Packin’ Pistols for God and Country: NRA Christians stake claim on patriotism and the America

Published on ZNet, by Bill Berkowitz, July 8, 2009.

If you don’t quite get that, for many in this country, the connection between guns and God is as American as burgers and fries, baseball and beer, and July 4th and fireworks, you should have been at the New Bethel Church in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, June 27, where Pastor Ken Pagano welcomed more than 200 people – most of them packing guns (albeit unloaded) — to an event called the “Open Carry Celebration.”

According to the New Bethel Church website, the “Open Carry Celebration” was held on a Saturday instead of a Sunday, so that it was clear that it was “not a church worship service, where the focus is on Jesus and our responsibility to Him. Rather,” Pagano, a former Marine weapons instructor, pointed out, “this is merely a church-hosted event, similar to any other event that any other church may do to celebrate their heritage” … 

… Earlier this year, the Arkansas House of Representatives created quite a stir when it was considering a bill that would have allowed concealed hand guns in churches across the state. In late February, the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted not to allow that bill out of committee.

Pagano, who appears to maintain that without the Second Amendment – the right to bear arms – there would be no First Amendment – the right to free speech – and therefore no America as he knows it, has again placed the issue of carrying guns in the pews on the table. At the same time, his well-publicized event gave the pastor more than his fifteen minutes in the national spotlight.

As for the debate over guns, in a short post at Beliefnet, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, author, radio and TV talk show host, and President of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, asked: “Whatever one thinks about guns, gun ownership, or gun laws, do we really need any more religious leaders officiating over a marriage between faith and firearms?”

One Hirschfield reader responded unambiguously: “The US Constitution is divinely inspired, and nowhere is the hand of the Almighty in the creation of our country more evident in the glorious right of all its citizens to defend themselves enshrined in the Sacred Second Amendment. To me, bringing firearms to church, synagogue, or mosque is a joyful act of worship and thanksgiving for this our most sacred right, to defend our very lives from royal oppression.” (full text).

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