LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church here, is passionate about gun rights. He shoots regularly at the local firing range, and his sermon two weeks ago was on “God, Guns, Gospel, and Geometry.” And on Saturday night, he is inviting his congregation of 150 and others to wear or carry their firearms into the sanctuary to “celebrate our rights as Americans!” as a promotional flier for the “open carry celebration” puts it.
“God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,” Mr. Pagano, 49, said Wednesday as he sat in the small brick Assembly of God house of worship, where a large wooden cross hung over the altar and two American flags jutted from the side walls. “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.”
The bring-your-gun-to-church day, which will include a $1-raffle of a handgun, firearms safety lessons and a picnic, is another sign that the gun culture in the United States is thriving despite, or perhaps because of, President Obama’s election in November.
The celebration will feature lessons in responsible gun ownership, Mr. Pagano said. Sheriff’s deputies will be at the doors to check that openly carried firearms are unloaded, but they will not check for concealed weapons.
“That’s the whole point of concealed,” Mr. Pagano said, adding that he was not worried because such owners require training.
It is true that not all Christians denominations are pacifist. But we worship Christ, not guns and not the flag. This idiot worships all three, which means that he worships guns and the flag more than Christ. Jesus said you can't serve more than one master. I disagree, frankly, but when your masters are nationalism and violence, you certainly can't serve God.
Arkansas and Georgia recently rejected efforts to allow people to carry concealed weapons in church. Watching the debate in Arkansas was John Phillips, pastor of the Central Church of Christ in Little Rock. In 1986, Mr. Phillips was preaching in a different church there when a gunman shot him and a parishioner. Both survived, but Mr. Phillips, 51, still has a bullet lodged in his spine.
In a telephone interview, he said he found the idea of “packing in the pew” abhorrent.
“There is a movement afoot across the nation, with the gun lobby pushing the envelope, trying to allow concealed weapons to be carried in places where they used to be prohibited — churches, schools, bars,” Mr. Phillips said.
“I don’t understand how any minister who is familiar with the teachings of the Bible can do this,” he added. “Jesus didn’t say, ‘Go ahead, make my day.’ ”
Mr. Pagano takes such comments as a challenge to his faith and says they make him more determined.
“When someone from within the church tells me that being a Christian and having firearms are contradictions, that they’re incompatible with the Gospel — baloney,” he said. “As soon as you start saying that it’s not something that Christians do, well, guns are just the foil. The issue now is the Gospel. So in a sense, it does become a crusade. Now the Gospel is at stake.”
Radicalism can be a good trait in a leader if it is directed at the right cause. In Pagano's case, it is clearly not - what he is doing should be abhorrent to most Christians whether or not they are advocates of strong gun controls. Additionally, instability is not a trait that we look for in leaders.