Grace Baptist Church in Troy, N.Y., is giving away a modified AR-15, joining… (Mike McMahon / Troy Record )
What would Jesus shoot?
Some churches in Kentucky and in upstate New York are doing what it takes to get people into the pews to hear the word of God — and in their neck of the woods, that means giving away guns.
The flier for the raffle at Grace Baptist Church, in Troy, N.Y., shows an AR-15 — an assault rifle altered to make it legal in that state — with a quote from the gospel of St. John, “My peace I give unto you.” It isn’t spelled “piece,” but it could have been.
The church's pastor, John Koletas, told the Albany Times Union, “I’m just trying to be a blessing and a help to the gun owners and the hunters and give away a free AR-15. It’s the right thing to do.”
In Kentucky, where gun giveaways happen in some churches just about every week, a free raffle of 25 guns by Paducah's Lone Oak First Baptist Church got about 1,300 people into the church hall for a steak dinner and a pep talk by a gun fancier named Chuck McAlister who’s been hired by Kentucky’s Southern Baptists to help boost congregations by evangelizing — in this case, about guns and sin and Jesus.
A good number of those 1,300 may not wind up in the pews on Sunday morning; a lot of them go to other churches. And there was no Sermon on the Mount, with its remark about the blessed peacemakers, to generate big applause; it was McAlister displaying his grandfather’s gun and saying, "There's no government on the face of this Earth that has the right to take this gun from me.”
Sunday school teacher David Keele told NPR that the church was accomplishing two things: “One, we're going to talk about the 2nd Amendment to bear arms. But that isn't the primary thing. The primary thing is who Jesus is.": And Jesus, in the form of a stack of Bibles, is right there alongside the display of donated guns — but the Bibles, as NPR pointed out, will cost you money.
Tom Jackson isn’t a regular churchgoer, but he showed up for the Kentucky raffle, saying what many say when they’re asked about why they need guns: “If somebody kicks your door down, means to hurt your wife, your kids, you — how do you turn the other cheek to that?”
But there are a lot of things to defend your family against, and a lot of other ways to defend them apart from what comes out of the barrel of a gun.
There’s defending them from illiteracy and sickness. So are there churches in New York or Kentucky, or churches anywhere, raffling off a year’s worth of healthcare coverage, or $500 savings bonds for a child’s education?
Eighty-nine years ago, an adman named Bruce Barton, who co-founded the renowned advertising company BBD&O, wrote a book that proclaimed Jesus to be “the world’s greatest business executive,” and “the founder of modern business.” That Jesus would have understood the principle behind getting people in the door — by loaves and fishes, but probably not by Smith & Wesson.
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Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes