Should we be arming parishioners?

    

What to do about these shootings? I wish I had the answer. As those on the right offer “thoughts and prayers,” and those on the left suggest policies that will never see daylight, the answer we’re left with is: nothing.

Or, that we should arm ourselves and be ready to fire when another gun-wielder comes along. That’s Jerry Falwell Jr.’s solution. He recently urged students at his university to carry concealed weapons so they could “end those Muslims before they walked in.” He later insisted he didn’t mean to specify Muslims. After all, this is America. We shoot all threats, regardless of theology.

While Falwell can doubtless point to a slew of scriptural passages “proving” Christians should be armed, it may be worthwhile to survey how those of an earlier era responded to the issue of deadly threats.

The answer is far from monolithic. On one hand, we have examples of countless warrior saints who forcefully resisted persecutors seeking to harm Christ’s flock. Sergius of Radonezh blessed Prince Dimitry Donskoy as he battled to liberate Russia from the Muslim Tatar yoke, after centuries of oppression.

Tsar Lazar of Serbia led his armies in a fateful battle against Turkish conquerors at Kosovo, where he was beheaded on his knees, before the Sultan — and entered the calendar of saints. So any claim to pacifism as Christianity’s exclusive, historic norm would be hard pressed by contrary evidence.

Yet there’s also the compelling witness of martyrs, that to be slaughtered for Christ is gain, and one shouldn’t forsake it by resisting temporary death. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a second-century bishop, begged influential Christians at Rome not to lobby for his release, as he was transported to die in the arena. He expressed a desire to be ground between the lions’ teeth, and become flour for the pure loaf of the Eucharist.

The question of armed security, or parishioners carrying concealed weapons in church, was raised at an Orthodox clergy gathering I recently attended, and most were of two minds, reflecting a diversity of precedents. Ultimately, we could only decide this is a complex issue that defies uniform policy.

As a priest, I’m forbidden from shedding blood or bearing arms. And I’m deeply concerned for the spiritual health of the gun obsessed, especially when they’re called “pastor.” But professionals who choose a life of public service that involves armed defense have my complete respect.

I think I could bless such professionals in my parish to carry, but not civilians — because someone with more zeal than discernment creates a liability, and because I can’t square armed self-defense in church, with the witness of the martyrs.

To be killed in church was an opportunity many of them died for. For the record, it’s one I’d prefer not to have. But not one I’d urge my flock to get ready to kill, in order to avoid.

Fr. Barnabas Powell

12/28/2015

See also
A Tragic Incident at the Church of St Andrew, Lattakia A Tragic Incident at the Church of St Andrew, Lattakia A Tragic Incident at the Church of St Andrew, Lattakia A Tragic Incident at the Church of St Andrew, Lattakia
Last but not least, we ask our faithful brethren to pray to ward off every danger and harm and danger from the children of our flock and all our people. We request that all the faithful brethren assist the security officials if they know of weapons in the possession of individuals that have been committing crime and causing harm to all.
Metropolitan Hilarion’s address to the united session of the Federation Council and the State Duma Metropolitan Hilarion’s address to the united session of the Federation Council and the State Duma Metropolitan Hilarion’s address to the united session of the Federation Council and the State Duma Terrorism is Satanism
Metropolitan Hilarion's (Alfeyev) address to the Russian Duma
Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev)
We must clearly realize that it is not a war of one religious confession against another. The very notion of ‘religious terrorism’ can only lead us astray. There is no religious terrorism whatsoever.
Double suicide attack in Beirut: a Lebanese man tried to prevent the explosion at the cost of his own life Double suicide attack in Beirut: a Lebanese man tried to prevent the explosion at the cost of his own life Double suicide attack in Beirut: a Lebanese man tried to prevent the explosion at the cost of his own life Double suicide attack in Beirut: a Lebanese man tried to prevent the explosion at the cost of his own life
A series of explosions on November 12 in Beirut claimed the lives of 43 people, with more than 340 injured. IS militants have claimed responsibility for the outrage.
Christ is Our Peace Christ is Our Peace
Archpriest Alexander Rentel
Christ is Our Peace Christ is Our Peace
Archpriest Alexander Rentel
"I began today speaking of tragedy. I end today speaking of reassurance, comfort, support, encouragement, hope, and faith, because we are “not like those who have no hope.” We have Christ. We have faith in Christ. We have Peace. He alone is our answer to what ails us and afflicts the world."
Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA: Our Prayers are with the People of France Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA: Our Prayers are with the People of France Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA: Our Prayers are with the People of France Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA: Our Prayers are with the People of France
As we now pause to remember the lost lives of so many innocent victims, let us also remember the great acts of self-sacrifice, heroism, and compassion that will never be forgotten, as so many offered their lives for the safety and well being of others.
Gunman kills two in church off Russia's eastern coast Gunman kills two in church off Russia's eastern coast Gunman kills two in church off Russia's eastern coast Gunman kills two in church off Russia's eastern coast
A gunman opened fire on Sunday in a Russian Orthodox cathedral on the island of Sakhalin, off Russia's eastern coast, killing a nun and a churchgoer and wounding six other people.
Comments
Frank1/12/2016 5:10 pm
As I come to understand the faith, more and more I discover that nothing can be generalized and everything must be broken down for each situation. Lets attempt to break the topic down by different scenarios.

