Thursday, December 13, 2007

Colorado Church Shootings

I’ve been struggling to say something meaningful about last week’s Colorado church shootings. It is certainly a tragedy for all involved. And yet what keeps nagging at me is the revelation of armed security people in churches.

A quick background on the story: Matthew Murray had been involved with a mission organization called “Youth With a Mission” a few years ago, but “health problems kept him from finishing the program.” He came from a deeply Christian background, but apparently came to hate Christians, after his fallout with Youth With a Mission. He showed up at a YWAM house(outside Denver) just after midnight on Saturday and asked to spend the night there. They turned him down, and as they were looking for other options for him, he started shooting. He left, and showed up the next morning at the mega New Life Church and opened fire as a service was letting out. He was shot by a church member volunteering as a security guard. There were apparently 15 or 20 other security people at the church.

I know it is the gunman in the church that should shock me about this. And it does, of course, but I can at least see the progression of it. A man from a very strict religious background rebels against it, something in his mind snaps, and the cheap and easy availability of guns causes widespread tragedy. It’s depressing, but if it happens in schools, it is bound to happen in churches eventually too.

What really opened my eyes, though, is how very different mega churches are from regular churches. I can’t imagine a security guard roaming the halls of most churches, volunteer or not. It really underscores the reality that when you reach a certain threshold of property ownership, and you have enough strangers coming in the doors, security becomes an inevitable part of the operation. It also strikes me as being fundamentally incompatible with the message of Jesus, and inappropriate for a church to do. And yet, the security guard did likely save some lives by shooting the shooter. And yet again, killing him strikes me as the wrong answer, or at least the unchristian answer. So, I don’t know what to do with it – there’s no glib, easy lesson here, other than to recognize that faithfulness and effectiveness are sometimes simply not compatible.

I fear that this event is going to send shock waves to Christian churches throughout the country, and we’ll start seeing a lot more medium and large churches with security guards, which also seems like an unchristian response. When Jesus’ friends pulled out a weapon to protect him, he got angry and told them to put it away. This may be a harsh lesson, but it can’t simply be ignored or explained away, especially for those who claim to want to follow him and want others to follow them.

6 comments:

Eric Sink said...

Yeah, it's kind of weird, isn't it?

I used to attend a church with about 1,200 people. There were no armed security guards, but a couple of the members were cops. Occasionally when something weird happened, one of them would get asked to help sort it out.

I currently attend another church with about 2,500 people. No armed security guards that I know about.

I don't have a strong opinion on this, so I'm ill-prepared to pick a fight. I'll just make this observation: Jesus rebuked Peter for using his weapon, not for carrying it.

Dan S said...

Well, I'm glad to see there is at least a half-hearted attempt to argue. :)

Unfortunately, I only have a half-hearted response: My own rebuke is mostly about using the weapon, although it also seems wrong to me to merely have weapons in church. Call me old-fashioned, I guess...

Eric Sink said...

I further observe that the incident with Jesus rebuking Peter for using his sword did not happen in a church.

To be fair, this is partially because Jesus and his disciples spent very little time at all at church. I mean, why would they go there? In that day, churches were mostly filled with traditionalists and legalists who spent all their time bickering about trivial things that Jesus considered irrelevant. Obviously the situation today is completely different.

Oh, wait.

Never mind.

Dan S said...

Hmmm. That makes me wonder whether he would also shun blogs devoted to theological and cultural minutia.

Dang.

PG said...

Nice rumination, Dan. (I put your cap in your mailbox at church, by the way.) The so-called "Christian society," the ingrained prosperity theology of the mega-churches, the horror of the Religious Right and how antithetical it is the message of Jesus... It becomes increasingly hard to tell the tinsel from the truth when it comes to Jesus. Those big churches scare me anyway. They're like arena rock concerts, the same kind of excitement and thrill. Nothing wrong with that on its own -- Heaven knows I've done my share of rock concerts -- but when it becomes the standard for conscientious spiritual seeking, and done for a profit besides... Well, I'd just be very uncomfortable "worshipping" there. For that matter, Christmas as it is practiced in this country also horrifies me. I can get caught up in the "spirit" of it, recognizing all the time that it is a commercial, Doris Day popular song kind of feeling.

I'm stuck in a classroom this morning where there is only a computer and no students at all. So I'm catching up on blog reading etc.

Any incoherence or misspelling in this comment is entirely attributable to a Scrooge-like attitude toward the season (and the proximity of a thousand high school students with pulsing hormones, itchy to be anywhere else than here).

Dan S said...

They're like arena rock concerts, the same kind of excitement and thrill. Nothing wrong with that on its own -- Heaven knows I've done my share of rock concerts -- but when it becomes the standard for conscientious spiritual seeking, and done for a profit besides... Well, I'd just be very uncomfortable "worshipping" there.

Amen, PG. I love the rock concert metaphor.