Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

When We Give Away Guns In Church: Bad Idea, or Really Horrible Idea?

It seems there’s a growing trend in some churches of giving away free guns in order to promote church growth. Back in March, a church ironically named “Grace” Baptist Church gave away a free AR-15 as part of an evangelism outreach dedicated to “hunters and gun owners who have been so viciously attacked by the antichristian socialist media and antichristian socialist politicians the last few years.”. (And who had a mocking use of scripture in their promotional image, above)

Or, there’s this example from Kentucky where the pastor states that the amount of men who will attend will be in direct correlation to the type of weapon they’re giving away that day:

So my question becomes: is this a bad idea? Or, is it a really, really horrible idea?

I could go either way.

Seems like bait and switch to lure people in with a gun and then teach them about the founder of our religion who famously taught to “put away your sword”, and “love your enemies”.

Well, I take that back– somehow I’m doubting these groups actually teach some of the key things Jesus taught, so there’s probably no bait and switch.

I find stories like these especially sad, because I appreciate the root intent: use creative ideas to introduce people to Jesus. I’m all for it. I would even be supportive if a church had a small group community based on a love of hunting together, and gave away a hunting rifle or a bow. That, it would seem, would be an appropriate use of contextualization.

But assault weapons designed to kill people in mass quantities? Turning the Gospel message into a 2nd Amendment rally? (see video above)

That one is either a bad idea or a really, really horrible idea.

I’ll probably plant my flag in “really, really horrible idea”.

What do you think?

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

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27 Responses

  1. I have never commented in a forum like this before, but this post jarred me. I am aware that American Christianity has gone off the tracks in many areas, but giving away guns in church. I would say “really repulsive idea”. How can we equate the sacrificial following of Christ in our lives and this?

  2. That is horrible that they used scripture in that way…but guns themselves are not bad they are tools.
    On one hand Jesus can be seen as authorizing s self-defense in Luke ( I know FF sees it as prophecy filling only) while also warning about the misuse of force that can lead to more violence. Paul whose letters give us a glimpse into Christianity even older than the Gospel accounts tells us Government is authorized by God to use the sword to keep order and punish. Peter (Jesus’s right hand man) tells us that we are also to respect the order of society. Jesus’s cousin/Baptizer John the Baptist tells soldiers to just do their job as protectors but not to abuse the power. Jesus himself says nothing bad about the Centurion. This gives credence to the pro self-defense reading of Luke.

    If we are just to follow a more strict Jesus only interpretation and follow him fundie-literally on peace you must also become a eunuch, convert to Judaism and follow Kosher law,tell remarried people they are sinning by having relations with their new spouse, and sell all of your possessions and travel live as a mendicant(see Tolstoy in his later years; he followed what he preached and has my respect for that).

    Like any teaching you have to look at culture and at surrounding evidence. But I respect those who go literal if they put in a good effort not to just make an idol out of one part of a teaching such as Peace, Love, End times etc… I have to work on this myself.
    So in conclusion be as peaceful as possible( hey be pacifistic if you want to),sometimes a rabid dog just needs to be shot,don’t become the next rabid dog.

  3. I was actually at the Wild Game Banquet mentioned in the video. I was 12 at the time, and as it was before President Obama was elected, it was not a rally. They served wild game that had been donated by people in the church, and the speaker essentially preached a sermon on seeing God in the outdoors. They did give away two guns, but they were both showpieces and it was as a surprise, they did not advertise the gun giveaway.

  4. The fact that the AR-15 has no other purpose than killing people is sad. When they support their fun by completely misusing scripture…that is what makes me sick.

    The verses they “used” ( and I do mean “used”) are:
    “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”John 14:26-28

    Do they not even see the peace provided by a gun is the worst kind of transient peace the world gives? If the other guy beats you to the draw or grabs your gun or has a bigger gun…no more “peace”. Only fear.

    And conveniently ignoring “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid ” , and replacing it with the fear mongering, “hunters and gun owners who have been so viciously attacked by the antichristian socialist media and antichristian socialist politicians the last few years.” This is what is so unlike Jesus.

