There’s no doubt Christianity is facing headwinds in America these days – just look at the case of the Kentucky clerk ordered by Judge David Bunning to jail over standing by her Christian faith.
Or the bakers, the photographers and others who have been penalized for refusing to promote and support “same-sex marriage.”
But it is really time for church leaders to lock and load?
“Statistically, an attack won’t happen to your church,” said pastor, former law enforcement officer and talk show host Carl Gallups.
“But they do happen. We need to be prepared for the possibility,” he said during a recent interview on SkyWatch about his new book “Be Thou Prepared,” which shows Christians how to form a security ministry team.
“We have a basic responsibility to provide for the basic expected security for those who come to your church,” he said.
Only a few months ago, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was attacked. Suspect Dylann Roof was arrested and is facing a long list of criminal charges for the incident.
As Gallups pointed out, the killer sat through a prayer meeting for more than an hour before starting the attack. After he started shooting, he was able to reload five times, while victims were helpless.
One of the reasons, Gallups noted, is that the law prohibited congregants from being armed.
“Shooters look for areas that are soft targets,” observed Gallups. “The state law forbids the possession of concealed weapons in churches. The shooter knew it was a gun free zone.”
Because of the collapse of public morality, what Gallups termed “the societal changes we are going through,” such incidents are becoming more common. And it is time, Gallups believes, for churches to rise up and take note.
Preparedness, Gallups points out, doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen.
“It does mean you have a fighting chance. You’re not sitting there waiting for your bullet. You’re not a sitting duck.”
Other Christians have faced this horrific scenario, notably Charl van Wyk of South Africa. On July 23, 1993, he was attending services at St. James Church in Cape Town when members of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army attacked, killing 11 people and wounding 58. He was able to defend the church with a .38 revolver, driving off the terrorists.
He tells his story in “Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense.”
And he spoke to WND on the biblical basis for Christians to defend themselves and their families.
“Looking at the whole idea, the whole Christian perspective on self-defense, Exodus 22 tells us that if we are in a life threatening situation, we can take the lethal force to protect ourselves,” argued van Wyk. “It talks about when ‘the sun is up,’ in other words, when there is not a life threatening situation, you may not use lethal force. That’s a Scripture that gives us a basis.”
He also sees a biblical basis for self-defense in the New Testament.
“From there we can also go to Luke 22 where Jesus tells his disciples to purchase a sword, which was the finest military weapon of their time. He says if you don’t have one then sell your cloak and buy one. And later we see Peter using that same sword that Jesus Christ told him to buy and he takes off the ear of Marcus, one of the soldiers who came with the high priest.
“Many people say well, there Jesus told him to get rid of his sword, you mustn’t have a sword, we must be ‘sword-free,’ as in ‘gun-free.’ But if we look at the Scripture really clearly, Jesus tells him to put the sword in its place. He doesn’t say get rid of it, because He just told him to purchase it. And the idea there is that Jesus didn’t need a human sword to protect him. In fact, He says I can call down a legion of angels to protect me.”
Van Wyk also draws attention to Proverbs 25:26, which states, “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked.”
“We’re not called to be doormats,” he said.
“We need to protect the innocent, and we need to stand up for righteousness and truth,” he argues. “And those are areas we sometimes struggle in as Christians. We often prefer cowardice to Christianity and standing up for righteousness and showing our love to others by protecting them.
“It’s not just a matter of having a right to self-defense. It’s a responsibility we as Christians have. And whether you’re going to use a baseball bat or a firearm, either way we need to protect the innocent.”
But such an opinion remains controversial among some Christians, as Carl Gallups learned. SkyWatch covers controversial topics of interest to Christian audiences, and was co-founded by Christian TV personality Gary Stearman and author Tom Horn, who is prominently featured in the WND produced film “The Last Pope.”
So it’s not surprising the conversation turned to theology. Gallups was pressed on whether Christians have a valid biblical basis for defending themselves when they are enjoined by Jesus to “turn the other cheek.”
Gallups said context is important.
“So tonight at 3 o’clock in the morning, you hear a big boom and you realize your front door’s been kicked down and a couple guys walk in with baseball bats and machetes and they’re walking down the hall to your little children’s room. And they say to you, you stay here, we’re going to do whatever we want to your children. And I say, you know what, I’m a Christian, I’m going to turn the other cheek.”
He said, “I don’t think any Christian would say that. You’re going to defend your family.”
He continued, “The turn the other cheek, the context of that means in the day to day living, Christians should not be bowed up and looking for a fight. Christians should look for every opportunity to show grace and mercy. Christians should look for every opportunity to advance the kingdom. That’s why it says if you’re asked to walk a mile, walk another mile if you can, if you are asked to give your shirt, give your coat if you can. Just display the love of God and the love of Christ if you can.
“But what it was not is a blanket statement for letting the world do to you what they want to. If that were the case, every Christian would have been dead thousands of years ago. The same culture in which Jesus was speaking would have annihilated all of them.”
Gallups says he wrote “Be Thou Prepared” to show Christians how to meet the threats to their families and friends. And pastors, he believes, have a special duty.
“It is your responsibility to protect the innocent around you, first and foremost your own family and children. And so, I’m a pastor, I consider the church to be kind of my family and my responsibility.
“I’m the shepherd of that flock, and so I get my leaders around me, we have meetings, we develop security protocol, and we inform the church, we let them know how they can be a part of it and the reasonable expectations they can have of it. Then we get on with life. But we’re prepared.”