Will More Guns in School Resolve the Safety and Security Issue?

No.

It seems logical.  Let some teachers get concealed carry permits, buy pistols, pack them in their purses or briefcases, or carry them under your jacket or sweater, strapped to your body, ready to use at a moment’s notice.  That will solve the problem of active shooters coming on campus to murder students and staff.  That’s a predictable response, especially from people who don’t understand what it is like to work in an educational environment, and who are blinded by political rhetoric to the reality of what is actually happening.  But it won’t work.  Frankly, I think it will make things worse than they already are, if that can be done.

Anyone who knows anything about weapons, especially firearms, knows that a person with a concealed carry permit and a pistol is no match for a calculated killer with an assault rifle.  There might be a few more bullets popping around, and there’s an outside chance that a teacher might be able to concentrate, get into position, aim and fire in the middle of a hail of bullets from a modified semi-automatic weapon firing at random, but it is more likely that the teacher would draw negative attention and be shot themselves, not to mention how confusing or difficult it would be if dozens of students are milling around, trying to get themselves to safety.

So what about training?  Can teachers, and other school employees, be given the kind of training necessary to confront an active shooter situation?  Look at how extensively police officers are trained for the same thing.  If you advocate for this method, the necessary training would be extensive.  That is in addition to the high level of training teachers must already undergo to be qualified to teach.  And we’re not just talking about schools here, because mass shootings aren’t limited to them.  In Texas, it was a church.  In Arizona, it was a shopping center parking lot.  In Colorado, it was a movie theater.  Could you find a politician willing to forgo tax cuts to the wealthy in order to pay the massive amount of money it would cost to do this?  Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.  The vast majority of law enforcement agencies in this country say this is a bad idea, and that’s a virtually unanimous opinion among those who have had a school shooting occur in their jurisdiction.

Teachers are educators.  Putting the additional responsibility of being a campus security guard into their job description is not going to make a school any safer, nor will it make the education being provided more effective.  What if the shooter is a student, or a former student?  After being trained in the way that they are, how easy will it be for a teacher to pull the trigger?  And will they survive the split second it takes for that thought to run through their mind before they make that decision?  What parent will think that their children will be safer, or better served,  in a school where their child’s third grade teacher has a pistol, and would be the first line of defense if an intruder walked into their school building?

Think about this with some common sense.  An active shooter with a modified AK-15 and dozens of rounds of ammunition gets into a back entrance of a high school, pulls the fire alarm and starts shooting.  Responding to the gunfire, and to announcements that there is a shooter in the building, trained teachers pull their weapons.  There are still students running for cover in the hallways, some in classrooms, some in common areas like the library or cafeteria, and the gunman pulls the trigger and sprays bullets.  A few teachers decide they have to do something, and start firing back.  Now there’s crossfire.  The shooter finds cover and waits.  Or finds a place where he can still see fleeing students, and keeps pulling the trigger.  The police enter the building.  Their first sight, upon reaching the second floor where the shooting is coming from, is a guy ducked down behind a cinder block half-wall, firing a pistol their direction down the hallway where other shots are being heard.  The police naturally assume it is a teacher with a gun, and leave him alone.  Right?   Turning schools into war zones is not the answer to this problem.

It would make more sense to provide trained, armed security guards on campuses, and control the entrances and exits.  Some schools already do this, as a result of circumstances related to their location, or as a reaction to the potential problems that exist when you have a school where 2,000 teenagers come to class every day.  We already do this at airports.  Every time I enter a state or federal government building, I have to show ID and pass through a security post with a metal detector.  Though we have an aversion to the appearance of elementary students walking through a metal detector, past an armed security guard to get into their school each day, if it keeps the kids and staff safe, we need to get used to the idea.  Here’s the problem with that.  Getting the politicians to put up the money for it is a problem.  Already loathe to spend money on education anyway, those of a particular political persuasion would likely not be willing to give up tax cuts for the wealthy, and for high profit corporate business in order to protect the children of poor Americans in public schools.  They’ve already weighed the cost of school security, and done what they’ve wanted with the money, which is why we are still, decades after the first school shooting, still having problems with it.