    As Americans we do have the right to keep and bear arms. As Christ followers we do not have the right to ignore and misuse scripture to support that right.

  5. “… hunters and gun owners who have been so viciously attacked by the antichristian socialist media and antichristian socialist politicians the last few years.”

    Whoa, would this fellow like a dash of reason to season that rich broth of paranoia he’s stewing in?

    Also, what’s up with the constant socialist references? Our media is for-profit and there are very few politicians that identify as socialist. He keeps using that word. I don’t think it means what he think it means:-)

  6. Yeah, it’s a great marketing strategy, but a lousy evangelizing one. People will come for the gun, not for God; those who do find God while they’re there will actually find His doppelganger, a maleficent anathema that resembles our Creator in name only. (Think: Red, White and Blue Jesus sporting a machine gun.) Still, I’m torn on the concept of using creativity to bring people to Jesus. We’re swimming in murky waters here, folks, and I’m struggling for a lifeline. On the one hand, I’m with Benjamin: I do “appreciate the root intent” of employing “creative ideas to introduce people to Jesus.” On the other hand, there is a very fine line between bringing people to Jesus in love and metastasizing the gospel to collaborate with and conform to the surrounding culture. Some things are black and white, like giving away guns—you just don’t do it—but at the intersection of right and wrong, the manifold shades of gray are so nuanced that I simply can’t discern the thin red line between selling the gospel and selling it out. Where does creativity begin and accommodation end? (Hint: if you’re sending checks to a marketing firm, or if you have a P.R. agency on retainer, or if it should perhaps strike your fancy to hold a drawing for A MACHINE GUN, then you’re most likely shilling the gospel of man as a commodity when you should be sharing and living the gospel of Jesus Christ. But some perversions are more subtle than this, and that’s the problem.) Before I get too judgment-happy, though, perhaps I should take the log out of my eye (it’s a pretty big log) and ask myself: Have I done anything to bring people into my own church? At least the sweepstakes crowd is trying, which is maybe more than I can say.

    1. I can’t answer regarding religious principles or evangelic ideals, but I’ve worked in both advertising and marketing, and I would regard this as a marginal marketing strategy.

      True, it brings in men, (a demographic target-group,) but mostly (in market-segmentation parlance) older, white, conservative men. Older white conservatives are not the group that conservative evangelical churches are failing to reach. For the younger demographic that evangelical churches are losing, this “Red, White and Blue Jesus with a machine gun” is a turn-off.

      The demographic (again, thinking strictly in terms of marketing) that they truly need to reach are 18-25 single men and women. That’s the group that is turned off by their silly “socialist media” rhetoric. That’s the group that is uncomfortable with their political goals and distrusts their apparent desire for power. Those are the things they want to work on moderating to reach their desired demographic.

      Again, this is just about marketing. I know they don’t believe they can adapt their interpretation of the Bible.

    2. One of the reasons that gun rights advocates get so worked up is that gun control advocates have a habit of being so sloppy with their terminology that it amounts to material misrepresentation.

      Case in point, “machine guns” are automatics. (Pull the trigger = the gun will continuously fire until either the trigger is release or you run out of ammunition). The guns being given away by these churches are semi-automatics. (Pull the trigger = one and only one bullet is fired).

      There’s a world of difference between the two. The supply of machine guns for legal civilian purchase is so small and so tightly regulated as to be considered effectively non-existent. Giveaways like this of actual machine guns would be both illegal and prohibitively expensive for churches.

      1. Yes, it’s terminology that gun nuts are concerned with. That’s so obvious from the calm, reasoned arguments they give in support of their beliefs.

      2. I know there’s a world of difference between semi- and fully automatic firearms, and I realize that “machine gun” refers generally to the latter, while the former best describes the rifle from the church giveaway. However, in American popular vernacular, “machine gun” is a good colloquialism for anything that would look cool slung around John Rambo’s shoulder, regardless of how many rounds are discharged with each pull of the trigger. The point is really academic, though: I used the term “machine gun” because it sounds more menacing than “semi automatic rifle,” or even “assault rifle,” and I wanted to hyperbolize the weapon in order to vilify the church for giving it away. Still, I do admire your call for precision and clarity apropos the terminology we employ because I can appreciate the fact that, as I just admitted to, words can be used to misrepresent, misunderstand, and muddle up the issues. But words can also serve to get us all tangled up in the minutiae, when we need to keep our eyes on the prize.

