June 28, 2020
PAUL GLADER and MICHAEL RAY SMITH
Colorado Springs, Colorado, US Unplugged Religion
Jeff Henry wears a Glock pistol, a hunting knife and steel handcuffs on his belt as he cautiously fixes a man with an AR-15 assault rifle as he approaches his church.
"I want to see my son!" the man screams.
Henry looks at how church member Kent Lambert, 67, draws a gun, yells "Release him now!" then he loads the man, takes off the assault rifle from his hands and pushes it out the door.
With that, the Mountain Springs Church Life Safety Team completed a live tutorial (using fake guns) in early March, just when the COVID-19 quarantines started and well before the 39; protests start over the death of George Floyd. The approximately 20 members of the life safety team in this quarterly training gather in a circle to deconstruct Lambert's performance.
"We could have screamed," PISTOL! GUN! GUN! Lockdown! "As soon as we saw the gun," says Henry. The men talked about strategies for recording the assassin's license plates. They suggested that Lambert raise his hands in a defensive pose in case the visitor tries to punch. They argued if Lambert, a former Air Force officer and state legislator, could legally shoot the intruder (played by church member Bryan Sanson, 42) if the scenario were real.
"Yes! Shoot him!" Says one member of the group. "Someone who enters a church with an AR is probably not there for cookies."
Jeff Henry (center) explains the shooting technique to members of the Mountain Springs Church Colorado life safety team while practicing at a shooting range in March. IMAGE: Paul Glader.
Before the quarantine and protests of COVID-19 over racial injustices, people of faith who frequent the church, the synagogue, the mosque and other places of worship have increasingly thought about security measures. After 19 mortal wounds in houses of worship since 2000, more and more Christians in the United States from Texas to Maine are carrying weapons to church. In 2019 LifeWay Research, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, conducted a telephone survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors and found that 45% said that their security measures involve members of armed churches. In the same survey, 62% said they had an active shooter planned and 80% said they had adopted a security measure during worship. All of this constitutes a strange moment in the history of the church and brings tension with theology that emphasizes nonviolence.
"We are striking a balance between the Grand Commission and security," said Rev. Mike Sowers of the First Baptist Church in Buies Creek, North Carolina. A handful of his parishioners bring guns to church along with their Bibles. They shoot targets at gunpoint with the same promptness that they make supplications during prayer meetings, always on the alert for every dangerous person. And he says that other churches in his area are also more active on security. "We have faith in God and the need to protect our building, but we want to do it in a way that does not prevent the mission."
"We are reaching a balance between the Grand Commission and security … We trust in God and in the need to protect our building, but we want to do it in a way that does not prevent the mission."
– Rev Mike Sowers of First Baptist Church in Buies Creek, North Carolina.
On December 29, 2019, the shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in Texas was a signal moment for the growing security movement within the churches. A vagabond who drew a gun during communion and shot two church members was killed by a deacon in a fire fight seen on YouTube. The example has left many gun control activists silent. For gun rights activists, it validated the National Rifle Association's view that guns discourage and hold crime.
During the seven-hour training session at Mountain Springs Church in Colorado on a recent Saturday, Henry was thrilled as he opened in prayer.
"There is no reason to fear," he says, referring to the coronavirus pandemic fears and church violence. "But there is reason to be cautious." Henry offers an overview of the purpose and tactics and teaches the importance of situational awareness, of the "DLR – if something doesn't seem right, don't ignore it. Of something."
It therefore focuses on an incident replay and analysis in Texas.
"We owe it to those who lost loved ones that day to become better sheepdogs," he said, before queuing a video of the West Freeway Church of Christ footage on a big screen so they could talk through the frame-by-frame for about an hour in the community room on the top floor of his church.
"This is the villain right here," says Henry, using his laser pointer.
"It looks like Darth Vader!" says a team member.
"First of all, it happened so damn fast!" Henry says, noting that six seconds had passed since the tramp fired a shotgun and shot two people before he was killed and killed.
The group highlights the positive aspects of the Texas church members. So they criticize the weak points. They point to an usher who acted too passively in the situation and was shot at. They note that a member of the church had difficulty pulling out the gun and was shot.
"Obviously he lost his life because he was too slow!" Says Henry. "That's why we train in time pressure scenarios."
The group praises Wilson, who shot down the killer.
"This is clearly the result of a well-trained boy," says Henry.
While the group reviewed the video several times, some wondered how the man in the oversized wig and coat came to church in the first place. "For your safety, can we see what's under your coat?" they suggest asking him.
