Take a Gun to Church
Pastor Pagano at New Bethel AG
New Bethel Assembly of God Church in Louisville Kentucky hosted an "Open Carry Celebration" this past Saturday inviting folks to bring a gun to church. Packing pistol-toting parishioners into the pews was an act designed to "celebrate our rights as Americans." Those with concealed weapons permits were able to carry loaded guns, while those without the permit could bring unloaded firearms. It was intentionally a separate Saturday event and not a part of their Sunday morning worship.
The pastor, Ken Pagano, is not exactly pushing his gun-toting on other Christians as he notes that "Pacifism is optional for Christians," but also says, "It's not a requirement." But the event was not without ready detractors. A Louisville Courier-Journal article said in part,
"Even if I were perfectly comfortable with open-carry handguns or gun rights, it seems to me a completely whole other thing to connect those rights to Jesus Christ," said the Rev. Jerry Cappel, president of the Kentuckiana Interfaith Community, a coalition of local leaders from various religions.But to approach this event from a different perspective, how does it fit within the church's ministry in and to its community? I see that The Pastors Corner at the church's website lists as Goals For 2009: 1. Ministry outside the box 2. Evangelistic focus 3. Time management 4. Creating a culture. I don't know how he's doing on time management, but he's doing well on thinking outside the box and I trust this Assembly of God pastor to have an eye on evangelism through the news media interest this has generated. I'm not sure what was meant by "creating a culture" but this event probably fits that ideal as well.
Tying in the event "with one who explicitly called us to put down the sword and pick up the cross and love our enemies and turn the other cheek, it just makes no sense," he said.
The Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper of Lexington, who has lobbied against laws such as one allowing citizens with permits to carry concealed weapons, said the event "would nauseate Jesus."
So, it would be too easy and not a lot of benefit to poke fun at this Open Carry Celebration. I grew up hunting and going to gun ranges, so I am not simply firearm adverse. But I still don't like the idea of loaded weapons coming in to King of Peace. But while I am not prepared to follow suit, I still feel challenged. It reminds me a bit of our school director Gillian pulling off a huge Child Safety Awareness Evening in the wake of a horrible child abduction and murder in nearby Brunswick.
There are ways that fit us that get the community energized and bring them into our church, and hopefully through that connection to get connected with God in a more meaningful way. Rather than throwing stones at one who is not just day dreaming, but pulling off an event, it is probably more productive to be encouraged to act in ways that fit our congregation and community.
That's my take. What do you think?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
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