Kentucky Baptists Hold Gun Giveaways as 'Outreach to Rednecks'

The Kentucky Baptist Convention is attempting to attract nonbelievers through gun giveaway events, calling the events "Second Amendment Celebrations" which are intended to serve as "an outreach to rednecks."

Churches participating in the "celebrations" hope to lure nonbelievers to the event with the promise of possibly winning a new firearm. Once the visitors arrive at the event, they are told about Christianity and the Good News of Jesus.

As The Courier-Journal reports, the next "Second Amendment Celebration" event is this Thursday at Lone Oak Baptist Church in Paducah, where 1,000 people are expected to attend. The event will include a free steak dinner and the opportunity for those participating in a raffle to win one of 25 firearms. As the event's website states, a "variety of guns, including hand guns, long guns and shot guns have been donated as prizes for the event."

"Our nation's founders provided for our freedom to worship as we choose and our freedom to protect and provide for ourselves and our families," reads the event's advertisement. "The Second Amendment Celebration … recognizes the rights and responsibilities of those freedoms while celebrating both through appreciation of the outdoors and God's provisions with the purpose to point people to Christ."

The advertisement also indicates that those who win a gun at Thursday's event may pick up their prize at a local gun store where they must first pass a federal background check. "Award recipients will be given a voucher for the item redeemable at Paducah Shooters Supply," reads the advertisement. "Recipient must complete all required state and federal applications and background checks at Paducah Shooter Supply prior to taking possession of the firearm. If an award winner is under 18 year old, the award will be given to a parent or legal guardian."

These "Second Amendment Celebrations" have been criticized by some who say it is controversial to give away guns in the name of Jesus. "How ironic to use guns to lure men in to hear a message about Jesus, who said, 'Put away the sword,'" the Rev. Joe Phelps of Louisville's independent Highland Baptist Church told the Courier Journal in a recent interview. "Can you picture Jesus giving away guns, or toasters or raffle tickets? ... He gave away bread once, but that was as a sign, not a sales pitch."

Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, told the Courier-Journal that the events have been "very effective," describing them as "outreach to rednecks."

The Kentucky Baptist Convention insists that the events are meant to give away guns used solely for the purpose of hunting, not violence toward others. Chuck McAlister, a retired pastor and former host of the television program "AdventureBound Outdoors," leads the events as the head of the convention's evangelism team.

According to the Lexington Herald Leader, McAlister begins the events by discussing the beauty of the outdoors and hunting, and then leads into Jesus and Christianity toward the end of his speech. McAlister has reportedly been leading the events for the past 16 years, and told the local paper that in 2013, 1,678 attendees gave their contact information to the local Baptist church after attending the event.

McAlister told the Lexington Herald Leader that appealing to someone's interests is an effective way to then inform them about Christianity. "You have to speak to your audience," McAlister said. "If you don't speak their language, they won't hear."

"Sharing the Gospel is not something you do with a cookie-cutter approach … but with the needs and wants of the people you're targeting," the public speaker added.