They also wonder why some members of the church go through the corridors brandishing guns but not using "muzzle control," techniques to avoid pointing the gun barrel at other people. They laugh at a man who stuck the gun in his armpit while calling 911 – unsafe technique. They talk about the need for ushers and salutators to act as observers and yellers for attackers, creating an "enormous force multiplier".
The Federal Bureau of Investigation recognizes the growing trend of church shooters and understands that the faithful will take care of their safety more often. "Everyone who participates in a service deserves the right to do it in peace," said FBI partner's Office of Engagement Director Kerry Sleeper in a 2019 statement. "This it is certainly our common goal here as we move forward. "
Blocked and laden parishioners who act as John Wayne of the church pews could be a new chapter in church history. Historically, Christians have been reluctant to deploy self-protection violence. While the Bible and church history illustrate the tension around violence, armed resistance is not completely unrelated to Christianity.
A story of nonviolence in Christianity In the Old Testament, Nehemiah anticipated John Webster, who said, "Old friends, like old swords, trust even more." Nehemiah held a mason's trowel in his hand as he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and trusted his old friend, the sword, to repel the attacks. In Nehemiah 4, when the Arabs, Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard about the repairs to the walls of Jerusalem: "They were angry. They all came together to come to fight against Jerusalem and raise problems against it. But we prayed to our God is sent a day and night guard to deal with this threat. " Then Nehemiah placed people at key points with "swords, spears and bows". The men brandished their weapons as they rebuilt the walls, ready to strike when an armed threat arose.
So in the New Testament, the Gospels report that Jesus himself became angry and launched a carefully planned "whim" to free merchants from selling goods in the temple. The scriptures say that Jesus overturned the tables full of coins and drove out the animals. John's report even claimed that Jesus took some time to make a whip from the ropes.
Meanwhile, apparently in contradiction, the Gospels also quote Jesus who tells people not to please "eye for eye and tooth for tooth" scores. Rather, Jesus said, "Do not resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them on the other cheek." Also, in Romans 12: 19-21, Paul exhorts the Romans not to take revenge but "leave room for the wrath of God, because it is written:" It is mine to avenge; I will repay, "says the Lord." Paul further complicates the divine response by urging Christians to be kind to their enemies and "Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good".
Dr Michael Glerup is executive director of the Center for Early African Christianity at Yale University. He said that the ancient Christian church gave some space for self-defense, but the monastic tradition has practiced passive resistance as an ideal.
"At the borders, where raids are frequent," we find numerous cases where "bishops have asked government officials for protection," he says.
He says monks in monasteries in Egypt rarely reacted when marauders attacked. Over time, some governments have built fortified walls around monasteries and maintain (a term for towers) to protect the monks inside. "The Nubians fought the attackers with well-trained archers," he says. "They saw no contradiction between the practice of Christianity and the protection of their people."
With a devastating loss to Yarmuk in 636 for Arab Muslims, Byzantine (then Roman) domination faltered in the Middle East. After centuries of fluctuating power, the Byzantines eventually fell to the Ottomans in 1453. The prominent Christian sites from Constantinople to Corinth fell under Muslim control.
History also records the construction of fortresses for the protection of the church, including some German Lutheran churches and communities in Romania built as fortresses. Some churches in Spain were armed during the Reconquista such as the city of Avila, which still retains a cathedral built in one of its mighty walls, one of its towers which is part of the city's defenses.
Templar knights and other military orders arose to protect pilgrims who went to the Holy Land and to provide hospitals to people of all faiths in Jerusalem. The Knights of Malta were a military religious order, which proudly displayed the Christian cross in their uniforms and served as assault troops against Islamic Ottoman invaders until 1798, when Napoleon invaded the island of Malta and posed end to the Crusades.
“Worship and a show of strength, also in defense of our lives, are incompatible with the lights of the New Testament. To combine them is to try to run after Jesus in our reading of the Scriptures ”.
– Myles Werntz, associate professor of Christian ethics and practical theology at the Logsdon Seminar at the Hardin-Simmons University of Texas
Some Christian denominations such as Unitarians, Amish, Quakers and Mennonites are categorically opposed to weapons and violence even in self-defense. Myles Werntz, associate professor of Christian Ethics and Practical Theology at the Logsdon Seminar at the Hardin-Simmons University of Texas, opposes the weapon of church members. In his next article (at the time of writing) in the academic journal Review & Expositor, he refers to Matthew, where Christ tells his listeners not to hate enemies but to love them.
