140. Guns in Church, Part One – 2009, Now, Statistics, Back in the Old Days

In summer 2009, when I was still pastor of Saint Nicholas, Cedarburg, I posted this notice at the three entrances to the church.

Firearms are not permitted at Saint Nicholas Church. The Church is a sanctuary of peace.

Here’s what brought this on: All churches and businesses in town had just received a letter from the Cedarburg Police Department stating that the Attorney General of Wisconsin had (rather suddenly) determined that the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin allows concealed weapons to be carried anywhere. It added that churches and businesses retained the legal right to restrict weapons on their property. 

There is long-standing tradition that churches, as sacred places, are protected sanctuaries to be kept free from violence. The purpose of the signs was to establish that principle and that atmosphere. I am grateful to my successor Father David for keeping the notices up.

Did I think it was likely that Saint Nicholas Church would be shot up? No – although we do sound “foreign” and we belong to an Archdiocese whose origin, Patriarch and Metropolitan are Syrian, and we know that shooters often do not distinguish.

Did I think that posting a notice would keep a potential shooter from shooting? Probably not. Though who knows? Maybe a shooter would read the notice and think twice. And how many times in the Liturgy does the priest turn around and sing “Peace be to all”. Maybe a shooter would hear that and peace would enter into his heart. Who knows?

Minor point: this is the Orthodox Church where priests face away from the congregation. I’d just as soon not get shot in the back if I can avoid it!


Really? some of you may be thinking. Can’t we find something more edifying to talk about this week?


I begin working on these Posts a couple of weeks beforehand, and as I began this week’s we had just had two more gun massacres. And I thought back: Since I was growing up, mass shootings in America have increased from one per year to more than one per day.

I promise you I am not going to get into politics or legal issues, so you can all sit back in your chairs and relax. If you want to draw any conclusions, that’s your business.

We’ve previously looked at other moral/social issues – abortion, gay marriage and such. In the future I think we’ll tackle “Thou shalt not bear false witness”. Lying is a moral issue which is now a major societal issue. And also the sin of lacking mercy and compassion. All these things and more are having a major effect on the “coarsening”, the moral decline of our culture.

So how exactly is gun violence a moral issue for us who never shoot people? (I hope!) What does it have to do with our Orthodox religion? 

Well, how about “Inasmuch as you have failed to do it to the least of my brethren, you have failed to do it to me.” Is there some way we can protect people, especially our youth, from this growing needless fear and grief? Right: Columbine, 1999. 13 killed. Or “love your neighbor as yourself”? Can we keep our “neighbors” from being killed? Below: Sandy Hook, 2012. 27 killed, mostly children. Or “Thou shalt not kill”, or “God so loved the world.” God cares about his world and the people in it.

Bishop Kallistos Ware wrote that the Orthodox Church is interested not only in saving souls but in building Orthodox cultures.

Here and there, now and then

Someone else wrote that the chief work of Orthodox Christians is not to discuss Orthodoxy (that is well established) but to look at God’s world in light of Orthodoxy. I think my travels and my advanced age have given me some opportunity to do this, comparing here with there, and now with then.

Looking back to 2009, here is why I reacted so quickly and so strongly. I had just returned home from Europe where it felt different. There I felt safe, even in the cities. Even in Athens, despite the fact that some Greeks can get excited. (Sorry, you Greeks, but you know it’s true.)

Certainly there has been terrorism in other first world countries. I remember when we flew into Rome to be greeted by police with machine guns, and when the plane flight I took out of Athens had been hijacked only two weeks before. (As we prepared for take-off, the TV screen at the front of the plane showed us a video of a recent air crash! I kid you not.) A few other first world countries have higher overall murder rates than the U.S. – wives strangling their husbands (probably with good reason) and what not.


