Jeanne Assam and the Question of Armed Guards in Church

Jerry and I sat in our motor home and listened in horror as this story was breaking yesterday. Because we are closely associated with churches, and churches historically are open to the public, in recent years as there are more instances of shootings in group gathering places, we have become aware of challenges that were developing in this area. “It would be so easy for someone to walk into a church service and open fire,” I said to Jerry.

At that time I did not know this particular church, because of such security concerns, had arranged for armed guards at their facilities. Now we learn that indeed it was a brave security guard who shot the killer yesterday in Colorado Springs and who surely saved the lives of many people.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Jeanne Assam is hailed for saving countless lives in shooting a gunman outside her church, but the volunteer security guard insisted that her steady hand was a matter of divine guidance.

The 42-year-old former police officer was part of a small team of church members pulling guard duty Sunday at the New Life Church when 24-year-old Matthew Murray opened fire outside the building.

Because I have lived in urban areas for years and do a fair amount of traveling, I am accustomed to routine security checks and to observing armed guards in myriad places. But I really have never considered having armed guards in churches or other religious meeting places. While it may be necessary, and according to these reports, such actions saved many lives yesterday I admit to being uneasy with this.

What are your thoughts? Is this something we must now consider in our churches? Is it morally right? Is it any more or less right just because it is in a church?

_____________________________________________________________________

My devotional blog is here.

23 thoughts on “Jeanne Assam and the Question of Armed Guards in Church

  1. RandyMac

    Shirley,
    I like the discussion. Very important conversation to have. I just wanted to throw my two cents in. First, I am a Christian . Second, I am a police sergeant and member of the county SWAT team. As a Christian I struggled with the idea of being a police officer for some years. Specifically the thought of taking another person’s life scared me from a moral perspective. It still scares me ,but for different reasons now. I’ve obviously overcome my theological reservations and here’s why: “answerorg” was correct, the most accurate translation of “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is actually “Thou Shalt Not Murder.” Most Hebrew scholars (if not all of them) agree – the Hebrew word should be translated as murder. Murder implies taking the life of an innocent person without justification – this is exactly what God is against. Obviously the Old Testament is filled with killing by Israel under the approval or command of God. The people in these instances, were not innocent. King David certainly killed his share of Philistines. Jesus never condemned the Centurion who’s job, as a centurion, is to presumably take lives once in awhile in war or domestically in enforcing law and order. In fact the centurion was praised by Jesus for his faith!

    As a police officer, I don’t ever want to take a life, but I hope I am mentally/emotionally ready to if I must. I’m comforted by the fact that we are all responsible for our own actions. If I am forced to take someone’s life it is because of that person’s actions not mine. In fact, I truly believe that God has blessed me with a personality/skills/emotional makeup that allow me to do a very difficult job that most others couldn’t or wouldn’t – a gift, if you will. I believe there is much honor in putting myself between the weak and innocent in society and those that would do them harm. I have taken an oath that could ultimately mean laying down my life for a complete stranger.

    Unfortunately, in today’s day and age – with the moral breakdown of society’s fabric and the very real threat of international terrorism, I think we can expect to see more attacks like the one in Colorado Springs. Some may say its not bad enough to justify armed security in churches but how many bodies will it take to change their minds? Israel, a constant target of terrorists, has armed guards at every one of its schools and synogogues. If they didn’t do this, they would be wiped off the map. This example seems so extreme to us, however, because the everyday world that Israelis live in is so far removed from the relative tranquility of life in America. In my training I’ve had an inside look at the ugliness of both domestic and foreign terrorism and the experts say…its only going to get worse. So…we will need to figure out how many dead church-goers is acceptable.

    I for one, believe there is a false dichotomy being set up which pits faith against common sense and individual effort. Firstly, I think faith is very much misunderstood in Christian circles. The Biblical view of faith is not some blind trusting as is popularly described. Instead it is a belief ,or expectation even, based on good reasons and past history of God’s faithfulness. Hebrews 11:1 says “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” But how can we be sure or certain of what we do not see 2000 years after Christ? Well for me, I believe for many reasons. I believe because of the explanatory power of the Bible – the way I see things in the world seems to be adequately and consistently explained by the Bible. My Christianity makes sense of life, of history, of meaning. I believe because Jesus demonstrated his divine nature in his miracles and in his death and resurrection. The Apostle Paul argued that the “fact” of Christ’s resurrection is the lynchpin of Christian believe. I believe because disciplines such as philosophy, archeology, and historical studies have shown that the Bible is reliable and accurate. I believe because the Bible most adequately explains the human condition, much more so than any other belief system. I believe because in my own life I have felt God’s presence and I know that if it wasn’t for God, I would be a much worse person than I am. Because of all these “reasons”, I can step out in faith and trust in God’s love and his promises of my eternal life. Knowledge and faith are not mutually exclusive – they are symbiotic. Biblical faith requires knowledge of that which one professes to have faith in. It’s not a leap into a dark bottomless pit like so many people tend to believe. I trust God’s promises with all my heart, in terms of my ultimate destination and his love for me but this doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t take reasonable steps to protect my life on this earth.

    So….having explained my view on Biblical faith, I don’t think it demonstrates a lack of faith if we take reasonable steps to help ourselves out. Failing to expect God to help us out of every predictament does not demonstrate a lack of trust or of faith. Who among us doesn’t look both ways before we cross the street? In some peoples’ views we should just trust God that there isn’t a bus coming down the road. God forces no one to follow him and he has chosen to not “micro-manage” the world so that we can freely choose him. Likewise, God doesn’t micromanage our safety. He may intervene at times, for sure. But because He doesn’t intervene in someone’s death doesn’t mean that its His will that that person died.

    I, like many others, hate the thought that we may need to have armed security at certain churches. However, I see no conflict in doing this with my Christian faith. Taking a life of a murderer to stop him/her from murdering numerous other innocents does not present a Biblical contradiction.

    Does every church need this? Certainly not. New Life Church in Colorado Springs is a huge 10,000 member congregation. I know. I’ve been there and my twin sister attends there as well. What hasn’t come out in the media that I’ve heard, is that the security detail has been around for a couple of years because of threats received and because of the exposure in the media of their previous pastor (even before his fall from grace he was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals and was constantly giving soundbites to the national/international media). If God uses us to feed the hungry, to cloth the poor, to visit the prisoners, and to provide justice for widows instead of doing this all directly himself, who’s to say he didn’t use Jeanne Assam to protect the innocent? It seems to me that the Bible is full of people doing God’s work.

    Terrorists or people that want to go down in “flames of glory” or have the biggest impact pick target rich environments. The more blood the better, in their eyes. This is why this young man picked this particular church. It brought him instant international notoriety. So, if there are churches that have a greater than normal exposure to, or risk of, these types of things happening – arm the security I say.

    Sorry for rambling on and on.

    Randy

    Like

  2. I am interested to see where the comments go. For myself, I’d have to say no guns. In all the books written by old timers and missionaries, God’s hand of protection and providence is always enough and right on time. So I’ll have to ask myself the same question, if He did then and does it “over there” now, why not here?
    Right now came back to memory what a young man from former Zaire said to me and my family. He had the Holy Ghost and had been baptized in Jesus Name. He came to our church in Orange because newly arrived, he spoke only french and I was there. He had found us in the phone book and called the Pastor’s number. The first time he set foot in our building, God spoke to him and told him that He was the same here as in his country. He had seen many powerful demonstrations of the power of God,
    had been threaten himself with imprisonment for holding prayer meetings. But he was used to a large gathering and wondered about the size of our small building.
    Later on, he was praying and asked God about the lack of miracles and demonstrations. The answer was scary to me : not desperate enough and too comfortable. This was about 10-12 years ago. Séssé Manunga went to school and became a doctor (maybe continuing to specialize in brain surgery).

