I cannot imagine the grief of those who lost loved ones in last weekend’s shooting in a Texas church. And I am alarmed by this quotation from a Religion News Service story on church security.
The pastor of a Dallas Baptist megachurch (and a counselor to the president of the United States) said on television Sunday that “as many as half” the members of his church carry concealed weapons to worship services. A potential shooter in his congregation would be killed soon after he or she started firing, the Rev. Robert Jeffress said. He saw this as a good thing.
While that remark is disturbing on its own, here’s what is preoccupying me this morning: Jeffress went on to say, “This is the world we’re living in. We need to do everything we can to keep our parishioners safe.”
I am a mother and a grandmother with very dear relatives and friends. The idea of being safe appeals to me, and I long for safety to surround those I love. But I know safety is rare in this world. “The Bible tells me so,” to quote an old song.
In the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, God promised the Israelites safety if they followed divine instructions. They tried and failed. Over and over, they were attacked, killed and dispersed. Even the prophets of God, the ones who faithfully told the people what God wanted of them, were not safe. Their counterparts in the Christian Scriptures -- John the Baptist, St. Paul, Jesus, himself -- were not safe. All died violent deaths. I don’t remember Jesus ever talking about physical safety, his or anyone else’s.
So, why do we think that Christians are entitled to safety in a country where many of us argue that food, shelter and medicine are not entitlements, but the right to own a weapon is? It is tragic that people were killed in a church, especially if they expected to be safe inside its walls. But I am not at all sure that safety is something God promises.