What makes more sense than any other plan is simply restricting access to the kinds of weapons designed exclusively for the taking of human life.  No sensible, legitimate, “law abiding” gun owner sees the ownership of an assault rifle as an expression of the right to bear arms, or as necessary for self-protection.  Doing this doesn’t damage the second amendment.  It puts a dent in gun manufacturer and seller’s profits, which, in turn is against the prevailing political philosophy of one side of the aisle in Washington.  But if you really believe in the sanctity of human life, how much profit is one human being worth?

And this is a sanctity of life issue.  What purpose does it serve to go to great lengths to protect and preserve the life of the unborn when you aren’t nearly as passionate about making sure that same life isn’t gunned down in a school classroom 16 years later?  It is hypocritical to have a desire to criminalize the use of instruments which are used to perform a procedure that ends the life of a child in the womb, but be in favor of completely unrestricted use of instruments which ends the life of children in school.  There is no difference between a medical doctor performing an abortion, and a gun show operator providing someone with the means to shoot kids for target practice.

 

 

 

What’s Happening with the New Baptist Covenant?

The New Baptist Covenant creates vibrant, inclusive Baptist communities, building bridges in places previously marked by division. We are called by God to champion the weak and oppressed, honor the diverse workings of the Holy Spirit and to share the love of Christ. Our work is rooted in the words of Jesus Christ found in Luke 4:18-19:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free.

This statement comes from the New Baptist Covenant’s website, and is found as part of the definition of its mission and purpose.  You remember the New Baptist Covenant?  The organization founded by Jimmy Carter, assisted by Bill Clinton, in 2006 as a means to bring segregated Baptist denominations and church bodies together for the purpose of building “covenant relationships” to engage in social justice ministry.  That was its narrower purpose, but during the first gathering in Atlanta, many of the speakers envisioned the covenant as a means of drawing various Baptists together in other ways, and laying the foundation for a greater unity and cooperation between the churches and denominations that share the common theology, practice, and the name name, “Baptists.”

So what’s happened to the New Baptist Covenant?

It’s still there.  There are Baptist groups and churches which become involved, engage in covenant relationships with churches of like faith and order but a different racial makeup, and do social justice ministry together.  And that’s a good thing, wherever it is happening.  Baptists, like most other Protestant church groups in the United States, remain far more racially segregated than the culture at large, so when churches are working together, pooling resources and doing some good, especially in the realm of social justice, it’s good, and it is also a very effective way to model the gospel.

It’s still meeting.  It has summits which feature worship times, speakers drawn from the Baptist constituency that supports it, mostly individuals with prominent jobs within the various denominational groupings.  After the initial gathering in 2006, where several African American denominations were meeting together in a historic show of unity, the attendance and participation has been quite small, the result of the fact that most Baptists haven’t caught the vision, and don’t participate.  At the initial gathering, news media reports stated that the delegates in attendance represented Baptist denominations with a collective membership of over 20 million.  But the nature of Baptist gatherings is not representative.  No Baptist speaks for another, so if there are ten thousand delegates from 20 different denominations with a collective membership of 20 million, there is no representation by anyone in attendance of any Baptist who isn’t there.  And it’s become pretty clear, in the years since its formation, that only a few thousand Baptists, out of the more than 30 million people who are members of a Baptist church in the US, are involved in the New Baptist Covenant.

So why didn’t this movement get off the ground, so to speak, and start a move toward Baptist unity, as its founders hoped?

A majority of Baptists in the United States belong to denominations that can easily be labelled as “conservative” from a doctrinal and theological perspective.  The Southern Baptist Convention accounts for slightly more than half of all Baptist church members in the US.   Another large conservative Baptist constituency is found in churches that label themselves “Independent Fundamental Baptist.”  The SBC is not likely to support any group in which the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is involved, and they are one of the groups that participated in the organization of the Covenant.  There are some Southern Baptists who see the value of it, and some churches which have become engaged and involved, but as a denomination, there is no support, and very few churches and individuals have made a commitment to the Covenant.

Independent Fundamental Baptists generally don’t get involved in anything that doesn’t demonstrate an exact line up with their doctrinal positions.  They see the Covenant as a gathering of “liberals” and there are few, if any, of their members or churches willing to get involved.

