Premise one: a person is saved from demons by having a bead mumbler pray over themPremise two: Christians say God is all-powerful Premise three: God could only save the person once the bead mumbler did their magic.Conclusion: Therefore, God is not all-powerful, and so does not exist. 

    Pick any of a number of the magic rituals that the different Christian cults and sects invented and you’ll see the same mumbo jumbo bullshit.

  • Anonymous

    Dr. George Tiller had to worry about firearms in Church. No more, unfortunately.

  • Anonymous

    Are you buying? I have a backstock of souls here, guaranteed pure, for sale cheap. Only $100 each! COMPLETELY INDISTINGUISHABLE from the ones you commonly see hawked in churches nationwide! Buy now, they’re going fast!

  • Anonymous

    Teh horror-movie argument is weak, but the conclusion is solid.

  • Anonymous

    Pretty much. I don’t see much evidence in the real world. Do you?

  • Wait, the Tiller example: from what I know, the shooter walked up and shot him in the back of the head. How in the hell would Tiller having a concealed carry prevent that?

    Second: The Japanese suicide rate/gun ban is apples to oranges. There’s absolutely no reason to assume the two are correlated, unless you’re willing to compare such statistics in a broader swath of countries. There are so many factors that need to be controlled for, not least of which is method of suicide – what the heck does gun ownership have to do with people killing themselves? Clearly, they’re finding ways to do so sans guns…so what is the argument here? With more guns, they’d kill themselves faster?

  • Of course not. Which is why, for all the ridiculousness of the actual argument here, it makes the point pretty clearly: fiction is fiction, reality is reality, and the Bible doesn’t belong in the non-fiction section.

  • Rich Wilson

    Oh man, and I just spent my last $100 on a bracelet that is GUARANTEED to improve my balance, core strength, and prevent warts!

  • westley

    We need guns to protect ourselves from all those people who have guns.

  • Panofsky

    Canada disproves your theory that high levels of violent crime in America are a product of there being too many non-white people aka “racial and ethnic  tensions”. We have some of the most , if not the most racially diverse cities in the world and yet our murder rates are a fraction of yours.

    And as far a being better armed than your opponents I don’t have to worry about that as I don’t live in a video game.

    Face it gun ownership is the US is supported only by dogma and weapons manufacturers/NRA PR and is essentially a fetish.

  • Rich Wilson

    The difference is, the US is a ‘melting pot’ while Canada is a ‘mosaic’.  It’s not the diversity that is the difference, it’s the approach to integration that differs.  That said, I think people are tossing out all kinds of correlations and digging for causation.

    I wish there were a lot more guns around, but I think it’s never as simple as guns per capita = violent crime.  There are too many other factors, including the widely varying conditions within states/provinces.  There may also  be a ‘dual peak’ in the graph of guns:violence.  At very low gun concentrations, adding guns increases violence.  At very high gun concentrations, adding guns decreases violence.  My hypothesis anyway.

  • Tom

    Whether or not your dual peak hypothesis is true or not, you’re way ahead of a lot of people just by not assuming a linear relationship from the outset.

  • Tom

    On the other hand, I gather there have been plenty of people murdered outside of US churches by people who think they’re acting on behalf of the church, for heresy or otherwise.  It’s interesting that some people apparently feel that certain behaviour is appropriate for god but not appropriate for church.

  • Rich Wilson

    MAJOR brain fart.  I wish there were a lot LESS guns around.  No issue with our carrying atheist friends, but I just wish people weren’t so in love with the damn things.

    Also wish we had fewer internal combustion engines around, although we (the family) own one (and only one).

  • TheOnlyKarsh

    One, it wasn’t my theory.  You just didn’t give enough info to support how you were applying your point. 

    Racial and ethnic tensions are much more then just “non-white people.”  Your murder rates are a fraction of ours because Canada has a fraction of the population density.

    I don’t live in one either.  I do however live in a country that from it’s very founding recognized an individual right to “keep and bear arms” and guaranteed that they it would never “infringe” on the right of the people.  If one happens to be in a fight it is better to be prepared then not prepared.  I carry a firearm for the same reason that I carry a spare tire.  By the time I need it, it’s to late to go get one. 

    I understand that the ill informed think this to be true:  “Face it gun ownership is the US is supported only by dogma and weapons manufacturers/NRA PR and is essentially a fetish.”  I also understand that humans have a tendency to fear that which they don’t understand.

    State after state in the US has shown a marked decrease in violent crime after the passing of concealed handgun laws.    In fact there hasn’t been one that didn’t show this trend.  While correlation does not prove causation, a universally positive  correlation does surely question the notion that more guns equal more crime.  

  • TheOnlyKarsh

    Other then just a personal dislike for firearms is there  a reason you wish there were fewer firearms?    Which I’m personally fine with.  if you don’t want one don’t own one. 

    People will continue to do harm to each other regardless of the implement they most popularly use.  Intent is the root cause, not tool. 

  • Panofsky

    “Your murder rates are a fraction of ours because Canada has a fraction of the population density.”
    This makes no sense at all as most Canadians live in cities which are just as densely populated as US cities, yet still with much lower murder rates.

    “State after state in the US has shown a marked decrease in violent crime after the passing of concealed handgun laws.”
    I hope your source for this is isn’t  just the thoroughly debunked crap-artist John Lott.

    And the argument that you need to be better armed than your neighbour is ridiculous. All it comes down to then is who shoots first, or do you wear body armor when you’re out cutting the lawn?

    Face it guns in America are a fetish, the reasons for owning them are only ideological.

  • Rich Wilson

    I honestly think we’d be better off with fewer of them around.  But I also don’t think regulating them away is an option in the US for a number of reasons.  I think we’d also be better off without alcohol, but again, it would only work if people just voluntarily decided to stop drinking.  Any kind of regulation would be (and obviously was) very counter productive.  I think even the drinking age limit in the US probably does more harm than good.

    So it’s kind of like “in my ideal world” but I fully recognize that’s my world, not everyone else’s.

  • Clevermoniker

    I first read the title as, “How Much Protein Do You Need in Church?”

  • TheOnlyKarsh

    Why do you think we’d be batter off without them? 

  • Rich Wilson

    In my opinion the costs outweigh the benefits. Andpartof the costis the emotional toll thatI believe a ‘gunculture’ takes on a soceity.  The culturalpartis just my experience living in Canada and severalUS states.

  • TheOnlyKarsh

    Just what emotional toll or cost are you referring to that a “gunculture” takes on a society? Is this something that we can actually measure and quantify or is this an emotional argument?

  • WRG

     Doctrinally a lot of churches believe the same thing regarding (the lack of) divine intervention.  Free will and influencing your own results and all that.  Sadly a lot of the adherents take a more fatalist approach.

  • The Other Weirdo

    And those comet nuts a few years back, the ones that drank cool-aid to get beamed up to a passing comet.

  • The Other Weirdo

    I worry that churches, apparently, are arming themselves. That’s never a good idea.

  • TheOnlyKarsh

    It concerns me as well but I’d rather that we both have the legal ability then for no one to have the legal ability. Once it becomes “illegal” then only those who are already willing to break the law will have the ability. We already know they have the willingness.

  • Anonymous

    The homicide and assault rates in Japan are both far lower than that of the U.S. Moreover, using suicide as an indicator when whether it should even be a crime is considered questionable and ignoring the homicide rate is questionable at best and intellectually dishonest and deceptive at worst.

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