    Like

  3. Sis. Buxton,

    I was just thinking about our missionaries who’ve been threatened by these types of things and what they’ve been exposed to and how God has kept them. Bullets bouncing off of shirts, etc. If he can keep them, why couldn’t he keep us? I do believe he can do the same thing over here. Maybe we are too reliant on intellect, reasoning and political posturing. This is new to us, but not to the many overseas doing missions work. Kinda puts a whole new perspective on the “gun in church” idea. (at least for me)

    In relation to this whole question, I felt a seriously controversial question pop in my head for a moment and was going to stir the pot, but this is your blog, so I’ll let sleeping dogs lie.:D

    Luv ya!:)

    Like

  4. Come on, Shirley. Just a few days ago you said that the pulpit (a part of the sanctuary) was so sacred that we ought not allow politicians in it. And now guns in church. Please. The sanctuary in church is granted from the likes of armed guards not because of them. Bad enough that we lock our churches. The world is scary and violent place. Armed guards won’t make God any more powerful than He already is. “Be not afraid.”

    Like

  5. Jay

    Back in the early 70’s, which by the way was before I was born, my uncle was killed by a firearm at the hands of a burglar.

    While I did not know the man, I saw the grief in my mothers eyes each time she spoke of her lost older brother. Due to this reason, my mother had a distain for firearms of any kind. After all, If it hadn’t been for the gun, she would still be arguing with her big brother whom she loved so dearly.

    My point is this. People are very passionate about their position because it has devestating consequences for the ones left behind. While I do not believe in gun control and my mother does, I can have sympathy for her position. I simply believe her logic is flawed. While she wishes the burglar had been unarmed, I wish her brother had been armed to defend himself and the company he worked for.

    While we both believe strongly in our own opinions, we can still respect one another. After all she brought me into this world.

    One final note. The burglar got away with $17.36. I have forgiven him, as has my mother. I pray he has recieved the Lord. Have a great day, and I’m glad I stumbled onto your site.

    -Jay

    Like

  6. Wow! There are some incredible comments on this page.

    Daddy of Three: I think that your comment is one of best I’ve ever heard in explaining the need for freedom to own a weapon and presented so intelligently and cleverly it would make a phenomenal research/thesis/term paper. I’d love to hear that presented before the Senate, although I am not sure they would listen real close.

    For those exact reasons, I am getting ready to become licensed to carry a concealed weapon. I travel by myself much and work late nights often. It is not my intention to harm anyone, but will protect myself and if need be those around me. “When I carry a gun, I don’t do so because I’m looking for a fight, but because I’m looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded.” Absolutely!

    Sis. Buxton: My brother and I were just discussing these issues last week before all of this happened. We were talking about the people committing these types of crimes whom upon investigation are being found to be on SSIR’s (mind altering drugs) which have documented side effects of suicidal ideologies. The medical histories of these folks are kept tightly under wraps as pharmaceutical companies become antsy if this information is available to the public. They boast they have never lost a lawsuit because of these situations but if one researches this, it is simply because they have paid millions of dollars to families to settle outside of court.

    No one will convince me that these medications have not increased the risk of violence in our society. Much of this could be avoided if people would only turn to Jesus and not rely so much on Psychiatry.

    We’ve had a severe threat from an individual here where I work the last few months, who’s stated his new medication has caused weird thoughts and voices in his head advising him to create havoc and harm people.

    God be with Jeanne Assam. Thanks to her for saving lives, however she still has to live with the knowledge that she took a life to save lives. It cannot be an easy or a carefree thing to snuff out a living soul. May the Lord comfort her.

    Like

  7. “Thou shalt not kill” in the KJV is better understood in the Hebrew as “Thou shalt do no murder”. It does not forbid the taking of life in self-defense, defense of innocent lives or in defense of your country.

    Note that not too long after the Almighty gave the command He told Moses to “utterly destroy” certain nations and not leave anyone alive.

    That would not make sense if “Thou shalt not kill” was an absolute.

    Quite often the Lord protects us by placing people near us who are willing to lay down their lives for us.

    If we are not willing to do the same, what does that say about us?

    Like

  8. Daddy of three I enjoyed your post.

    My opinion
    Biblically the Bible says thou shalt not kill. There are no clauses that give special permission in certain circumstances. Vengence is not ours but God’s. That is were your faith comes in. As christians we need to have enough faith in God to believe that he would protect us.

