“Bring Your Guns to Church” Sunday

Imagine the following scenario: At church this Sunday, while reviewing the list of announcements and upcoming events for your church, your pastor adds, “Oh, and don’t forget: on Sundays we have our regular target practice. Make sure to bring your guns. Make sure to bring your pieces to church.”

Absurd, right? Not so. It used to be the American way. For example, a 1631 law in Virginia required citizens to own firearms, to engage in practice with them, and to do so publicly on holy days. It demanded that the people “bring their pieces to the church.” Somewhere along the line we have lost this mindset. Today the ideas of church and arms are assumed to be at odds, as if loving your neighbor has nothing to do with the preservation and defense of life and property.

But the idea of Christian society and an armed, skilled populace actually have deep historical roots. Alfred the Great codified the laws of England in the 9th Century, often resorting to biblical law in order to do so (where he departed from biblical law, the integrity of his famous law code is quite poor). Alfred applied the Deuteronomic laws of kings that forbad a standing army (Deut. 17), and as a result developed a national defense based on militia:

By the Saxon laws, every freeman of an age capable of bearing arms, and not incapacitated by any bodily infirmity, was in case of a foreign invasion, internal insurrection, or other emergency, obliged to join the army.…(1)

This required and encouraged an armed citizenry:

Every landholder was obliged to keep armor and weapons according to his rank and possessions; these he might neither sell, lend, nor pledge, nor even alienate from his heirs. In order to instruct them in the use of arms, they had their stated times for performing their military exercise; and once in a year, usually in the spring, there was a general review of arms, throughout each county.(2)

Imagine! Imagine the government poking its nose in every year not to register and license weapons for possible future confiscation, but to ensure that each house indeed possessed weapons. Imagine that instead of imposing fees for licensing schemes, the government levied fines for not owning a firearm. This was the case in Massachusetts in 1644. The state required that “every freeman or other inhabitant of this colony provide for himself and each under him able bear arms a sufficient musket and other serviceable piece” as well as “two pounds of powder and ten pounds of bullets.”(3) Those who neglected this duty could receive fines up to ten shillings (for laborers, roughly a day’s wages).

In 1623, Virginia statute forbade anyone to travel unless they were “well armed,” and required that all men working in fields likewise be armed.(4) 1631 laws repeated the same requirements and added to them: all able men should bear arms and engage in practice with their arms. The law specifically required “All men that are fitting to bear arms,” and to “bring their pieces to the church upon pain of every offence.”(5) (Equally shocking to most modern evangelicals is the fine for not obeying these laws: landowners who did not so arm their laborers and workers were required “to pay 2 lbs. of tobacco,” and this fine in tobacco was “to be disposed by the church-wardens, who shall levy it by distress.…”(6)

Imagine that: the government desiring, commanding that every able citizen own weapons and be skilled in using them! And to do so on “holy days” and at Church.(7) (It’s even more unbelievable that the government assumed all men were going to church every Sunday. Perhaps we could increase their numbers if we could reinstate target practice fellowship.)

The legacy of arms and freedom as Christian virtues continued into American Revolution. The Lutheran pastor John Peter Muhlenberg is perhaps the most famous of the “fighting parsons.” He answered George Washington’s personal call to raise troops using his own pulpit and Ecclesiastes 3 to do so. Other ministers of the gospel were well known to preach with loaded guns in the pulpit with them. Pennsylvania preacher John Elder provides a great example: “Commissioned a captain by the Pennsylvania government, he led a company of rangers and was accustomed to preach with his loaded musket across the pulpit.”(8) Likewise, Rev. Thomas Allen, a later collaborator in writing the Massachusetts State Constitution, himself fired the first shot at the Battle of Bennington. In the context of the War for Independence, ministers saw guns as tools of liberty and defense against tyranny.

In a later context, some ministers saw the continued usefulness of firearms. A former cowboy and confederate soldier turned Methodist circuit rider, Rev. Andrew Jackson Potter, preached among tough neighborhoods in the old West. He would regularly walk up, lay his two colt revolvers across the pulpit, and begin to preach. He retained order and security, and encouraged an atmosphere of respect. In this scenario, arms served less as tools of national liberty and more as tools of preservation of life and individual liberty and property.

