Friday, January 21, 2011

No, who is my neighbor, really?


As Zachary Roth reported, Bossier Parish is home to Sheriff Larry Deen, who last year launched "Operation Exodus" -- an effort to arm volunteers with "shotguns, riot shields, batons, and a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on a 'war wagon.'" Deen explained at the time that "recent terror threats" have shown that there are "homegrown terrorists are in our midst."

"Over the past several years, the violence has gotten worse and worse" said Jim Middleton, one current trainee. "I'd rather be proactive than working after the fact. We're all in God's army, and you don't see any army going to war unarmed."

Louisiana State Rep. Henry Burns (R), who wrote the original legislation, visited the class, and told the trainees that "each and every one of you here are patriots because you care to provide protection to the innocent. We should be able to worship our Lord without fear."

Burns told TPM last May, after the legislation passed the state House, that the law was for "those unique situations where maybe a church can't afford law enforcement," but churchgoers want to protect themselves.

A church is "really no safe haven," he said.
First, the whole notion that one more gun will make you safe is nuts:

I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready," he explained on Fox and Friends. "I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this." Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. "And that's who I at first thought was the shooter," Zamudio recalled. "I told him to 'Drop it, drop it!' "

But the man with the gun wasn't the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. "Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess," the interviewer pointed out.

Zamudio agreed:

I was very lucky. Honestly, it was a matter of seconds. Two, maybe three seconds between when I came through the doorway and when I was laying on top of [the real shooter], holding him down. So, I mean, in that short amount of time I made a lot of really big decisions really fast. … I was really lucky.
Yes, and so were a lot of other people that day in Tucson. Now, how many shootings in churches have occurred recently? Google tells me there were shootings in 2008, 2009 and 2010 (about one a year). I don't think that makes churches less of a "safe haven" than anywhere else in American society. Allowing people to carry guns into church certainly makes them less safe. But the real question is: what are we so afraid of?

And there's a theological issue here, as well: aren't churches supposed to be places of hospitality? Isn't hospitality supposed to be the very heart of the Gospel? Maybe we need John Donne again:

Show me dear Christ, thy spouse so bright and clear.
What! is it she which on the other shore
Goes richly painted? or which, robb'd and tore,
Laments and mourns in Germany and here?
Sleeps she a thousand, then peeps up one year?
Is she self-truth, and errs? now new, now outwore?
Doth she, and did she, and shall she evermore
On one, on seven, or on no hill appear?
Dwells she with us, or like adventuring knights
First travel we to seek, and then make love?
Betray, kind husband, thy spouse to our sights,
And let mine amorous soul court thy mild Dove,
Who is most true and pleasing to thee then
When she'is embrac'd and open to most men.
--John Donne

Or maybe we need to wrestle again with how we sing the Lord's song in a strange (sorry, Louisiana; you know I love you) land? And does that song end with a bang? Or a prayer?

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