I am a pastor of a small church- a church full of people whom I love and whom I greatly trust that God loves. On Sunday mornings, there may be any number of children and older people, this includes my own children and some of their best friends.
How's that for your thoughts and prayers?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I would do if someone came in and began shooting.
I've analyzed what I could throw, how quickly I could get to any part of the sanctuary, and how much time I could buy for others by engaging with a shooter- hoping that my death through that engagement would buy others time to attack unseen, hide children, or escape.
I move my cell phone around in the sanctuary- to be within my arm's reach- so that my last act prior to engagement would be to call 911. I worry about if I don't have time to do this and I may not, but it's part of my mental plan.
I am a gun owner. I'm an okay shot, better than okay at close range. My husband has asked me, on more than one occasion, to keep a gun with me at church.
In the pulpit next to the Bible?
In my pocket?
In a shoulder holster, under my diaphanous robe?
In my purse, carrying said purse with me everywhere like Queen Elizabeth?
I can't bear this. I cannot bear the thought yielding to my fears. There is making a plan and then there is introducing another problem into the situation.
My need to have this plan and think these thoughts is not because God "isn't allowed in schools" or because of the use of psychological drugs or even because we have culturally determined that child sacrifice is preferable to some restrictions on gun ownership.
The need to have this plan is because we have chosen as a culture to make guns our idol of choice. Believing their false promises of safety and self-determination, we have put them on a pedestal and worship them at the altar of unrestricted access and personal freedom. Our call to community living as a nation, cities, and smaller groups has been sublimated to believing that we are entitled to having what we want, when we want it and to extracting revenge and never dwelling for long in feelings of discomfort or pain.
This is the direct result of patriarchy, white supremacy, and rape culture.
Let me be VERY CLEAR that I am not saying that everyone who owns guns rapes or is a white supremacist.
I am, however, saying that we (almost all of us) have contributed to a culture where many people, especially white, cis-gendered, heterosexual men, have been socialized to an unhealthy level of entitlement regarding other people's bodies, property, and opportunities. And, through our gun idolatry, they see a cultural worship of tools that allow them to respond with deadly force when they do not get what they have been taught and believe they "deserve".
This is a complex issue, but it isn't actually that complicated and it's not impossible to improve.
But we have to want to. All of us have to want to.
And until that happens, I will be preaching with a phone nearby, thinking about how far I can throw the large rock that sits on the altar, and praying that most of the congregation will be saved, even if I am not.