"Worship and a show of strength, even in defense of our lives, are incompatible with the lights of the New Testament," Werntz said in a telephone interview. "To combine them is to try to run after Jesus in our reading of the Scriptures".
He believes that arming congregations tends to unhook the worship of God and deny the need for hospitality shown by the church. Werntz says wise planning and prudent measures could include installing security systems where people are buzzing in church during the week or that greetings control who will come to worship. Armed members, he thinks, go too far.
David Flaud, 61, from rural Newburg, south-central Pennsylvania, knew the participants of a West Nickel Mines School in the Old Order Amish community which was attacked in 2006 when an assassin killed 10 girls, killing five, first to commit suicide. Flaud says that he and other Amish believe that Christians have been persecuted, to death, by burning at the stake, throughout the history of the church. "It's God's plan," he said. "We don't understand it."
John Wayne's Gospel The gospel of the guns, meanwhile, is developing its theology and jargon in American churches. Men in churches in the Midwest, Deep South and other parts of America find purpose and meaning as part of a church security team, the way other church members are part of the choir, the band from the church or dance team.
Pew Research in 2018 reported that Christian women are more religious than men. He found that 72% of women say that religion is "very important" in their lives compared to 62% of Christian men in the United States. He found that women believe more often that God exists, that the Bible is the word of God. He found that women say they pray and attend church more regularly than men.
Women tend to be peacekeepers, says Dr. Deborah Strong, ordained minister, missionary and professor.
"Personally, I would find armed defense teams offensive and most likely dangerous," he said. "Violence only generates more long-term violence. It has no place in the church."
Strong spent a career in South Asia and is a pacifist, observing: "I believe that since we live in the dispensation of grace or in the age of grace, which began at Pentecost, the New Testament is our guide for daily life. Romans tells us not to pay back evil for evil and not to take revenge (Romans 12: 17,19). We are asked to be imitators of Christ. He said to turn the other cheek. done himself from time to time. when they crucified Him. Christ never used a weapon to defend himself. It follows that we should do the same. "
Military, special forces, and government intelligence specialists are part of the life-safety teams of some churches in the United States. Some members of a security team from the Colorado Springs, Colorado church exercise their speed and shooting accuracy using a laser beam simulator in a friend's basement. IMAGE: Paul Glader.
For Dr. Kathryn M Lopez, associate professor of the Old Testament at the University of Campbell, women are particularly attuned to threats of violence as mothers who want to protect their children.
"I'm not a martyr," said Lopez, an elder from a church of the Disciples of Christ in Dunn, North Carolina. "But weapons in the worship service are not the answer."
While Tasers may be a better alternative, he said, the key issue is the idea of moral injury, in which people who carry side-arms in church must have the expectation that they will not only shoot someone. , but they can sustain a personal injury of the psyche from hurting someone.
"A person can harm himself by shooting another human being in the name of Jesus," he said.
Like Werntz and others, Lopez suggested that churches use the greetings stationed at each exit to be vigilant, but practice the act of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Roman soldiers arrived to arrest Jesus, Peter used his sword. "Jesus said to put away the sword," said Lopez.
Meanwhile, the church's security movement has paved the way for its own terminology, with men claiming to "answer a call". They are part of a "team". They are called to be "protectors" of their friends and family. They call themselves "guardians" or "guardians" or "shepherd dogs".
Religion Unconnected reporters spoke to more than two dozen church security team members in Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska and other states, many of them men and many special operations soldiers, retired officers and greedy hunters. Men say they see the protection of churchmates as part of their personal ministry. They enjoy the camaraderie of mutual training, discussing all aspects of security tactics and being alert at strategic points during a church service.
They say many American church men don't want to be ushers, coffee waiters and greetings.
“They are not people who face time. They are not sociable people, but they still want to serve. They know they can intervene if there is a situation. They will go towards a threat, "said a leader of the church security movement, who wanted to remain anonymous.
In Colorado Springs, security teams from different churches communicate via messaging apps to share best practices, help identify weaknesses and conduct joint training seminars. They say they are on call if another church needs help. They share ranges of weapons. Some persuaded their herders to allow special response equipment such as assault rifles and armor in the event of a heavier attack or coordinated attack. Some argue that they are practicing just as regularly during the pandemic and that they have carried out undercover security operations during the racial injustice protests in recent days.
“The church security movement says that you enter our house of worship with the aim of hurting you, you will leave in a pine box. I would be surprised if no church in North America did not have armed security. "
-The unnamed chief of a church security team, a former Special Forces soldier.