Unfortunately, social justice ministry isn’t a high priority for many conservative Baptists.  Seen more as a fief of more liberal Baptist denominations, mainly because it is the leadership of those groups that are prominent advocates for this kind of ministry, the conservatives don’t cooperate.  There is persistent resistance to cooperating with any other Christian groups that don’t share some of the common doctrinal marks of more conservative Baptists, and something like the covenant looks “ecumenical,” which they see as doctrinal and theological compromise.  But social justice ministry is a model of the application of the gospel.  It is a more effective means of planting seeds for evangelism than some of the methods churches use now.

“Baptist unity,” too, is a fleeting concept.  Outside of a few common doctrines, and some common church practices, mainly the idea of the independent, non-connectional, congregational local church and baptism by immersion following a testimony of faith in Christ as savior, there is not much which Baptists share.  The Southern Baptist Convention is build around its missions ministries, and theological seminaries, and is not interested in cooperating in ministry because it does not need to do so.  The nature of an Independent Fundamental Baptist church is that you can’t work with anyone else because they might not have right doctrine.  And they incorrectly see any form of Christian cooperation as automatic endorsement of everything those other Christians believe.  Their colleges and universities don’t mind accepting tuition dollars from the majority of their students who don’t attend or belong to Baptist churches, but they won’t work together with the church down the street to build a better neighborhood for the kids or families.

So the Covenant continues.  It’s small, it has become relatively unknown and ignored by most Baptists, but it is still there, and it forms a valuable foundation and framework for social justice and ministry cooperation between the Baptists who are interested in using it as a resource.  And to be honest with you, I’m not so sure Baptist unity would be all that good.

 

 

The Super Bowl, God, and the Struggle Between Good and Evil

When I’ve lived in a large metropolitan area with a professional football team, I’ve tried to be a fan.  It’s been tough at times, more fun at others, but I’m really more of a purist when it comes to football, and I’d rather be in the bleachers on a Friday night at a high school game or in a backless metal seat in a college stadium than watching a pro game on a Sunday afternoon.  I can literally count on one hand the times I’ve seen an NFL game live.  But I do watch the Super Bowl.

It would have been hard not to have been interested in this one.  The success of the Eagles over the course of the season runs counter to the normally predictable NFL pattern.  The NFL is usually a math equation, with the predictable performance of players paid premium salaries to deliver at a predictable pace.  When a team loses a key player to injury, like Philadelphia did when they lost their starting quarterback to injury, it’s supposed to change the outlook.  Players like Nick Foles aren’t supposed to make a difference.  But he did.

I grew up near Tucson, Arizona, and have been a lifelong fan of the Arizona Wildcats.  So this Super Bowl was particularly interesting because it featured three former Wildcat players.  Rob Gronkowski has made a name for himself as Tom Brady’s top receiver.  Marquis Flowers is one of the Patriot’s top defensive ends.  And of course, there was Nick Foles, who had made a name for himself in his short time as the Philadelphia quarterback.

The matchup was fascinating for social media.  The Patriots have replaced the Dallas Cowboys as the most hated team in the NFL, largely because of the ingrained trait of hatred of success.  They’re just a good team, consistent, and they have a coach who is, whether you like him or not, one of the masterminds of the game.  He gets the players he needs who are capable of executing a game plan that wins, and they do.

People discovered that the Eagles have a core of quarterbacks who are also Evangelical Christians.  Foles is studying to become a pastor.  Carson Wentz is an evangelist who has led several teammates to faith in Christ and baptized some of them.  If hating the Patriots wasn’t enough motivation to cheer for the Eagles, knowing that some of the players were open about their Christian faith certainly created some.  It was “God’s team,” and there was some open implication that the Patriots were playing for the other side.  Wink, wink.

Don’t get me wrong, I was glad for Foles, and for the Eagles, and for what their victory represented and meant to their team.   I’m glad that the coach, and some of the players, were open about sharing their faith, but not obnoxious about it.  It was a great game.  Not only did the former Wildcat Foles distinguish himself, but so did former Wildcat Rob Gronkowski, who, once he warmed up, was the player whose performance led the Patriot comeback.  The defensive play of former Wildcat Marquis Flowers was also a factor in slowing down the Philadelphia offense.

But I don’t think it matters to God who wins the Super Bowl.  I don’t think he used his sovereign power to top the balance in favor of the Eagles because a couple of their players are pastors, and I don’t think the Eagles win is some kind of symbolic victory for Christ followers and a Biblical worldview.

It was a game.  There will be another season and another Super Bowl.