Because Jesus was a real man’s man, and because more women than men fill the pews every Sunday (45% of American women versus 34% of men), and because God loves guns, Loneoak Baptist Church in Paducah, KY, hosted a steak dinner and gun giveaway as an evangelistic outreach. The Southern Baptist denomination, whose membership has been declining, hired Chuck McAlister, formerly the host of the TV show “AdventureBound Outdoors,” as a full-time evangelist.
“Hunting is huge in Kentucky,” Stephen Colbert quoted McAlister saying in last night’s episode, “so we get in there and burp and scratch and talk about the right to bear arms and that stuff.” In another interview, McAlister opined that “Church is a place where men can be men and learn that Jesus wasn’t an effeminate man.”
McAlister has been a strong proponent of what he calls “Affinity Evangelism,” which has to do with identifying core interest groups within your community and targeting their interests as a way to begin a conversation about Jesus. This was part of the impetus for the Loneoak dinner and gun giveaway — come for the guns, stay for Christ.
Except the problem is, it’s hard to imagine Christ being real big on guns. Gun ownership isn’t just a habit like film enthusiasm or birdwatching; unless someone dies of boredom watching Wes Anderson or waiting for a blue-footed booby to show up, no one’s going to get harmed as a result of those hobbies, even when poorly done. Last year in Kentucky, a 2 year-old girl was shot and killed by her five year-old brother when he accidentally discharged his “My First Rifle,” a gift from his grandmother. Kentucky is the eleventh most dangerous state when it comes to gun violence and the 5th most lax on gun restrictions.
“Giving out free guns is consistent with Christ’s message,” Colbert said, as “Piece be with you” flashed on the split screen. Then, quoting Chuck McAlister: “Jesus was pretty handy with the whip when he ran the moneychangers out of the temple.”
Touché, McAlister! But it turns out, Jesus didn’t make a hobby out of using the whip. As far as we know, he never took in out into the desert and practiced on animals. He never accidentally hit anyone with the whip. He didn’t draw a crowd to the Sermon on the Mount by promising free whips to 25 attendees.
What happens if one of those guns given away at Liveoak, accidentally unattended to at home, falls into the hands of a child? What happens when the church pretends that our culturally fixed idea of guns being masculine is somehow an endorsement by Jesus of the use of firearms? What happens when the church gets so enmeshed in a culture of violence that it can’t see Jesus’s own words? The Second Amendment is not in the Scriptures, after all, and our Bible is not the US Constitution.
Isaiah 2:4 reminds us of the days to come in the light of the Lord: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
But, whatever gets men to church, right? Guys love strippers and shrimp, Colbert says. “Why not replace the baptismal waters with cocktail sauce and the cross with a brass pole?…The bottom line: You’ve got to bring men home to Jesus by any means necessary, even if that means weapons.”