- (Photo: AP Images / Ed Reinke)
A Pentecostal church in Kentucky is planning to host an event later this month to celebrate a constitutional right that most would expect a church to not even address, let alone advocate – namely, the right to bear arms.
On June 27, the weekend before the Fourth of July, New Bethel in Louisville will be holding its Open Carry Celebration and has encouraged “responsible handgun owners” to attend the service openly wearing their sidearm – unloaded and in a secure holster.
“There will be patriotic music and short presentation concerning responsible gun ownership and 2nd Amendment rights,” the Assemblies of God church stated in their announcement of the event.
“There will also be a raffle to win a handgun,” event organizers added. “All that is asked is that you bring a sidearm, a friend who has a sidearm and a canned good for local food bank.”
Though support for bearing arms may sound like support for violence to most believers, Ken Pagano, pastor of New Bethel Church stresses that firearms can be evil but also be useful.
"We're just trying to promote responsible gun ownership and gun safety," he told The Associated Press.
Furthermore, as born-again Christian gunholder Mark Rogers maintains, the bearing of arms by responsible gun owners can bring a greater sense of security to individuals and to society.
“I want to be part of what makes criminals wonder if the next person they choose to assault may be the one that ends their life,” he states as a reason for carrying a concealed weapon.
“The more law abiding citizens that are armed, the less sure criminals can be of the outcome of their actions against us.”
Rogers also claims that the Bible does not call believers to pacifism in protecting themselves and their families from the criminals of this world and that it’s “foolish” to believe that the nation’s civil governments have the ability to protect law-abiding citizens from the “sub human predators” of society.
“I choose to take responsibility for my and my family's safety,” he states in his website on Christian gun ownership. “Police generally arrive at a crime scene after the criminals are long gone and the devastation to citizen victims is already done.”
Not surprising, the idea of Christians and guns doesn’t sit well with a number of believers who say Jesus would be against guns and the idea of harming others – even criminals.
"Even if I were perfectly comfortable with open-carry handguns or gun rights, it seems to me a completely whole other thing to connect those rights to Jesus Christ," the Rev. Jerry Cappel, president of the Kentuckiana Interfaith Community, told the local Courier-Journal.
Tying in the event "with one who explicitly called us to put down the sword and pick up the cross and love our enemies and turn the other cheek, it just makes no sense," he added.
Pagano and his church, however, have received the blessing of local officials from their denomination as well as the Kentucky Council of Churches.
While many, understandably, may have issues with guns, the officials backed the upcoming church event as it promotes responsible gun ownership while also raising funds for charitable causes in the community.
Though it’s not yet known how many will attend the event at New Bethel, the church itself has 125 to 150 members.
The event will start at 5 p.m. on June 27 with a picnic.