This same scenario goes on today, by the way. As recently as 2009, pastors in the Detroit area have begun to arms themselves in the pulpit and while on church property. Rises in Detroit crime in general as well as attacks in church buildings in particular have awakened the attention of many Christians. While it is illegal in most states to carry guns on church property, Michigan allows it for the pastor and those he approves. [Author’s note: even since the original publication of this article, many states have revised their concealed carry laws to allow for church carry. Consult your state’s laws for details.]

Christians should be aware that the use of force in preservation of life is a biblical doctrine (Ex. 22:2–3; Prov. 24:10–12; Est. 8–9; Neh. 4; cp. John 15:13–14). Likewise, those who possessed weapons in Scripture are often said to be well skilled in the use of them (Judg. 20:15–16; 1 Chron. 12:1–2, 21–22). We can only surmise that 1) God gave them talent in this regard, and that 2) they engaged in target practice regularly. Further, under biblical law, to be disarmed was to be enslaved and led to a disruption of the economic order due to government regulations and monopolies (1 Sam 13:19–22). But the mere presence of a couple weapons had psychological effects that put criminals to flight (1 Sam 13). (See my sermons on these chapters in my Commentary on 1 Samuel, or here online for free.) There is a reason why Scripture tells these stories: they illustrate the defense of life, liberty, and property in the midst of a fallen world (and fallen governments).

The American Second Amendment did not spring into existence from nowhere. It had a long pedigree. The Christian society emerging from the old laws of Alfred continued to include the ideal of an armed populace as a means of securing human liberties. The Founders, many of them lawyers, had studied that legal tradition and would have read William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769). The first part of the first volume elaborates on the subject of our “principal absolute rights… of personal security, personal liberty, and private property [i.e. life, liberty, and property].” It then covers five means of securing and protecting these rights “inviolate”:

The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared by the same statute I W. & M. st.2. c.2. and is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.(9)

Within that same legal tradition, and more than a generation earlier, the English philosopher John Locke voiced the sanctity of life, liberty, and property as well as our duty even to use force to preserve it:

Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself… so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.

Locke elaborated these views within the context of belief in God’s ultimate sovereignty, ownership, and law-order over all of creation:

being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure…(10)

Thomas Jefferson clearly took his phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” from Locke, likely via Blackstone. It is no irony that Jefferson kept a portrait of Locke on his parlor wall. Both hated tyranny, and saw freedom as requiring the defense of person and property via use of force if necessary. Both derived this from the Christian legal tradition they inherited.

Today, so many Christians are brainwashed or affected by progressive propaganda that we have an uneasy feeling even broaching the subject of guns. Constant liberalism in the media and years of government-school indoctrination have eroded the foundations of liberty in this nation. Ironically, Christians think themselves conservative when they back everything the military does. Conservatives think that to oppose the military is to be a leftist. They have no idea that 1) the tradition of imperialistic war grows out of leftist, not conservative, ideology, and 2) the Bible forbids nations to have standing armies or stockpile offensive weapons. The Bible calls for national defense through an armed populace and militia upon necessity. A standing army is an affront to God. But for some reason, alleged conservative politicians easily persuade Christian voters that the next military maneuver is of necessity an expression of conservative values, and the Christians cheer. In reality, it is an anti-Christian position to have all arms in possession of the state and the populace dependent (let alone cheering) on the state for protection and defense.

We are further brainwashed into thinking (and feeling) that guns are somehow dirty and evil, and that Christians should have nothing to do with them. In this view, we have departed from the Scriptures, Christian legal history, as well as America’s Christian history.

As a remedy for the situation, we should both learn and exercise our gun rights. This article provides merely a beginning of the necessary education. We need much more. Every Christian should read and understand the laws of their particular state. Good places to start are www.handgunlaw.us and opencarry.org (the former site includes coverage of concealed carry laws and much more; the latter deals mainly with open carry). Not only should you know about laws pertaining directly to carrying, but also to those pertaining to the use of deadly force. These vary per state, and Christians should be aware.

In addition to knowledge, we should also begin to exercise our inviolable rights. Every able Christian should own a firearm, and each should seek instruction and training in how to use them. This includes handguns, shotguns, and rifles, each of which has a particular strength in self- and home-defense. Elders and pastors should teach on the topic and its history, and should help aid church members in obtaining fitting pieces and proper training in legal settings.

One great expression of both education and practice appears in the Appleseed Project. These training camps are steeped in American history and wish to advance the forgotten legacy of the American rifleman. Using focused and professional training events across the country, this project teaches and hones shooting skills toward the goal of making you accurate at 500 yards.

