I'm still reeling a bit from the news of last Sunday. My heart goes out to the people Sutherland Springs, Texas. I am always deeply affected by mass shootings. They seem to be happening with increasing regularity. This one hits home even harder, not just because it was in a church, but because the pastor's daughter was one of the victims. It breaks my heart putting myself in that pastor's shoes, wondering if my calling but my children's lives in danger. It's almost more than I can handle.
This most recent shooting adds more fuel to the ever raging gun debate, a debate that seems to generate more heat than light. No one with any real power seems willing to offer up any more than the well worn "thoughts and prayers" that just seem to ring hollow. It's frustrating because at time it feels so hopeless.
There is another debate, though, one that gets far less attention but one in which we do have power. Because of this shooting, a conversation has been revived about whether or not there should be security (i.e. guns) present in the church buildings. This is our domain and here we do have influence. And now I'll switch from "we" to "I" language. I will never serve a church that allows guns in for security. That is a non-negotiable for me.
A mentor of mine once described the church as an embassy of heaven. When you are in an embassy, though you are physically in one country, you are legally in the land represented by the building and subject to its laws. Now however you define "heaven", a literal place we go to when we pass or an expression of the kingdom of God, we understand it being governed by a different set of rules as those we see in the world around us. We are governed by a rule of love of neighbor, not fear of them. Yes... that may mean making us vulnerable in some ways, but vulnerability is a part of love. In some ways, the search for safety has been the American church's greatest sin. Churches left the cities when demographics changed because of "safety", leaving behind the very vulnerable people we are called to serve.
I imagine that I am preaching to the choir here. If I'm not, I'd love to hear your thoughts, but I feel strongly that the church has to be a place that models something different to the rest of the world. "Welcome" is one of the values we profess and few things are less welcoming to me than guns. As intractable as the positions in this debate sometimes seem, we can make a positive statement that our security is found in God alone.