    1. Keep reading the rest of the passage and it will tell you why he said that: “so that he may be counted among the law breakers”. And, he told the group of 12 that 2 were enough and rebuked them when they got it wrong and actually used them. It was to fulfil a prophesy– and Luke specifically states as such.

      Those are the problems we get into when we take part of a passage and lift it out if the context.

  7. I am from Texas and our church had a men’s night where they did give away a hunting shotgun and the theme was Wild Game. My husband is a big hunter so we own guns but are against handguns and semi & automatics (yes we live as pro gun control gun owners) and attended. There were displays about the church and hunting. One guy had a fancy gun. My husband who was walking around with his non hunting friends was asked-what type of animal is that one used for? He looked right at the guy displaying it and said-that one is only for killing people. He then had a meeting with leaders about how that was inappropriate. They are still doing the dinner but that gun hasn’t shown up again.

  8. This bad gimmick is about as silly as the churches that were holding Mixed Martial Arts events for the same reason–to bring in men. If I were a man, I would be insulted. Going overboard being simplistic about men’s interests is no compensation for decades of not promoting true manly fellowship and support for men–or teaching that they can relate to from the pulpit taught in a way they can hear.

  9. First, I agree with Ruaidri. It sickens me. Second, re: Kerry’s comment – if churches want to be a business, then, yeah, go ahead and give away guns as a “come on.”

    We are the body of Christ. That means, at least according to Scripture, we are to encourage, edify and educate one another in the written Word of God. We are to be the image of God to others. I’m just not certain the frightening specter of offering assault rifles to all comers is what Jesus had in mind.

    Jesus was the antithesis of a military conqueror; he retreated from those who sought to make him a military leader. His was a leadership of peace and of servanthood. That, I think, calls for laying down weapons, not giving them out.

  10. Is giving away an AR-15 inconsistent with following Jesus?

    I’m not sure that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with giving away an AR-15. As you well know, it’s a versatile, customizable platform that can be used for a variety of sporting purposes, not just to kill people. One of the tougher bits that Jesus says is in Luke 16:9, and this seems to be an attempt to play that out.

    Owning guns and shooting for sport — even semiautomatics with large capacity magazines, pistol grips, and red dot scopes — is not inconsistent with following Jesus. And neither is giving away those sorts of guns.

    However… the rhetoric in the video clip perpetuates the idea that Christianity is all about the 2nd Amendment and rugged individualism… the state will try to take away your guns and must be resisted, by violent means if necessary. And THAT is inconsistent with following Jesus.

    But is it wise? Even if the intent of the firearm giveaway is sport, there’s a healthy-size portion of the population that views such devices with suspicion as good only for murder. While they may attract some, they needlessly repel others.

    Are they properly routing the firearms transfers through an FFL? Doing background checks? Thorough psychological checks? Providing sufficient safety training?

    AR platforms can easily run over $1,000… is a giveaway of that magnitude the best way to steward resources that could otherwise help the poor, hungry, or homeless?

    So I’m calling it an “unwise idea.”

  11. I see it as different…
    For years car dealers, other businesses in Texas has given guns away for years as a ” come on” to their business.
    If a church wants to give away a gun, don’t have a problem….guns are a way of life here….when I was teaching school, I went shooting with my high school kids, and no one cared…heck, parents went with us…
    ( and I am not all that bad….the idiots carrying assault weapons into Tex-Mex restaurants down here are that, idiots…..and the NRA, which I am a member, was right in calling them that….)

  12. Apparently they’re not big on letting their light shine before men in following the two greatest commandments. Love God, Love each other.

  13. Couldn’t watch the video. It actually made me nauseated.

    I wonder if that’s how Jesus feels about it too?

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