In addition to that great project, I recommend taking classes in handgun defense and general home defense. These are offered by gun shops and firing ranges around the country. Make use of them.

In states that oppress the inviolable right to bear arms, the best we can do is to organize politically and locally to change the laws. [Even here, things are changing.] This is not easy, of course, but Christian society demands it as a measure to stop the tyranny of governments and the advance of individual crime. To allow unjust gun laws and prohibitions to continue unchallenged is to fail in loving your neighbor and to vote in favor of servitude. This, of course, demands its own article, but deserves at least mentioning here.

Christians need to understand and act upon these biblical ideals. While this article hardly provides the last word on the subject, we ignore the lessons of the Bible and history to the peril of our freedoms and lives. Evil ever advances upon our families, churches, and states. Evil seeks positions of power, such as government, and from there seeks to eliminate the avenues of power that threaten it (an armed populace). Thus tyrannical government seeks gun control laws. Wise Christians see past the propaganda and stand for freedom. Those who remain silent are by their silence complicit in the tyranny and the crimes in which it results.

With relentless expression of our rights through education, publication, exercising the right, and challenging unjust laws, Christians can at least create a society hungrier for freedom. At best we may roll back the various infringements upon those freedoms. If we change the laws well enough, we may indeed once again hear pastor say, “Oh, and don’t forget: on Sundays we have our regular target practice. Make sure to bring your pieces to church.”
Endnotes:

  1. Francis Grose, Military Antiquities Respecting a History of the British Army, from the Conquest to the Present Time, 2 vol. (London: Egerton and Kearsley, 1801), 1:1.()
  2. Francis Grose, Military Antiquities, 1:2.()
  3. William Brigham, ed., The Compact with the Charter and Laws of the Colony of New Plymouth (Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, 1836), 31.()
  4. William Hening, The Statutes at Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia from the First Session of the Legislature in 1619, (New York, 1823), 173–174, http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-07.htm (accessed April 22, 2010); I have modernized the English taken from this work.()
  5. William Hening, The Statutes at Large, 174, http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-07.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).()
  6. William Hening, The Statutes at Large, 174, http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-07.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).()
  7. William Hening, The Statutes at Large, 174–175, http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-07.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).()
  8. Louis B. Wright,  “The Westward Advance of the Atlantic Frontier,” The Huntingdon Library Quarterly 11/3 (May 1948): 271()
  9. William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 4 vol., 1:139.()
  10. Two Treatises on Civil Government, Book II, Chapter II, Sec. 6. [1689], http://www.lonang.com/exlibris/locke/loc-202.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).()
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306 comments
2brknot2b
2brknot2b

To all those saying we shouldn't bring guns to church, consider you are in attendance, a rabid bear walks through your church door. Was that God's will that the bear should tear people limb from limb, bite innocent people, and infect them with rabies? Or, was it your foolishness that you weren't armed to defend yourself, and your congregation, from the bear? Now, substitute "rabid bear," with 'rabid racist,', or "rabid anti-Godly person."

Laurent Mikhael Jb
Laurent Mikhael Jb

Great...the last thing we need in a place of worship are paranoid people with one hand holding a holy scripture and another with a pistol... To have a shoot out so blood can be spilled...in a supposedly holy place? Higher a guard outside the place and search those that are suspicious.

Jendor Dotnet
Jendor Dotnet

Last year I help set up a 5 year Armed Security deal at a church I was attending so always armed guard at every service and before and after service lets out. This is the times we live in. God Help The Family's who are our brothers and sisters in Christ'

Harold Golen
Harold Golen

Robert, you are being hysterical about wanting to take a gun to church, why, for attention or to be able to play with your gun at church? There is absolutely NO threat to Christians in this country, you are parroting FOX NEWS, you do NOT need to protect yourself at church, that was about RACE!

Harold Golen
Harold Golen

James, I am using reverse psychology to make my point. I do not take the bible as the word of a "god", I take it as a book to manipulate and control the masses for power and money, written added to and changed to suit the agenda of whoever had the power to do so at that time. Some "Christians" use the bible to be able to justify their discrimination against Homosexuals. When I make the point that it says "Thou Shall Kill", it amazes me how the amosexuals desperately try to interpret the bible differently to fit THEIR agendas! You get my point?

James Heath
James Heath

Harold Golin, Not me. I do not want to kill. In the OT God gave specific instructions to the Jews/Israelis to kill under specific situations and instructions when not to kill and instructions for what amounts to a rudimentary trial by jury. OT and NT God are one God. There has historically been an understanding that to kill means an unjustified indefensible murder, like abortion. Purposefully killing the innocent or killing someone whose crime/sin is minor is murder and is a sin. Self defense usually is not murder, unless you are a criminal like a serial killer being punished for murdering multiple innocent people. A serial killer does not have the right to protect themselves from lawful punishment after conviction by killing their executioner. Even from the death penalty, serial killers are not permitted to kill their assigned executioner. There is a woman in the OT who killed an enemy General while he slept by driving a tent stake thru his temple. By God"s standard she is a hero and a defender of her people. The General whom she killed was not innocent. He was guilty of serious crimes against the Jews/Israelis of killing them. I totally agree with the rule do not murder. Have you ever heard of "Just War"? It is probably not something you subscribe to. Still owe you NT example.

Robert Goley
Robert Goley

So what you are say is that you are just a lousy doushe that doesn't have a valid opinion on the subject at hand because it has nothing to do with you and your lack of belief. You simply hijacked a valid thread on church communities protecting themselves from violent attacks similar to the one that just happened in SC because your ego wouldn't let people have a conversation on self defense and the merits of taking preventative measures?

Jonathan Roberts
Jonathan Roberts

MATT 5:39 "But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." ESV #Bibleversechallenge

Cory Fiese
Cory Fiese

As I understand it, in SC, churches have a choice. They are only gun-free zones if they choose to be. Sadly, the church that was attacked had chosen not to allow legal carry of firearms by their members.

Harold Golen
Harold Golen

Dylon, I'm trying to make the point that the words in the bible have been manipulated to no end to suit others agendas. Which means the religion has no validity and it was all made up just like all religions!

Harold Golen
Harold Golen

James, "Thou shall not kill", god said do NOT kill! You want to kill? Change your religion!

Robert Neil
Robert Neil

Harold, Exodus 20:13 is actually translated "Thou shall not murder". Big difference between kill and murder. But thank you for using the Bible for your reference, so we can come to an understanding of God's words. 


pstern0349
pstern0349

@Robert Neil

Thou shalt not kill is 1 of the 10 commandments Moses brought down from the mountain.

Jose Ramos
Jose Ramos

Haha a black people with a gun. Then we'd have police in the helping the little racists.

David Rambus
David Rambus

What does it profit a man to gain the world and in return loose his soul ?

David Rambus
David Rambus

2Corinthians 10;3-4 Although we walk in the flesh we do not war in the flesh , Our weapons of warfare are not Carnal ,But mighty for the pulling down of strongholds ,AMEN

David Rambus
David Rambus

Is it just the black people who needs their guns at church or everyone ,Why isn't this terrorism But supposedly we as a country are at the forefront of the war on terrorism ,Lord help us ,We failing as a people without you

2brknot2b
2brknot2b

Church shootings in majority white attendance have occurred, as well. At lest one was thwarted by an armed individual. The purpose of arms is for self-defense, but it can, also, deter ruffians. This was why the Second Amendment was added to the Bill of Rights. Our founders understood that the more people that were armed, the less likely confrontation would occur., i.e., an armed society is a polite society. The question begs, "Is a moral society, also, a polite society?" If so, then we need to be teaching morals in our schools instead of the new morality of sexual education, gay rights, and that "we know you're going to have sex, so here are the tools to do it with a lesser likelihood of consequence." 


If I was denied the right to carry in a church, I would not attend that church.

Eric Ezekiel Snowden Jr.
Eric Ezekiel Snowden Jr.

This is a Horrible Article! Where is the Scriptures to back up anything written in this Article! God is our Protector Not Guns!

Jondarmes
Jondarmes

GOD, GUNS and GUTS made America free. When I go outside I carry, I have for over 50 years, I'm not my likely to change now. God is very busy, I am sure he appreciates a little help in calming the unruly.

CharlieKoch
CharlieKoch

According to the Gospel of Luke, sell your cloak and buy a sword is an instruction byJesus to his disciples which has been interpreted in several ways. At the Last Supper Jesus says:He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”—Luke 22:36, NIV

Matthew Heath
Matthew Heath

well if you belive in the GOD of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob you would also know that GOD/Jesus are the SAME THING" !