Some Statistics with a few Charts

I dug these up chiefly for my own information. They startled me. I hope this doesn’t drive you crazy, but I think we need to look at the stats in order to understand. If you want, check them out for yourself. They’re all over the internet. However, be careful. Some charts are cleverly designed to promote a particular point of view. I know this is a sensitive subject, so I tried hard here to provide unbiased information and it has about driven me crazy to be sure of that. Please correct me if I’ve failed.

Mass shootings *: I told you some of this above. In America in the decade of the 1940s there were eight mass shootings. In the entire decade of the 1950s there was one mass shooting. To date in this year 2019 (and it’s only August 23) there have been about 260 mass shootings. It’s hard to keep up. They’re so commonplace now that, except for the most dramatic, we have to search to find them in the news.

  • usually defined as at least four people shot at the same time in the same place. There are, of course, many more shootings of various sorts. And many more are thwarted by our competent police.

Firearm homicide rates per 100,000 people in various countries. Greece – 0.5 (not listed below), U.K – 0.1, our neighbor Canada – 0.5, U.S.- 3.2. If I calculate right, one is about 30 times more likely to be gunned down in the U.S. than in England, 6 1/2 times more than in Greece, about 6 1/2 more than just across the border to our north. Japan – almost infinitely more!

Or if you prefer to see a chart with more information:

Let’s compare Illinois (population 11.7 million) with Greece (population about 11 million) *: In 2017 Illinois had 799 homicides, chiefly by firearms. In 2015 (latest figures I could find), the entire country of Greece had 21 homicides I don’t even want to calculate the comparisons.

  • This is not quite fair because parts of Chicago now have so much violence. As someone from Chicago pointed out, on a typical weekend there can be as many shootings in Chicago as in the entire U.S., but for some reason (can we guess?) hardly anybody notices. Let me add that other parts of Chicago are safe and spectacular. Have you ever walked North Michigan Avenue? driven Lake Shore Drive? Wow!

However, while the number of U.S. gun deaths (especially suicides) has continued to rise. They are (except for suicides) proportionately less than they were in years past.

above: from Pew Research


Above: from the national Center for Disease Control

The figures below are hard to read.. However you can see the general trend in reported gun sales from the two major gun companies from 1998 to the present. They have approximately tripled.

The figures are from Inverse, a site I didn’t know before. It’s rated accurate for facts, with a slight liberal editorial bias.

The Congressional Research Service says there are now about twice as many guns in private hands in the United States as there were in 1968: totaling more than 300 million.

Did you know there are more privately held firearms in the U.S. than in the rest of the world combined?

Here’s an interesting stat. In the United States there are more guns than people.

Are we all getting tired of statistics? Me too. But I thought we needed to see this.

Now let’s try it another way.

Back in the Old Days

I know that’s a phrase which we old people use too much. Sometimes younger people roll their eyes. But sometimes they listen and learn.

All I can tell you is that America feels very different than it did when I was young. Some things have certainly changed for the better. But public safety? No.

I have read that we should be pleased because some crime statistics have improved. Compared to what? Compared to when? When I was young, people felt safe walking in our cities and towns. When she was a girl, my wife and her little brothers could safely take the bus into downtown Chicago to meet their step-father. When I was young (and  in this area even till the early 70s) most churches were open all day so that people could go in and pray – as they still are in Greece. When I was young, kids in “inner cities” did not regularly tell stories about friends and family members who have been shot, sometimes killed.

Even in 2009, school children were not doing drills in case a shooter should attack. Nor did it occur to us at Saint Nicholas (well, up till the Wisconsin Attorney General’s ruling) that we were not safe in church or at concerts. But last weekend my wife and I went to Milwaukee Irish-Fest (largest in the world! great show!) and I wondered…

Right: Las Vegas 2017. 58 dead, and about 850 injured either by shooting or in the ensuing panic.

Like all of us, I worry. Why would I not? About my son who, in addition to his regular job, bartends two nights a week in a place where firearms are permitted, despite the fact that people drink sometimes to excess and he has to deal with that. About my grandchildren who are in schools which are increasingly shot up and, as I say, now do drills to protect them from crazy shooters. When I’m driving I now try very hard not to mistakenly aggravate anyone, lest… well, who knows? I worry about my people at church, another place where shootings are increasing. And as I said,  I worry about myself, and now Father David, standing there in the altar with our backs to the church entrance.