    I pray that if I was ever in that situation that I would have enough faith to let God take care of it, however I fear that if someone was threatening my kids I would do everything I could to stop him including killing him.

    Like

  9. tom

    Hi,

    I thought immediately of King David and his Mighty Men . . . of those brave, unmovable men who protected David and would NOT surrender holy ground to the enemies of God’s children.

    As Christians we have an awesome Shepherd, and we are his sheep.

    But all shepherds need a few sheepdogs in the midst of the sheep!

    Praise God that Jeanne Assam was a brave sheepdog.

    Last I heard, good sheepdogs can be male or female.

    Thanks for “listening!”

    Tom

    Like

  10. Daddy of three

    This is long, but I think – if you consider the logic – valid yesterday, today, and tomorrow until hate, greed, and jealousy are no more.

    Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force.
    If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or compelling me to do your bidding under threat of force.
    Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception.
    Reason or force, that’s it. In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some. When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force.
    You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force.
    The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 120-pound woman (like Jeanne Assam) on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger (or deranged lunatic with a thousand rounds of ammo), a 75-year-old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year-old gang banger, and a single gay guy on equal footing with carload of drunken guys with baseball bats.
    The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender. There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations.
    These are the people who think that we’d be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for an armed mugger to do his job.
    That, of course, is only true if the mugger’s potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat – it has no validity when most of a mugger’s potential marks are armed.
    People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that’s the exact opposite of a civilized society.
    A mugger – even an armed one – can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly. Then there’s the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would “only” result in injury.
    This argument is fallacious in several ways.
    Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser.
    People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones don’t constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip, at worst.
    The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker.
    If both are armed, the field is level. The gun is the only weapon that’s as lethal in the hands of octogenarians it is in the hands of a weight lifter.
    It simply wouldn’t work as well as force equalizer if it weren’t both lethal and easily employable. When I carry a gun, I don’t do so because I’m looking for a fight, but because I’m looking to be left alone.
    The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded.
    I don’t carry it because I’m afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn’t limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation…and that’s why carrying a gun is a civilized act.

    Like

  11. renaissanceguy

    What I want to know is how we have slipped so far as a society that people even think that they should go to churches, schools, and malls to kill innocent people who have not directly harmed them in any way.

    Moral relativism anybody?

    Like

  12. It is important to note that Assam was not really a security guard. She was a church volunteer that happened to have a license to carry a concealed weapon.

    The best solution to protect ourself and not being a victim is an armed public. The police and security guards are fine but how many times do you see a police officer in a day versus how many opportunities there are for you to be a victim. The police can’t be everywhere but if you are armed, you know you have a chance of protecting yourself.

    Like

  13. You’ve got me thinking, Shirley. I don’t know that I really believe guns ever have a place in church, but people do deserve to feel safe. Would Jesus just have turned the other cheek? I don’t think He was a wimp by any means. I’ll be reading the rest of your comments with interest.

    Like

  14. Esther

    Well, we have a pretty large church here in MS. where Bro. Carney is pastor. But, we also have lots of big, strong, hunting type ushers. I would feel very safe just having them patroling the parking lot, checking suspicious people at the doors, locking all doors except, maybe, for one, once service starts. I think the men of the church could do just as good a job as armed guards. And, I don’t think they would have to carry guns. Some of these big ol’ MS. men could scare the intruders off. Sorry, just trying to put a little humor into this very serious subject. But, I’m serious about my opinion too.

    Like

  15. Hello, John. Good to hear from you again.

    I agree there is probably more risk in larger churches, but my thinking is that is true only because there is a greater pool of people, thus the chances of there being an offended or unbalanced person is greater in such a place. As far as ease of committing the crime, with evil intent, it’s probably just as easy to burst through the doors of a small church as of a large one.

    We really need to continue to lean on Jesus and have our lives in order.

    Like

  16. I also feel less than competent to speak on this subject but these are my thoughts.

    While this could possibly happen at any church or public gathering, I think the chances of something like this happening increase with the size of the congregation. At one place in the article it seemed to refer to the church this happened at as a megachurch. I imagine that in some way, this being a megachurch made it a more likely target for something like this to happen. So I would think the concern and the possibility of having armed guards patrolling the public facility would increase as the congregation increased.

