On October 20 The Daily Beast (TDB) reported that the idea of guns behind the pulpit has been gaining momentum in black churches for years and that momentum increased exponentially following the June attack on Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in June.
The TDB report comes just two days after a black Detroit pastor used a handgun to kill an alleged attacker during a church service. Local 4 reported that the shooting occurred after “the [suspect] stormed into the church during a service wielding a brick.” The pastor fatally wounded the alleged attacker by firing “four or five shots” from the Glock he carries to defend himself and his congregation.
As it turns out, the pastor at City of God is not alone in his determination to be armed for such circumstances.
TDB points to Bishop Ira Combs, Jr., who pastors the Greater Bible Way church in Jackson, Michigan. Following the attack in Charleston, Combs said that things would have turned out differently if someone had been armed. Reuters reported him saying, “If they had security, the assailant would not have been able to reload.” Of his own church he said, “All of us here are not going to turn the other cheek while you shoot us.”
TDB details how Combs preaches with armed men near him and has certain armed men sitting among the congregants in normal church clothing, so that would-be attackers have no idea who may or may not be armed and ready to respond.
Bethal Apostolic Church Pastor Therron Wiggins is also highlighted in the TDB report. Wiggins told Reuters that his congregation believes “angels will protect [them].” Wiggins is a former police officer and sees himself as “one of the angels” who will do the protecting should trouble erupt. At Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church, which is in Highland Park, Mich., “Pastor David Bullock is keenly aware of his many congregants who carry a concealed weapon” but has made clear he has no qualms with congregants who carry guns for self-defense.
It is important to note that carrying a concealed firearm in church is illegal in Michigan, but these pastors–and others like them–cannot stomach the idea of gathering every Sunday as sitting ducks for a would-be attacker. Moreover, these pastors and congregations understand the difference between illegal and immoral–understanding that many things that are legal are immoral and many things that are illegal are actually moral. Defending one’s life and the life of fellow congregants fits the latter description.
As a backdrop to all of this, TDB reminded readers that history shows how gun control was used to keep blacks down in days gone by. They said, “Researchers routinely point to evidence that early gun control measures were thinly-disguised Jim Crow efforts to disempower black people.”
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.