I think what is most scary in America today is not just the number but the nature of the shootings – innocent people anywhere being targeted randomly for no reason. It’s just  irrationality and hatred.

Of course there are other things to worry about – disease, auto safety, climate change and so on. But these things have been studied carefully and conclusions often reached, even if they’re not always accepted or acted upon. But at least we were trying and often we’ve made progress. But have we had a competent impartial national study of gun violence? No.

Why not? Because the U.S. Congress has refused funds for it.

And with that political comment, which I said I wasn’t going to get into but I just did, let’s end it for this week.

Next Week: Part Two – We’ll go back to Guns in Church. Can we protect our people in church? Is there anything Orthodoxy can contribute to help our society?

Week after next: Summer is almost over (already?). Let’s do one more Greek Trip while we can.

33 thoughts on “140. Guns in Church, Part One – 2009, Now, Statistics, Back in the Old Days

  1. Why your concerns about gun safety are important, I strongly believe the orthodox church is the church of the martyrs and Christianity is at its core nonviolent. I would abhorred and shocked to hear support from clergy for guns in church.

    1. I’ve certainly never heard of any Orthodox clergy who support it. I just wish more would say so.

    2. Fr. Bill, could you clarify your comment for me please? Would you wish for clergy to advocate for guns in the sanctuary or against guns in sanctuary? I have heard of parishes where members carry guns and there is some support from clergy. I do not believe this is okay regardless of our dangerous world.

      1. Great day in the morning, no! This is the House of God! I was just reporting some things that are going on.

      2. Fr. Bill,

        Let’s be clear – the prohibition of guns in your parish is a prohibition against the lawful carrying of concealed weapons by law-abiding citizens. Criminals and those with ill-intent are not going to be stopped by a sign.

        I personally know of eight parishes (including my own) that have an armed security team composed of parishioners who legally carry concealed. All of the clergy and laity I know have no qualms about parishioners legally carrying concealed firearms in church. Most would be appalled to learn of your policy. I know my family was when we visited your parish several years ago. We stepped inside your church, saw your sign, and walked right back out to attend Liturgy at another parish where we would be welcomed.

        1. Dear JL.

          As I read it, I think it is our legal right to ban firearms on private property. This has not ben an issue at St Nicholas.

          It is your personal right to think we’re out of our minds and choose not to come in. I’m sorry we missed you.


          See point 24 below:

          …which says: “Trespass to Land (includes residences, businesses, government buildings, universities & colleges, churches, special events (State Fair, Summer Fest, etc.), grounds/land (if separately posted) No No 943.13(2)(bm)2. No person may enter or remain on any land (includes structures) of another after having been notified by the owner, occupant, manager or organizer not to enter or remain on the premises when in possession of a weapon. A person has received notice from the owner or occupant if he or she has been notified personally, either orally or in writing, or if the property is posted. Property is considered to be posted with a sign that states a restriction imposed, that is at least 5 inches by 7 inches. No specific verbiage or graphics are specified in WI statute. (Class I Misdemeanor)”

          1. Fr. Bill,

            I’m familiar with the Wisconsin statute which allows churches to prohibit firearms. I’m simply pointing out that when a church exercises their legal right to do that, the only people who are going to abide by it are law-abiding citizens who carry concealed firearms (like myself and many other Orthodox Christians I know). Criminals and those with ill-intent are going to bring guns in whether or not you exercise your legal right to prohibit them. So, practically speaking, you’re ostracizing those of us who choose to carry a concealed firearm to defend ourselves and loved ones (including, God forbid, the priest and parishioners during the Liturgy).

            You say that this has not been an issue at St. Nicholas, yet my family, and several other local families (i.e., prospective parishioners and converts) did not feel welcome as soon as we saw the sign.