Scenario 1.
A family is out shopping and while in the parking lot a robber comes and threatens to kill a mans family. The husband carries a firearm in case of such a situation and defends his family from the robber by any means necessary. May I be forgiven if I'm incorrect, but this would seem justified. The robber is not attacking you because you are a Christian, nor for the sake of Christ, but simply to rob and murder for money. This scenario seems obvious and can be planned for.

Scenario 2.
A congregation is worshiping in Church. A man enters the Church and is obviously there to kill those for their love for Christ. Of course everyone would attempt to lay down their life for their friends, people would try to stop the man, people would shield their families. However would a Christian kill anyone in or out of the Church because they are being persecuted for Christ? I don't see how this could ever be justified. My understanding is that we should not purposelessly seek martyrdom, but how could one choose murder and to deny martyrdom for the sake of our Lord.
If we are true believers and are alive in Christ. If we have nothing to loose and everything to gain, and actually believe what we profess to believe then the answer is obvious. This also can be planned for.
Frank1/12/2016 4:34 am
As I come to understand the true faith, more and more I discover that nothing can be generalized and everything must be broken down for each situation.

Scenario 1.
A family is out shopping and while in the parking lot a robber comes and threatens to kill a mans family. The husband carries a firearm in case of such a situation and defends his family from the robber by any means necessary. May I be forgiven if I'm incorrect, but this would seem justified. The robber is not attacking you because you are a Christian, nor for the sake of Christ, but simply to rob and murder for money. This scenario seems obvious and can be planned for.

Scenario 2.
A congregation is worshiping in Church. A man enters the Church and is obviously there to kill those for their love for Christ. Of course everyone would attempt to lay down their life for their friends, people would try to stop the man, people would shield their families. However would a Christian kill anyone in or out of the Church because they are being persecuted for Christ? I don't see how this could ever be justified. My understanding is that we should not purposelessly seek martyrdom, but how could one choose murder and to deny martyrdom for the sake of our Lord.
If we are true believers and are alive in Christ. If we have nothing to loose and everything to gain, and actually believe what we profess to believe then the answer is obvious. This too can be planned for.

Clyde Washburn12/31/2015 2:11 am
"but not civilians — because someone with more zeal than discernment creates a liability" The assumption that is true is offensive to Orthodox believers who have taken the time and effort to acquire skill and judgement in the use of arms. And the assumption that "professionals" are clearly more highly skilled and better in judgement is not justified by the facts, as problematic police behavior sadly attests. The further assumption that someone who is not law enforcement but has guns is "obsessed" and in poor spiritual health is not a worthy attitude for a pastor toward the individual souls of the faithful.
Sally Iloff12/28/2015 9:38 pm
Wonderfully said!
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