Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Violence, Security, and Church

I was reading this post last week about armed guards being posted at a church. The ensuing discussion in the comments has been quite enlightening, ranging from gun control policy to Biblical support for self-defense. I then happened upon this post today about what these types actions (armed security guards, locked doors during services, etc.) communicate. I also had a recent discussion with a few pastors over lunch about guns and church. All of this raises a number of questions in my mind:
  • Is it ever okay to use gun violence for self-protection? If so, to what extent?
  • What are the potential motives for churches having armed security?
  • Is it ever okay to have armed guards at church gatherings? 
  • What could armed security communicate about the church?
  • What does Scripture say about this?
These questions have immediate relevance for me. We have an armed police officer standing watch during our Wednesday night gatherings. Yet as far as I know, we don't have an armed guard on Sunday morning gatherings. I view this as being a part of creating a safe environment for children and students. On the other hand, I could also see how this could be subtly motivated by fear (as opposed to motivated by love).

What do you think? Is armed security at church gatherings ever appropriate?


  1. I think it would be hard to say that it is NEVER appropriate. We have security, but to my knowledge they've only been armed once (with good reason). I have lots of thoughts on security for churches and pastors, most of which I don't talk about unless I'm one on one. In the end though, I think most people have good reasons behind their security, and (as with everything else in life) we need to assume best intentions with people instead of the worst.

    That probably didn't answer your questions at all. And was probably way too cryptic. But there it is anyway ...

  2. Lori, thanks for your thoughts! This is something I've been thinking about and wrestling with lately, mostly because I can see so many different yet valid perspectives. My greatest concern is being driven by a motive to love others and seek the best for them; if security is driven by that, such as a parent protecting their children, then it seems like a great idea. But if it's driven by a mentality of fear, trying to keep people who seem different out of church, or "we have to protect our expensive stuff" instead of protecting people, then I'm not sure that's the best idea.

    I bet security is a very different issue for a church like Central in Vegas--large, multi-site, urban--than for a tiny suburban church in Mesa or a house church in Ireland or Germany.

    (By the way, just listened to Jud's sermon a week or two ago about hell, and it was incredibly insightful and challenging for me!)

  3. I think you are totally right about the motivation thing Joel! I guess some people might think it would make them feel important or something too. I can't imagine that honestly. Mainly it makes me feel a little uncomfortable and slightly obnoxious. But you'll do lots of things that you aren't super comfortable with to make sure your kids are safe. I'm sure parents that send their kids to your group would agree. We've thought a million times about canceling ours, but when we think of the possibilities of something happening and how we could have everything in place and prepared we always leave it alone.

    Just the fact that you are so aware, shows that you must have a great heart to make sure all of the kids feel welcome. I'm sure no one would second guess your motives! But I certainly understand the thoughts behind it!

    And thanks for listening to Jud's sermon. That was a challenging week for him ... no one like to get up and talk about hell. I'll pass that encouragement along!!

  4. WOW! UMMMMM. Do you watch the news. I mean there are people out there that send death threats to pastors and christian speakers all the time. I mean look at the world we live in. Just the other day an eight year old boy executed his dad and his dads best friend with a rifle.

    Also do a search for Church Shootings on google. You will be shock on how many articles pop up about people that open fire inside of church and shoot, injure and kill random people. I dont know about you but I would like to think that there is someone inside the church that is trained too, could take them out or keep them from hurting anyone else.

    I know I would feel somewhat responsible if something happened at my church and I didn't do anything to try and stop the person shooting or hurting someone. I think there is a difference in letting people know that you are armed and ready to take action then there is just looking like just another member of the church knowing that you are armed and prepared to due what it takes if someone did try to open fire inside of my church.

    I hope this just gives you another perspective on this topic. I hate to say it, but that is just how this world is now.

  5. Anonymous,
    Thanks for adding to the conversation! While I don't know you--you're anonymous!--so I can't speak about your heart, I wonder if the motive of your comment is more driven by fear than love. It sounds like the fear of American church shootings, gun violence, and death threats to pastors is the central theme. Your view "that is just how this world is now" also sounds a bit defeatist, as if we should just go with the flow of a violent culture instead of respond in Christlike love. And that's what has me concerned, that fear would drive people to try to protect themselves by any means necessary--even violent means.

    I also did Google church shootings, and found it curious that the vast majority were in America; there is almost zero news about church shootings happening elsewhere in the world. I dunno if that's just Google's results, or a trend in American culture.

    I'm not saying that if a violent situation arose at a church that everyone should passively allow it to happen and allow violence to occur. I'm also not saying it's inappropriate to have security at a church gathering. But I am asking questions about the motives for such actions and wondering what a love-driven, God-honoring response would be in my own context.

    (I hope that my questioning of the motives behind your response doesn't make me sound judgmental...I really appreciate the comment!)