          2. Thanks for the information. I’m sorry you went away. I’m honestly curious: Do you similarly avoid hospitals and clinics and schools in the area, all of which (I think) also forbid firearms. As I said, the chief reason I posted the notice was not safety, but to establish the Church’s traditional role as a sanctuary of peace. Could you have left your firearms in the car for an hour or so and absorb that “atmosphere”? Or would you so much fear an attack that it would not have been possible?

          3. Fr. Bill,

            Unless I’m sick, I typically avoid hospitals and clinics (as I suspect most healthy people do). As a homeschooling family, we avoid schools.

            Are you insinuating that Orthodox Christians who concealed carry while attending the Liturgy are not able to enter into a spirit of peace and prayer?

          4. JL, I’m not insinuating anything, really I’m not. I was asking what I thought were honest questions, and I have 2 more: 1) What are you going to do when you do get sick? 2) I’m glad you’d be at peace with concealed carry at church. What about fellow worshipers who would be distracted in their worship by others carrying guns? Who should take precedence, andy why? 3) Would you be distracted at worship if you could not carry a gun?

          5. Fr. Bill,

            1.) If I were sick or injured enough to require a hospital visit, I wouldn’t be concerned about carrying much of anything except for perhaps my license and insurance card.

            2.) The answer is right there in the term: *concealed* carry. Fellow worshipers wouldn’t be distracted by me carrying a gun because I’d be concealing it from them.

            3.) No, I wouldn’t be distracted at prayer if I couldn’t carry a gun because I wouldn’t attend a parish that prohibits it.

            Every morning, I put my prayer rope around my neck, my watch on my wrist, my wallet in my back pocket, my cellphone and Leatherman in my left pocket, and my J-frame revolver in my right pocket. It’s a tool like any other.

          6. Thanks for your answer, JL. I’ve spent the afternoon researching and trying to understand both sides in the matter. I think we’re talking past each other and answering our own questions, not each others’. I’m afraid it’s the state of the country today. So I believe it’s time to stop and move on. So God bless you, JL. Thanks for reading the Blog. I hope you’ll be well.

          7. I for one would be HORRIFIED by guns in the sanctuary. Let’s keep them out of the church. Let’s model peace and the Gospel by doing so.

  2. Father Bill:
    I love you, and always profit from your blogging.
    And if your point is guns don’t belong in church, then I agree. But your post goes far beyond that.
    pardon my saying so…
    in my view there is so much wrong with this particular post, that I don’t know where to begin! So I’ll start at random:
    1) You write: “Did I think that posting a notice would keep a potential shooter from shooting? Probably not. Though who knows? Maybe a shooter would read the notice and think twice.” No, Father, a shooter would be emboldened to see such a sign. They’d know all the good, law-abiding folk inside are disarmed, and they will face no opposition. That’s one problem with “gun-free” school zones: kids become like fish in a barrel. Remember the maxim: when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.
    2) You compare homicide rates between Europe and the USA. The truth of the matter is, if you would subtract the gun homicides committed by American minorities from the total, that the remaining rate of homicide by Caucasian Americans would be much more in line with those European figures. Website after website freely point out that “black men…are xx% more likely to die by gun violence than white men”, yet very few are inclined to indicate race of ‘perpetrator’ (always victim, rarely perp). When they do, it is obvious that black men would be much safer living away from contact with other black men. Here some mouths will drop open, for I dare to point out that the Emperor indeed has no clothes. But I reject the idea that to speak of these things is racist. If it is the truth, then it is not racist. The onus instead falls to the person claiming “racism!” to alternately explain the facts which are so uncomfortable to them. Large swaths of Africa have lower homicide rates than Chicago. I would be the last person to blame the foregoing on genetics. Black-on-black crime, black & Hispanic gang-related violence, and pure drug-related violence account for the large majority of homicide by firearm. And the reason for this is neither genetic nor the Second Amendment. The root cause is socialist government policy since the 1960s. (That’s what has changed since the 1950s you fondly recall – not the Constitution, not genetics, not gun safety features (which have only improved).) Those policies have led to ghettoization, which in turn has led to family breakdown, and this breakdown inevitably leads to failure in passing along inter-generational values, usually in the form of an organized mythology. (I speak of mythology in its most general sense, not implying either legend or reality, truth or falsehood.) The inner city has become a place devoid of mythology: no religion, no creation story, no timeless code of conduct, no faith-guarded human dignity, no horizontal behavioral discipline by clergy or temple (and very meager, haphazard vertical discipline), no taught deference to authority (only hostility), nor any transcendent god to fear or to please. There is only hedonism, drugs (and drug-induced apathy), and the rules of the gang. It takes only one generation for the transmission of values to be interrupted. And since the “Great Society” began funding isolation and ghettoization, the inner city has had three to four generations. I don’t know in what direction your post is headed, since part two is pending. But if it is to blame the presence of guns for this violence, you are barking up the wrong tree. Indeed, the rate of gun ownership is higher in rural America than in urban, so the correlation to gun violence is inverted. Blaming homicides on the number of guns is about like blaming adultery on the availability of cocktails and hotels. They might make it easier, but “they sure ain’t the root cause”.
    3) Although individual homicides and drive-by shootings fall disproportionately onto African-American men, I’ll be the first to admit that actual mass-shooting are mostly white crimes. With the exception of El Paso, these are typically committed against their own kind: classmates or co-workers, and often involve the mental health issues you cite, or at the least, some pathologic grudge. Yet, all in all, their numbers do not contribute substantially to the national statistics which incense you. Further, recall that the Manchester Arena massacre in the UK, where 23 people died, a bomb was used, not firearms. Elsewhere in Europe, where guns may be scarce, vehicles have been used as weapons, plowing into crowds. Outlaw guns, and evil minds will still find ways to kill, maim, and destroy. [And yet bombs and vehicles cannot be used very practically for personal defense, as firearms can. Women in particular should champion gun ownership and concealed-carry, for guns are the great levelers of the playing field: they make the petite yet trained woman a fearful match to the 300 lb prison-paroled rapist. And for crying out loud, half the reason I carry nowadays is the current American fetish of owning pit bulls!]
    4) The very graphs you share show that over 60% of gun-related deaths are suicides. Make every gun disappear tomorrow, and do you think it will impact those suicide numbers very much? I very much doubt it. There would still remain hanging, overdosing with drugs, jumping off buildings, carbon monoxide methods, and driving suicidally (which entails danger to others). If a person wants to die, they will find a way. And if you include those stats to make an overall point about gun ownership, then one should consider suicides all around the world by other means, harikari and whatever, to balance the perspective.
    5) You (rightfully) bemoan present day school kids having to endure ‘active shooter drills’. But when older generations were kids, we had nuclear bomb attack drills. Is the current practice any more frightening than the prior? Hardly.
    6) You write: “Here’s an interesting stat. In the United States there are more guns than people.” That is true, no doubt. It also gives those very people of the United States more leverage against any would-be statist thugs, who prefer an unarmed populace, as well as deterrence to foreign invasion. Every superpower knows that even if they should happen to prevail against the US militarily, they would afterwards face a horrendous guerilla warfare by the surviving citizens. No small thing, that.
    In my house there are also more guns than people. Yet my neighbors are not being shot up, no one inside is committing suicide, and no crimes are being plotted. You, Father, of all people should know that forged things are not the problem; sin is the problem. Idols are not sinful, idolatry is. Food is not wrong, gluttony is. Money is not evil, the love of it is. Banning the thing will never help. As Prohibition already proved.
    Father, forgive where I have over-stepped. I too miss by-gone days. But those days include when a boy could actually take his new shotgun to school, planning hunting afterwards with his friends. The long-ago teacher would have been more frustrated with the distraction it caused than with any notion of potential violence. Guns haven’t changed America’s moral fiber. America’s moral erosion has instead corroded out stewardship of all things physical, from the works of our hands to all of creation, even life in the womb. Gun legislation (like most legislation) is a feel-good distraction, tiptoeing around the core problem and its cure. The problem is complex, but the cure is simple: the church and its treasure, Truth. And if priests themselves get distracted, we are in trouble indeed. Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.

    1. Um… Shannon, I can tell by the length of your comment that you’re upset. However I think you’re reacting to things I didn’t say or which you anticipate I might say next time. For example, my answer to the question “would the sign make us safer” was “probably not but who knows?” That’s as far as I took it. I said my purpose in putting the signs up was rather to establish that the church is a place of peace, the House of God. In these two posts I’m trying as hard as I can to be impartial and (as I said) to let people draw their own conclusions. At the end of the next Post I’ll express my personal reaction to something in 2009, without advocating it for anybody else. I hope I don’t offend you by saying that one of the big problems today is people misreading each other. Shannon, I love you, too.

      P.S. I’m curious: Do we come from different “cultures”? (I don’t mean that negatively.) In rural Ohio where I grew up, if a guy had brought a gun to school he would have been expelled.

      1. Father:
        You are kind.
        But mistaken here: I am not upset. It’s long because i am not a sound-bite type of person. And some ideas take development, and some points are plural.
        As I alluded in my big comment, I too think church is not the place for guns. Now if a church wants to hire security, and post them outside “the doors”, that would be fine, depending. But worshipers should ‘come as they are’, IMO.
        Also as I stated, I was not sure where your post was heading, being in two parts. But i did surmise it was heading to being anti-gun, based on the charts and graphs you chose, and inferring on the connecting prose you wrote. So we will see – in its follow-up. Maybe I will be enlightened or surprised or both!
        I did not grow up in such a culture. I remembered hearing of such stories from others, older than myself. But the culture I grew up in was much more sane than today’s, I can assure you.
        Bless you, Father.

  3. Fr. Bill, I agree with Shannon. She is right. People kill by pulling the trigger. Guns are just the object that is being used to kill. American civilization has been unraveling and church going people have been in decline as well. In the 1950’s through the 1960’s school children could pray (legally) in schools along side with their teachers. Prayer and belief in God (Christianity and Jewish Faith) is considered to be unlawful in schools and the public sphere. So there is a void here and what has replaced it. Violence, Mass Murder, Rapes, and all kinds of crime. People fearful of other people. Who lives on the streets today–people with mental illness, drug addicts. Look at the cities of San Francisco, etc. It was considered cruel to have mental institutions along the same time that prayer and the bible were being taken out of the libraries of schools and the class room. What has been replaced, books of all kinds of “families, not books about the father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, church going families. ” Now we have all kinds of families that are supposed to be considered normal that the bible clearly states as sinful. Society in America today is without God, and what do we have today in America? Not the society I grew up in.

    1. “Amateur sociologist” speaking now: I think at least three other factors have contributed to today’s breakdown. (1) The breakdown of community. A hundred years ago most people lived on farms and in small towns or city neighborhoods, where people knew and looked after each other. Now most are in transient suburban neighborhoods where people are isolated. The very wealthy are on estates. We drive past the poor on expressways. (2) The breakdown of religion, which I think is due to immorality, loss of faith and politicization on the part of many religious leaders, which causes people to turn away from the foundations. (3) The redistribution wealth to the upper classes and the rise in medical costs, causing the “responsible” middle class to decline, and leaving many poor people struggling, working two jobs, unable to care properly for their kids.

