Would Jesus pack heat?

An easy question you say, since Jesus told his followers to “turn the other cheek”, and this quote is often quoted by those opposing all war or violence of any sort…mainly by those living in safe suburbs and working in tenured academic jobs.

Yet this article states that some pastors in the Detroit area are bringing guns to church.

The reason? The high crime rate, the large number of unsolved murders in Detroit, and of course the danger that someone (an anti religious nutcase or a disgruntled boyfriend) will decide that those in churches will make it easy for them to kill.

I speak from personal experience. In places where civil disorder is allowed, some people will decide it is “cost effective” to rob, cheat, or kill rather than to find a job. And of course it is also “cost effective” to chose the “soft targets” for one’s financial advantage: which means attacking the old, women, and “do gooders” of all sorts.

In Africa, this meant that “insurgents” needing money or out for “fun” would aim at mission hospitals to rob, rape and kill: Because they knew we were unarmed.

But similar “soft targets” can be found in the US.

My cousin, a nun teaching at an inner city school, confronted a robber who had just assaulted an elderly nun. My cousin chased him away (I believe her weapon of choice was a tennis racket) but not before he broke her arm.

So how is a Christian to confront evil? Shall we pack guns in our churches for protection, or “turn the other cheek” when evildoers shoot the innocent?

One has to put all of this into cultural context. When Jesus told them to “turn the other cheek”, he was talking about how to react when Roman soldiers pushed them around (as can be seen by the next remark, which advised them not to object when told to carry a load one mile, but instead carry it two miles).

Jesus, for better or worse, lived in a country that was run by outsiders who were greatly resented by locals, but he recognized that rebellion was not the way to go, especially since those authorities kept the peace and protected ordinary poor folks from brigards and gangs.

Indeed, it is interesting to note that although Jesus didn’t “pack” a weapon, Peter did (presumably for protection against thieves along deserted highways where brigands were common): and one can interpret the reason Jesus told him to put his sword away when the legal authorities arrested Jesus on a fake charge was because Jesus knew if they resisted, a real uprising could start (with dire results to the country, as history later would prove).

The article seems to be about the way that Christians confront evil. But there is a “ghost” in the article:

Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of an armed clergy, because Christ preached against violence and taught people they should love their enemies.

“But the Scriptures also are clear that civil authority is part of God’s plan,” said Claude Wiggins, a former pastor and current assistant at the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.

Where are the civil authorities?

Where are the police? Who is protecting the innocent? Why does an American city allow predators to terrorize pastors and their flock?

The article “blames” the increase in crime on the “recession”, but the murder rate in Detroit has been high for years.

Indeed, for years “Devil’s Night” in Detroit was a time of rioting and arson

The destruction reached a peak in the mid- to late-1980s, with more than 800 fires set in 1984, and 500 to 800 fires in the three days and nights before Halloween in a typical year.

Yet at one point, the pastors had enough, and cooperated with the mayor to organize citizen patrols.

After a brutal Devil’s Night in 1994, then new mayor Dennis Archer promised city residents arson would not be tolerated. In 1995, Detroit city officials organized and created Angel’s Night on and around October 29-31. Each year as many as 50,000 volunteers gather to patrol neighborhoods.[3] Additionally, youth curfews in the city as early as 6 P.M. are instituted on the days before Halloween.

The community’s program continues to this day:

Many residents will sit on their front porches, watching for prospective arsonists. Wooden boards have been placed across the doors and windows of vacant buildings to keep out intruders. On street posts and buildings across the city, there are signs saying, “THIS BUILDING IS BEING WATCHED,”… Detroit’s mayor, Dave Bing, said in an interview earlier this week… “.. we need to be observant, and I think our community has gotten engaged.”

So, with the help of the pastors, Devil’s night has been defeated. Fires still occur, but they are few next to what they had been in the past.

So my answer to all of this? Yes, Christians are allowed to carry weapons and use them for self defense and for defense of the innocent, if there is no other choice.

Yet what is really needed in Detroit is a community that stops being complacent and demands that the government protect them. Protection of the citizens is the first duty of government, and one of the duties of pastors may be to encourage their people to become politically active and throw out the bums who are allowing the predators to terrorize locals.

Can it be done? Well, Mayor Guilliani turned around New York City, so presumably Detroit can do the same.

And once you get rid of the impression of disorder, crime and chaos, the businesses will come back.

No one will say so, but one reason that certain Asian car companies placed their factories in the Southern US rather than in Detroit was the impression that in the south they could find honest workers to do a day’s work without the problems of crime and drugs that had plagued the US car makers in Detroit.

Detroit’s problems, from drugs to thugs, are moral problems, and this, not being half trained security guards,  is the real job of the pastors: to form the characters of their church members, and to preach to the lost sheep.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind clinic and Fishmarket.

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