"The church security movement says you enter our house of worship with the aim of hurting you, you will leave in a pine box," said the leader of a church security team, a former soldier from the special forces. "I would be surprised if no church in North America didn't have armed security."
In the great plains of rural western South Dakota, church security looks different, as cattle farmers increasingly carry their weapons in small churches to a room rather than leaving firearms in their pickup trucks or at home.
"Almost every church out there has a number of armed parishioners who have taken some training and sit in specific places for safety," says Travis Mickelson, a breeder who attends the Prairie Home Church, near Mud Butte, in rural areas of western South Dakota. He describes them as "human guardian dogs".
He said that when he grew up in the 90s in that region, breeders who went to church probably didn't bring guns to church. Mickelson said that although most people know each other in churches in rural Meade County in South Dakota, recent reports of church shootings "awaken the level of caution." And he said that the Keystone oil pipeline that crosses the region brings some outsiders to the area. Mickelson said most people in rural South Dakota carry hidden firearms in part of the time and know how to use them for hunting and pest control on the ranch.
He understands that some people may not understand why Christians are happy and paranoid.
"Forgive me, but I'm a shepherd (who owns and cares for hundreds of sheep) and I have guard dogs," he says. "The comparison is real and surprising," he said, noting that predators who hate religion and prey on religious people are real according to world and national news.
A growing movement Church security has also become a sort of cottage industry. Dozens of small businesses nationwide have opened small security services, training organizations and consultancy practices. Two major associations include the Colorado Springs-based Faith Based Security Network, and another is the National Organization of Church Safety and Security Management, which is the oldest and largest.
NOCSSM is a non-profit corporation based in Aubrey, Texas that has many member churches in the United States who pay USD 120 per year. Its educational resources include security models, training videos and a national conference. Speakers at the annual NOCSSM conference deal with topics such as safety of short-term mission travel, safety in private Christian schools and tactics in situations of active shooters.
The motto of the NOCSSM is "protect the people of God" and its secondary motto is "Train the called and call the trained". He points to 1 Chronicles 9: 21-27 as his scripture scripture, a passage where guardians were identified to observe the doors of the house of the Lord, the house of the tabernacle, "as guards."
Founder and President Chuck Chadwick was a former security director in several mega-churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. His website quotes Jesus in Luke 22:36, “Now if you have a bag, take it and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. "
Religion Unplugged traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado in March to meet Carl Chinn, leader of the safety of life movement in American churches. They also attended and reported on training from the Mountain Springs Church life safety team in Colorado. This mini-documentary tries to understand and explain why many American faithful are gravitating on the concept of trained teams that use firearms as protection in houses of worship.
Carl Chinn, founder and president of the Faith Based Security Network, is based in Colorado Springs and serves as the guru of the church security movement. His organization has more than 400 members who pay an annual fee of $ US75 and takes his motto from Nehemiah 4: 9: "We prayed to our God and released a guard …" The scripture verses that rotate on his site web also mention parts of Zechariah 9: 8, "For now, I'm keeping a watch;" Romans 12: 9, "Abhor evil, hold fast to good;" and Corinthians 13: 7: "Love always protects".
Once a professional animal trapper and fur trader in Kansas, Chinn worked on Focus on the Family in the 1990s and was one of four hostages taken in 1996 by an assassin, a situation defused by hostage negotiators. That experience made him understand how "it could happen here" can change to "it happened here".
Chinn helped develop a ministry of life safety at the New Life Church in Colorado in 2005 and was part of the security team who responded to a murderer who was about to enter a church corridor in 2007 who killed a person and injured four others in front of a woman who was part of the security team shot the assassin.
The latter incident served as an alarm bell, triggering a growing security and protection movement for the Colorado Springs church, which houses five military bases and more lenient gun ownership laws. A culture of hunting, outdoor living and military personnel combined with many national ministries based in the area have made Colorado Springs an epicenter of the church's security movement, with Texas and other places serving as additional hubs. . Carl Chinn is considered one of the godfathers of the movement.
“I gave my life to the Lord in 1979. I no longer need to listen to the messages of salvation. I (and many I know) are simply wired differently than many who sit on the benches every week, ”says Chinn. "Me and many I know are just more satisfied with serving in an area where we feel necessary in order to protect my grandchildren and others."