      Just in passing, I suspect many African Americans (except those trapped in certain inner city neighborhoods) would also agree that this is “not the society I grew up in” and then add “It’s better”. Also I read that African-Americans are some of the most religious people in America, setting an example for the rest of us: https://www.pewforum.org/2009/01/30/a-religious-portrait-of-african-americans/

  4. Fr. Bill, When I taught in high school (back in the 1980 through 1990s) hunting season the teenage boys brought their guns to school (parking lot, locked in their trunk of their cars). This was normal. No one thought anything of it. And yeah, we teachers knew that the first day of deer hunting season a lot of boys would have cut school and were out hunting deer that day. And those boys that hunted deer during deer hunting season I am sure have reared healthy families and I know they would be the ones to jump in with their concealed weapons and save their fellow students and teachers.

  5. We all should know what Jesus said, “If you don’t own a sword sell your coat and buy one.” Dynamic equivalency: M16 or AK47. And St. Paul, “He that does not provide for his own has denied the faith.” Do christian men have the responsibility to provide protection for their families, or do we depend on a god of this world, the total state?

    1. Thanks, John. I agree with your basic point. However, early the next morning Jesus also said to Simon Peter after he had used his sword, “Put down your sword. He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.” How to harmonize these? Read in context, I think I Timothy 5:8 seems to refer primarily to families providing sustenance for their widows so that they don’t become a drain on the congregation. Am I wrong? I’m curious what you mean by “god of this world, the total state”.

      1. Peter drew his sword against constituted authority, not a common criminal. And Jesus’ death was a necessity, of course. That is a unique situation. There is no equivalency here, and I was very disappointed that the study bible drew one.
        Have you never heard Hegel’s expression about the total state- “a god walking on earth?” The Pharaoh and Caesar worship of old, transmigrated into the fascism, communism and progressive secular humanism of today? Don’t you know the Humanist Manifestos both explicitly recognized the state as god? Don’t you recognize that the state puts itself into the position of being god becomes when it becomes autonomous, making law that contradicts God’s law rather than enforcing it? This is the phenomenon that Daniel and John called beast, following the historical type of Nebuchadnezzer. A beast of prey that preys on the people. Criminals kill people by ones and tens, governments by ones and tens of millions. You are willing to trust the beast with a monopoly of force, but not your fellow christians with any ability to defend themselves. If you are that politically naive! When Constantinople fell, the monks were in the Hagia Sophia, putting their Lord to the test by praying for a miracle. A well armed populace would not have fallen, they could have manned the wall and prayed at the same time. Just one example of many where churchmen refused to take Christ’s words literally, and were raped, plundered, and sold into slavery because of that failure.

  6. Hi Father,

    This is certainly a controversial subject, and there is a great deal that could be said or argued any number of different ways. I’ve seen a variety of things done, too.

    One church I used to attend was of the very large Evangelical sort, with a massive campus. Huge child care wing (children under about 12 were a rarity in the services) with secure entrances having to show photo idea to deposit (I use that word deliberately) or pick up a child. Much of this was driven by the fear of liability – so many kids around that the loss (or misplacing) of one was a real possibility. But some of this was driven by actual threats levied at various times. With such a large congregation (upwards of 3000 people), not everyone could be known to all, and of course you had a lot of congregants who were in custody disputes or other situations where an ex could be a real danger. And the church was, from time to time, targeted for threats either out of sport or delusion. Police were called in on at least one of those occasions while I was there. In short, armed security was eventually seen as a necessity. State law in Ohio forbids concealed carry at religious institutions and schools, so off-duty police officers were hired.

    A Jewish friend of mine is part of a security detail at his synagogue, and we need hardly justify why that has become a necessity of late.

    I’m on our parish council, and our insurance company has offered to lower our bills if we institute certain security practices (alarms, background checks, physical security for Sunday School, etc.), so there is now increased pressure from that quarter too.

    I’ve been reflecting on all of this for some time now. I keep thinking that, in the sense that history may not repeat, but it sometimes rhymes, we are heading back into a time where we need to anticipate some degree of menace, much as the early Church did, but instead of formal raids and persecutions we are dealing with the randomness and inchoate rage of a society that has lost its way. I do not want guns in my church. I do not want off-duty police nearby. But to avoid those things I think we have to accept that we must therefore be prepared to endure the possibility that we will face the random violence of the deranged. I would add further that perhaps this is what we should do anyway as witnesses to our faith.