    Also, as mentioned the crime rate and general safety of the area that the church is located would have a big impact on security measures I’m sure.

    I’m sorry to hear that any lives were lost at the hands of this individual but I’m glad to hear that it was put to a stop and more lives were not lost because of the security guard.

    Like

  17. Good morning, Kevin–

    It startles me to hear you say you know of places where saints sleep during the service because they are so fearful at home. What tragic sadness is in such a statement. I suppose I should not be surprised though for doesn’t the Bible say that during the last days, men’s hearts will fail them for fear?

    Armed guards at church seems such a drastic measure, but I know these are unusual and dangerous times. For years now, Charles Grisham who pastors in Detroit, has instructed his ushers to lock the main entrance to the church shortly after the service begins. The area around their church has deteriorated greatly during recent years. I know other pastors who routinely have their parking lots patrolled during church services.

    But guns? It’s a terrible thought to me, but I understand your pointing out that the church should be a refuge. I pray often that God will give supreme wisdom to our pastors and other leaders. I’m glad I don’t have to make such decisions.

    Blessings.

    Like

  18. Good morning, Jay. Glad you’re here.

    I feel less than competent to speak to this subject–although admittedly I have been the one to raise it. I don’t at all care for guns–actually am afraid of them–and while I think there is nothing wrong with it, I would not be comfortable hunting and shooting animals. It just is not something I want to do…but I’ll eat the elk you bag..and believe it is a fine sport for those who enjoy it.

    I’ve never been around guns much. There were never any in my home when I was a child. Jerry has a couple of rifles in the closet in Crestline, although he rarely even looks them over–much less goes on shooting expeditions.

    I’m unsure about whether a certain group of people should be authorized to carry concealed weapons. I will have to think about it much more in order to form a strict opinion.

    Your second issue I can speak to much more easily: Yes, I do believe there is an acceptable level of violence that we must endure in order to live in a free society. While not liking the way “an acceptable level of violence sounds,” there must be such a place. We cannot cower in our homes, be reluctant to board planes, or be always peering over our shoulders for the enemy.

    While I admit to being fearful of guns, in general I am not at all fearful, and I refuse to let hoodlums and terrorists keep me locked in my home or to cause panic attacks or to bring on paranoia about my grandchildren’s safety. It’s just not going to happen.

    Yet at this moment, in Florida I believe, the police are on the hunt for shooters who invaded a grade-school property and shot someone. It’s an ugly society in which we find ourselves.

    Long answer–appreciate your response and your interest in my site.

    Like

  19. Sis. Buxton, I enjoy your thought provoking posts. Is armed guards the answer ? We have to remember the the church has always been considered a place of refuge. Our saints come to feel the presence of God.

    Some of our churches in crime ridden areas have saints that actually sleep through service because they are scared to sleep at home. So with the “refuge” in mind I can see a need to have an armed guard as unfortunate as it may be. People these days do not respect the house of God like they should and we can’t let this last place of refuge be overrun by the troubled souls of our day. Yes allow them to come to church and pray with them and let God change them. But if they just come to disrupt then other measures need to be taken to protect the sanctity of the church.

    Like

  20. Jay

    I can certainly see why someone may be uncomfortable with armed gaurds in church. I don’t know that there needs to be guards, however, I do think having the “public” armed is a good solution. By “public” I am reffering to responsible citizens who pass a background check and a firearms safety class designed to teach students when and how to difuse a situation and use firearms only as a last result. Personally I would think twice about using a gun in a crime if I thought there might be 3 or 4 people in the group who may also be carrying a gun.

    All that being said it is impossible to stop all acts of violence, and knee jerk responses such as more gun controll and metal detectors, usually end up taking away freedoms and not stopping further crimes from taking place. We simply can not stop someone from taking lives if they are willing to lose theirs in order to take it.

    My questions for you is the following. Is there an acceptable level of violence that we must endure in order to live in a free society?

    Have a great day. Thanks for the blog.
    -Jay

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s