Christina Heath
Christina Heath

If you go into a church and shoot it up, taking the luves of believers, it IS a religious crime. Just like, if you go into a bank and shoot it up, taking as much money as you can, it is a bank robbery. Now, the motive could be that the church was made up of colored people, or that the bank was owned by Jews, but racial hatred as a motivator does not change the fact that it was a church that was targeted.

Stephanie Gowan
Stephanie Gowan

The bible says we have a need and a right to defend ourselves... ◄ Luke 22:36 ► He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.

Duke
Duke

I bet they didn't get all riled up about separation of church and state huh??

Mustapha Jallow
Mustapha Jallow

@Mathew Heath ...Jesus and David with the Israelite where two separate time ....so yes physically there is no way he could have told David and the Israelite to stand down and allowed to be murdered as u said ... don't know where u learn that from.....

Matt Miller
Matt Miller

The conflict comes with the life of Jesus. He said His kingdom is not of this world. You can't compare a Christian's life with direct orders from God to Israel. It's not the same. Jesus said if someone tries to steal your shirt then give them your coat also. He didn't say defend yourself because they are evil. To honest I'm not that conflicted on self interest. I think when it comes to self it's pretty clear that we are not supposed to defend ourselves. Where my conflict comes is defending others. I do think it's right to defend somebody else who is in danger but the two together tend to get me confused sometimes. Maybe I just need to study the scriptures out more on the subject and ask God to help me with the answer.

Jondarmes
Jondarmes

And just how am I supposed to defend others if I don't defend myself?? You can't love others if you do not love yourself first, you can't defend others if you won't defend yourself first. You go ahead and wait on the Lord, call me impatient but I'll shoot the suckers in the head. It's better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.

Kendrick Hill
Kendrick Hill

Natalie McLeister Smith, Webster Dictionary Racist: belief that certain races of people are by birth and nature superior to others.

Brad Davis
Brad Davis

Speaking as a pastor, the day my congregation brings guns to worship is the day they begin looking for a new pastor

Jondarmes
Jondarmes

Speaking as a congregant, the day my pastor starts worrying about my carrying a gun to worship, that's the day I start looking for another church.

James Heath
James Heath

Harold Golen, God and Jesus are not separate, so both the New and the Old Testament count and there are plenty of examples of God telling the Jews to arm themselves and kill the enemy. I will take a peek at the New Testament also to see if I can refute you from the New Testament alone. I am well aware that Jesus said if someone should strike you offer them the other cheek. He did not say offer them your throat to be slit.

David Beilstein
David Beilstein

Conflating religion into politics is a disgrace to the gospel, and a distortion of the role and character of self-government. Christendom wasn't any more free than other all encompassing, aspects of tyrannical governance.

Natalie McLeister Smith
Natalie McLeister Smith

Matt Miller. Why conflict? self defense is not murder. War is something God told Israel to do, especially when it was conquering evil. There has been an ongoing war between good and evil since the fall of Satan - both spiritual and in this world. Sometime prayer is the answer and sometimes it requires physical action.

Matt Miller
Matt Miller

Robert how did Jesus do good to those crucifying Him on the cross? He prayed for them. The thoughts of self defense and war have always been an issue of conflict within myself ever since I became a Christian but I do feel I could at least address your question.

Carlin Jett
Carlin Jett

Exactly! "Dont fear them"!! I wouldnt be afraid if i had a gun!!

pstern0349
pstern0349

"If" you had a gun?  Why don't you have a gun?

Nathunn Lilly
Nathunn Lilly

Dont be scared of the world....lets not start bring guns to church

pstern0349
pstern0349

And yet the world is a scary place.  Guns are for defense, not for criminal and/or offensive behavior.  Guns are used when necessary.

Kendrick Hill
Kendrick Hill

A gun does nothing unless you see the threat before it is carried out. Besides, had one of those black people shot and killed Roof. They would've been under the jail right now. There was no way, no how, that any American jury would've believed a sweet young white male walked into a Church and threaten to kill innocent black people. Guilty before trial started, and that's just how it is in America

pstern0349
pstern0349

Not quite. re: the American jury.

Jondarmes
Jondarmes

Better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6. Shoot them in the head, then it's your word against theirs, and they have the right to remain silent.

2brknot2b
2brknot2b

That's an asinine statement, Kendrick Hill. I know if I saw someone was acting in self defense, whether white from black, or vice versa, there is no way in hell I'd convict the person doing due diligence with self defense.