Preaching and Practicing Peace

On Guns in Arkansas Churches

by Bishop Larry Benfield

Bishop Benfield

The issue of guns being allowed in Arkansas churches has been at the forefront of newspaper articles and radio commentary this past week. As many of you may know, there is legislation in process at the Statehouse to remove the current ban on carrying concealed weapons in churches. I oppose that legislation, and I have relayed my concerns to the political leaders in this state.

One of the ancient practices of the church is that church buildings are sanctuaries. When knights entered Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 and murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket, the crime was so odious in part because of this violation.

In a world in which fear seems to be the controlling force in the lives of so many, we need somewhere to go for security. When the world is so filled with violence, we need a place where peace is not only preached, but also practiced. Allowing guns in churches is exactly what we do not need. It reduces us to yet one more institution that lives in the fear against which we preach.

Yes, I come from a family of hunters. I have no opposition to hunting; I even own a shotgun. But taking that shotgun or a pistol into church does nothing good for my soul, and nothing ultimately for safety. It would give me a false sense of security. In the church we look for actions that are more authentic, more life-giving, that are harbingers of peace rather than of warfare.