Favorite

Guns in the sanctuary 

House Bill 1237, which is before the Arkansas legislature, would remove churches and other places of worship from the list of prohibited places for a person licensed to carry a concealed handgun. Congregations wishing to opt out would have to post a notice in plain sight.

Proponents of the bill point to cases in recent years where worshippers have been attacked or killed while on the grounds of a church or synagogue. Nonetheless, this act feels to me more like an attempt to expand the rights of gun owners than to protect those attending worship.

If the safety of those attending worship is the real issue, then uniformed security personnel — armed or not — would be a far greater deterrent to violence than the possibility that someone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon might actually have done so at any given service of worship.

Further, if there were to be an incident inside a place of worship, what would someone with a concealed weapon do? A confrontation between armed individuals could put bystanders at far greater risk.

For centuries places of worship have been considered “sanctuaries” from the world and its violence. In many places, a man fleeing for his life was allowed by law to take shelter inside certain churches until the matter could be sorted out. In case the church was locked there were often large rings on the doors that acted like “base” in freeze tag. Holding that ring offered the same protection as entering the church. The murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket as he stood at the altar of Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 was considered all the more heinous because it violated the sanctity of the sanctuary.

The historic significance of “sanctuary” notwithstanding, the church as a community of faith is not guaranteed greater protection from the world than any other entity. In fact Christians worship a God who, in the person of Jesus Christ, died a horrific death for the sake of the world.

For this reason Christians are called to live lives of greater vulnerability to the world, not greater safety from it. As long as anyone is at risk from gun violence — students, teachers, doctors, law enforcement officials, elected leaders, cultural or ethnic minorities — the church has a share in that risk and an obligation to demonstrate the resolve for love over violence.

I am not insensitive to the danger. But it concerns me that the bill under consideration would fundamentally alter one normative aspect of the relationship between churches and the state. Already those for whom it is legal to carry a firearm in plain sight may do so on church grounds. Now the state would create the assumption that legally possessed firearms may be carried onto any and all religious property at any time unless otherwise stated. That is not a decision the state should make. Churches should be assumed as off-limits to concealed weapons, not the other way around.

My prayer is that no congregation or religious body will ever have to experience violence. In the meantime I hope the state of Arkansas will not encroach on the fundamental nature of religious institutions as places of worship engaged in the search for wholeness and health. If nothing else, it should be assumed that our houses of worship stand as reminders of God's peaceable kingdom and as beacons of light and life, especially in such a storm-tossed world.

 

Rev. Jim Freeman is interim pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church of Pine Bluff.

 

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Why a change of leadership at the LRSD now?

    Johnny Key's abrupt, unilateral decision to not renew Baker Kurrus' contract as superintendent strikes us as shortsighted, misguided and detrimental to the education of our children and the health of our community.
    • Apr 21, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • War reporter

    Ray Moseley: Native Texan. Naturalized Arkansan. Reporter, world traveler, confidant of Queen Elizabeth II.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • Vote no on school tax

    I have never voted against a school tax in my life, but I will be voting against the debt service millage extension for the Little Rock School District.
    • May 4, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Another Jesus

    • The first commandment directly contradicts the first amendment.

    • on July 21, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • Arkyguy, try Numbers 31:17-18.

      Bishop?

    • on July 21, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • And I quote: "Sounds like maybe some of those descriptors hit a little close to…

    • on July 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation