Here's a depressing way to start the week

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06/22/2009
Maybe it's the fact that it's been raining here in the northeast for about six weeks (there are frameworks for arks popping up everywhere), but something about this story in the LA Times this morning strikes me as woefully depressing. It's about improving church security, since churches appear to be the sites of an increasing number of shootings (there is some data to support this, but it's still a really small number and it could be a statistical blip). On one level: Great. The security industry is ready and waiting to provide potential solutions to the problem. It's a new revenue stream and all that. But, jeez, listen to some of these quotes the men of the cloth are throwing out there:
"I think that we're living in a violent time and we have a duty to ensure the safety of our flock," said Fred Rodriguez, a senior pastor at Elsinore First Assembly in Lake Elsinore. Rodriguez said he came to the seminar because he worries that church violence will get worse. "The Scripture says we're living the last days," the clergyman said. "A person doesn't have to look too far to see evidence." "There are practical things we can do," he added, "and we let God take care of the rest."
Yikes! Are these guys Mayans? But, somewhat seriously, if the end of days is upon us, why bother with increased security? Everybody's dust in a few years anyway, right? (Hmmm, maybe we better pretend I didn't write that.) Actually seriously, the solution to the problem seems depressingly worse than the problem itself:
Traditional security measures, like metal detectors or pat-downs, might compromise that sense of sanctuary, Baker said. So he proposed other, subtler methods. He suggested that churches organize undercover security teams -- and recommended that some members come armed with concealed weapons. If violence breaks out at church, it could take minutes for even the fastest police and rescue crews to respond, Baker said, "and there's a whole lot of bad that can happen in two to three minutes."
Which disrupts your worship more? Coming through a metal detector or being part of an undercover armed response team? And exactly how does that conversation go? Pastor: Charlie, I've heard you're pretty good with a handgun? Charlie: Sure, father, I spent 5 years in the Army and I shoot on the weekends. Why? Pastor: Well, we're worried about potential shootings, given what's been in the news and all, and I was wondering if you'd start coming to church on Sundays with your pistol, so that if anything should happen, you could take the guy down before too much damage happens. Charlie: Hmm, well, you know, I always have my wife and kids with me. How do I explain to the girls why daddy's bringing a gun to church? Pastor: Well, just hide it real good... Decorum keeps me from making that a lot funnier (to me). But, c'mon, how can asking more people to bring guns to church be a good solution? I find that mind-blowing (and depressing). But here's the counter-argument to that:
Baker, like other security consultants, said churchgoers need to fight back instead of hiding if they're being attacked, as many students have been coached to do in the event of a school shooting. "If I'm going to get beat, I'm going to get beat doing something," Baker said. "I'm not going to get beat doing nothing."
There's a turn the other cheek joke there that I won't bother with. There's also a big difference between kids fighting back at school and parishioners getting into a fire-fight in the pews. I'm guessing they don't let kids pack heat, but I'm starting to get to the point where I'd believe anything. And we know teachers are bringing guns to schools, certainly. What's the solution to keeping churches safe? I have no idea. But I hope the electronic security community can come up with something better than arming the congregation.

Comments

Um. This is not exactly a new idea. Being as non-specific as possible, I know of a certain community based religious council that settled on exactly this as a solution. Post 9/11, in addition to hardening all houses of worship and schools associated with this religious community, the hierarchy decided to have armed people in the crowd at all times. A few people were secretly appointed to set up regular training and creating a rotation so that there is more than one armed, trained person present during services, classes, after school programs, and what have you. This program continues to this day. I don't want to add more details than this because 1) I have no idea how legal this is, as this community is not exaclty based in the southern United States and therefore the Second Amendment is not exactly looked upon as a good thing by the local government, and 2) I am not sure if I entirely approve of this program. I do know, howver, that cameras can't stop violence and when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.