    That being said, I’ve seen others already respond with corrections and emendations on gun statistics. I hate to dogpile on this, but did want to note something. Where you said “But at least we were trying and often we’ve made progress. But have we had a competent impartial national study of gun violence? No. Why not? Because the U.S. Congress has refused funds for it.” I have to point out that this is a twisting of truth that is frequently parroted by those with their own agendas.

    There have been many many many national studies of gun violence conducted on data the US and State governments already collect. What has been pushed (and is the origin of the untruth), is the notion that somehow the US government should, through the Department of Health, formally study gun violence as it would various cancers or contagious diseases. This is frankly not the purview of the Department of Health, it is a matter of law enforcement (they have the data already). So what happens is that certain (and it is impossible not to get into politics on this point) Democrats will, for rhetorical points, sponsor a vaguely worded bill to make the Department of Health commission a very biased and agenda-driven study of gun violence (the conclusions of these studies being practically fore-ordained by the language of the bills). The bills are rejected but the rhetorical points are scored, and the press parrots the line “Congress refuses to fund studies of gun violence”. Nevermind that the FBI and sundry other government agencies study these matters all the time already, as do any number of private researchers.

    Moreover, what would “a national study of gun violence” do? That’s a (forgiving the pun) broad target, and there few things more dangerous than very broad and unfocussed “national” anythings – they’re always at the mercy of politicians and lobbyists, and they will never be competent or impartial. I would trust neither party to handle anything of the sort.

    1. P.S.to Skip’s last point: Yes, I wouldn’t trust either party with this. But we have had impartial national studies of segregation, tobacco and so on (from the Center for Disease Control etc.), some of which, despite massive lobbying, led to rational conclusions and action. Why not gun violence?

      P.P.S. I’ve had some time to do some research. The Dickey Amendment of 1996 (and renewed every year since) forbade the CDC from recommending any form of “gun control”, as they would in case of other “public death” issues – which has caused them to avoid the subject of gun violence lest they get into trouble with the Congress. Why?

  7. Fr. Bill,

    No can agree with you. Don’t need to take the time or space to elaborate, but concerns I have are address in Fr. John Whiteford’s blog explanation/posting he made (as noted below). His explanations are extremely interesting, and summary and conclusion is here:

    “An Orthodox Christian is free to be opposed to the private gun ownership, but it is not true that the Tradition of the Church requires anyone else to agree with them, nor does it prohibit the use of force in defense of one’s country, family, or even one’s person, depending on the circumstances.”

    Most gun-free zones are a bad idea and are targets for criminals and law-breakers who don’t care about laws. I am not loving those in my church, my family or friends, if I am do make an effort to protect them. I worry about them more than my showing love to the criminal who wants to take them away from me.

    At our OCA church in Kenosha, WI, we even got our priest interested in firearms and target shooting. We formed an unofficial church gun club among many of our members. We went to a firearms range every 2-3 months with a food/fellowship to follow.

    Father Bill, you need to rethink!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Phil. I agree with everything Fr John said, and that the Church allows me to try to keep guns out of Saint Nicholas. My concern is with people anywhere who carry guns without adequate safety training. An Orthodox priest taking such training is new to me, but if the bishop doesn’t object it’s not my problem. But, dear God, man, I certainly do not “love the criminal” more than my loved ones! My chief concern in my two Posts was to establish that the Church is a place of peace, and to see if we Orthodox can help America solve our gun problem which, I think, is unique in the first world.

      1. Fr. Bill, the Orthodox priest never took any concealed carry training. Only bought a few guns and uses them for recreation. I bought him his first firearm, a Ruger Mark IV .22 cal which he loved for recreation. He has bought several more since a couple of years ago. Try it, you’ll like it!

        1. Good! My dad was a target shooter too. I tried it, didn’t like it. Sorry. Enjoy your hobby, Phil. God bless you all.

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