After the shooting of the Church of New Life in 2007, hundreds of people of Catholic, Latter-day Saints (Mormon) and Protestant denominations came to meetings in Colorado Springs. "We decided to put together a coalition," says Chinn, speaking in his barn which doubles as a home office, a cave for men and an exhibition room for the animal skins he tracked and the elk horns he hunted with the his children.
"Going back to the time of Christ, protection was taken seriously," says Chinn, warming her hands near a wood stove in her barn after demonstrating the correct shooting technique in her outdoor shooting range. “David was the model of the warrior, the warrior king. He was a king of special operations. "
Chinn also points to the circuit preachers in the Old American West who carried a Bible in their hand and a gun in their pocket. "Protection was a way of life in those days."
Chinn says that we may be in a new era of security and protection for houses of worship. But it is because the United States has skipped a century of security and has become complacent.
“Going back to the time of Christ, protection was taken seriously. David was the model of the warrior, the warrior king. He was a king of special operations. "
– Carl Chinn, founder and president of the Faith Based Security Network.
“Around 1900 we got this westernized and pacified thing that said the police would protect us. We have started to escape our responsibility as citizens. "
In 2012, Chinn wrote Evil Invades Sanctuary, a manual on church security needs. He has started speaking in churches nationwide and is often traveling for weeks at a time. In 2016, he started the FBSN, which now includes 43 states and Washington, DC. He began studying fatal accidents by force in places of worship and maintaining a database when other existing databases could not be found. He created new types of statistics to track violence in places of worship and cataloged 1,700 of these incidents – including 479 murder events of 618 victims – between 1999 and 2017. He found that 2017 was the deadliest year for US religious institutions, with 114 deaths recorded on 233 total incidences. It does not yet have complete figures for 2018 or 2019.
An element of serious Christianity, as in Judaism and Islam, is hermeneutics, the branch of knowledge that deals with textual interpretation. Evangelicals believe that every person can and should study the Bible and consider its meaning (in addition to learning from a minister).
This methodology extends to church security. Discussions and debates are celebrated and encouraged, but sometimes feuds emerge between rival organizations or training methodologies. Chinn notes that his training organization, FBSN, and his biggest and oldest rival, NOCSSM, don't exactly get along or recommend each other.
A political land game The Chinn group and others are involved in the legislation. While churches are embracing the idea of voluntary armed security teams, churches and non-profit organizations are also lobbying for favorable legislation in several states.
"Our state is adjusting the legislation to meet the different needs of the congregations," said Dr. Will Hall, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's Public Policy Office. He said Louisiana had previously instructed church security volunteers to take an eight-hour tactical training course to conceal transportation on a church campus. Now, the law allows churches to determine for themselves what requirements these volunteers from armed security teams must meet. Hall's office is working to keep churches free to make their own decisions about security teams that own weapons as a tactical defense strategy.
This freedom was granted by Louisiana lawmakers largely because there are no universal standards for tactical training or qualifications for instructors, Hall said. He said the insurance sector is studying the issue and will likely weigh on what churches will need to do to qualify for protection policies in the future.
Christy Gooding of Des Moines's Guide One, un'agenzia assicurativa per chiese, scuole e aziende, ha affermato che la sua organizzazione ha avviato la formazione sulla sicurezza per le chiese il 19 agosto 2019 e collabora con Strategos International per fornire formazione sulla risposta agli intrusi in classe e attraverso il web.
Jeff Renbarger di Fort Wayne, l'associazione mutua dell'associazione con sede nell'Indiana, concorda sul fatto che l'addestramento è fondamentale.
"Siamo un grande sostenitore di squadre di sicurezza organizzate e addestrate e piani di sicurezza", ha detto Renbarger, aggiungendo che i piani di sicurezza possono essere adattati alla chiesa in quanto una dimensione non va bene per tutti. La Fratellanza reciproca ha creato risorse per la formazione e la sicurezza della chiesa dieci anni fa, con l'idea di poter far parte del ministero, e ha creato una pubblicazione sulla sicurezza. L'addestramento di una squadra di difesa non influisce sui prezzi di sottoscrizione, ma può aiutare a ridurre i pericoli, ha affermato Renbarger.
"Una situazione di tiratore attivo è una piccola percentuale di eventi complessivi della chiesa", ha detto, aggiungendo che le chiese dovrebbero essere pronte per le emergenze mediche e una varietà di altri eventi imprevisti che potrebbero accadere durante un servizio. "Un team di sicurezza ben addestrato può essere un altro modo per avere un ministero aggiuntivo accogliente e ospitale."
