“And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep, for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” Rom. 13:11. I write this sitting here in anger and frustration, appalled by the massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs Texas. As Christians, we stand for resistance to and the defeat of such evil, and yet, the vast majority of American congregations are unprepared for it.
Christianity is not merely about decisions concerning the afterlife, otherwise, Jesus would not of have said, “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Jn.10:10. Nor would God have said through Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not calamity, to give you a future and a hope!” Jer.29:11. God is concerned about our lives here as well!
The issue of self-defense concerns decisions of survival for the individual. It can also decide the fate of a nation and its citizens. Survival is the most basic of instincts. Without it and the means to secure it, there is no family, community, culture, or state. Unless a person survives, he cannot pass on his genes, values, or beliefs; and religious beliefs themselves can affect one’s survival. It can also decide the fate of a nation and its citizens. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Tim.5:8 [emphasis added].
We must recognize that along that if Satan cannot delude us, he will not hesitate to destroy us. Satan is a murderer and the father of lies. Jn.8:44. One of his biggest lies down through the ages is that pacifism comes from the Bible. It does not! Neither Jesus, nor His apostles, nor did any New testament writer teach pacifism. In fact, every opportunity Jesus had to teach pacifism, he turned it down and taught self-defense instead! I’ve covered this fact in prior columns. Let’s be clear, when read in the context of the entire Bible, God not only allows, but commands us to defend the innocent with all legal force! For a complete treatment and study of this Biblical fact, read my book, A Time to Kill: The Myth of Christian Pacifism.
I train armed church security teams in the law of self-defense for 10 hours over two days. I spend the first day showing team members specifically from God’s Word that defending the innocent by force is a holy act, blessed by God! An absolute requirement of successful self-defense for any person is to first be at peace with the idea of taking a criminal’s life. You must be convinced that Jesus allows it, or at that crucial moment when lives depend on your decisive action, you will hesitate. Your hesitation could lead to the killer stepping over your now useless weapon and body and going on to slaughter innocents. This is not a matter of “See something, say something.” Under the conditions of an active shooter, that’s too late. Now it’s time to do something decisive! “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity [fear], but of power, and love, and of sound judgment. 2 Tim. 1:7.
The second thing we need to do is realize that such things are possible! There are no longer any sacred or safe spaces that are universally respected in this world. We are short on details about this massacre or the killer’s motives, but we can make some educated guesses. It is a small church in a small community, therefore, it’s logical to assume that the murderer had a personal beef with someone who attended there, or some group, that caused him to direct his rage at the entire congregation. Otherwise, he is a psycho who was obsessed with a suicidal mania to run up the highest body count possible.
Beyond lone killers, US law enforcement has known since 1997 that churches are considered prime targets by radical Muslims. We must start realizing that such violence is possible. Just last night, I was surprised by a Black Widow spider crawling up from behind my toilet tank. Before I sent it to that Big Cobweb in the Sky, I hesitated briefly in disbelief. Though I knew intellectually that Black widows can be found throughout much of the US, I had never seen one in person “in the wild”, let alone in my house! My hesitation was based on the contrary thoughts of knowing what it was, and yet dumbfounded that it had found its way into my sanctuary! “This can’t be happening!” I thought, even as I reached for my shoe to kill it. My momentary disbelief was quickly overcome by the facts: this is a dangerous, possibly deadly intruder in my home, he cannot be allowed to escape to endanger me, my family or pets. The facts drove my actions and my actions made her an ex-spider. In the same way, the Christian community must overcome our denial, misapprehensions, and ignorance about what God commands us to do in the face of those who would harm or kill innocents. “You shall not stand idly by and watch your brother’s blood be shed…You shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord.” Lev. 19:16, 18.
Having accepted the facts of life (and death), we then must prepare to defend ourselves. Two good books I recommend are Ron Aguiar’s Keeping Your Church Safe and Carl Chinn’s Evil Invades Sanctuary. You will need to form a security team and have the cooperation of your local church leaders and your congregation. Many larger churches also hire off-duty cops to help them. However, hired law enforcement is not a complete answer; you need layers of security starting out in your parking lot, to the entrances, and to individual areas of the building, especially where children are. This should include strict control over who can pick up kids, surveillance cameras, personal radios among team members, training in use-of-force and trespass law, trauma first-aid, non-lethal force and weapons, and de-escalation techniques.
The minister at Sutherland Springs said, “This kind of thing is the furthest thing from your mind.” My reply, “It should not be!” Just because you attend a small, rural church like this, don’t think you are less of a target. Your church’s rural location may be considered an advantage by a mass killer. Remote locations mean longer response times by Sheriff’s, EMT’s and Firefighters, giving more time for murderers to do more damage or to escape on rural roads. Nehemiah, faced with enemies all around as he rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls, had each builder keep his weapons by him, while others guarded in full readiness. “But we prayed to our God and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night.” Neh.4:9, 12-23.
The mass murderer is dead, mortally wounded by an armed citizen after his rampage and chased down by cops short distance away. But what if he had been confronted by armed, trained, security team member or three before he got in? At least 50% of the time mass killers are confronted by armed defenders, they commit suicide! At the very least, an armed church member could have distracted or killed the killer before he did much damage, as happened to the church murderer in Tennessee in September. Paul tells us to “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong! Let all you do be done in love.” 1 Cor. 16:13-14. Love God’s people as much as you love your family. Be prepared mentally, spiritually and physically to defend and preserve their lives and well-being against evil.
Obey God’s command to rescue the innocent.
Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter. O, hold them back! If you say, “See we did not know this.” Does He not consider it Who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it Who keeps your soul? And will He not render to a man according to his work?
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