Alcuni esperti di sicurezza della chiesa affermano che le chiese usano il termine "team di sicurezza della vita" anziché "team di sicurezza" perché la prima descrizione fornisce una migliore protezione legale.
I dati mostrano che gli incidenti più violenti si verificano nel parcheggio. E molti episodi di violenza nelle chiese sono collegati a controversie domestiche che inducono una parte a portare violenza in una chiesa.
"Vogliamo che i feriti e le ferite siano qui", afferma Henry, il capo della squadra di sicurezza della vita presso la Mountain Springs Church in Colorado. "Non vogliamo solo che facciano del male a nessun altro."
Henry chiede a tutti i membri del team di frequentare due programmi di allenamento trimestrali all'anno. Hanno anche un massimo di sette addestramenti di tiri di pistola all'anno presso i cannoni di proprietà dei membri della chiesa. Usa i materiali e i test di addestramento dell'FBI e della National Rifle Association con il suo team.
"Solleva la domanda: perché dovremmo abbassare i nostri standard agli standard dell'FBI?" un membro del team ha scherzato.
Henry ha affermato che i membri del team di sicurezza della vita e quelli della chiesa non dovrebbero solo pensare alle armi come armi primarie per fermare gli aggressori, ma anche a migliorare le armi: una caffettiera calda, ad esempio, è una grande arma. "Dump caffè a qualcuno!"
L'opzione di Clint Eastwood Nel film del 1985 Pale Rider, Clint Eastwood interpreta un misterioso predicatore che arriva in una piccola città mineraria quando una donna prega e cita il Salmo 23 mentre cerca protezione da criminali che sono stati violentati e violentati da cittadini. Il personaggio di Eastwood, "il predicatore", batte i cattivi nel film con il manico di un'ascia, i suoi pugni e le sue pistole. "Beh, il Signore certamente lavora in modo misterioso", dice dopo aver troncato uno dei cattivi.
Il titolo del film è tratto dal libro di Apocalisse 6: 8 che recita: "E io guardai, ed ecco un cavallo pallido: e il suo nome che sedeva su di lui era Morte, e l'Inferno lo seguì". Il film prende in giro la tensione tra punizione terrena e punizione divina.
Mentre il blogger e autore Rod Dreher ha scritto un recente libro intitolato L'opzione Benedict che esalta le virtù della stretta comunità cristiana in un'epoca secolare, molti cristiani stanno ora esaltando la virtù di Clint Eastwood di lanciare armi per combattere l'assalto a persone religiose e valori religiosi, che provenga da laici, terroristi di organizzazioni religiose radicali o malati di mente.
E per quanto possibile, la recente sparatoria in Texas ha messo in mostra e convalidato gli uomini (e alcune donne) pallidi, armati di pistola, con colpi di pistola, citatori della Bibbia che aspirano a essere. West Freeway non è stata un'aberrazione o un valore anomalo. Era esattamente ciò che immaginano e ciò che preparano per il giorno, il sabato e il giorno fuori, durante la settimana.
"Nulla di ciò che dico diminuisce le straordinarie azioni del team di sicurezza della Chiesa di Cristo Freeway occidentale", ha detto Chinn. “Richard White died not only that others may live, but that others may learn.”
At Mountain Springs Church, the Saturday training lasts seven hours. After the morning simulations, a youth pastor named Evan Stone stops by to give a message about how to exercise defence against attacks but also to create a safe and welcoming space for young people, including angsty junior high and high school students, who attend the church. He challenged the group to help the students feel “you belong here.”
“How do you teach kids to give a damn about authority?” asks one life safety team member.
“Make sure they know you care,” Stone says. “The more we do, the more we soften the walls around their hearts.”
After a pizza lunch, a group drives 24 kilometres to the private, outdoor gun-range in a manure-dotted grazing pasture of a fellow church member. They park their (mostly domestic-made) pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, load their target ammunition, holster their guns, plug in their earplugs and navigate a series of shooting drills in the cold, biting March air.
“This is not shooting practice. We all know how to shoot. That’s pretty simple,” Henry says. “This is practicing to fight with a handgun. That’s a different mentality… That’s a different animal.” He says they are training not just to win, but to prevail. “We want absolute domination over that evil that is attacking and trying to destroy God’s gift of life. It has to happen fast and accurately.”
First, Henry guides them to draw their weapons and hit a target – an outline of a human form with the thoracic cavity and head marked as target zones – from a few yards away. Then, he walks them through a series of more complicated shooting drills leading up to an obstacle course where two gunmen run toward a “Wilson Wall,” which they crouch behind while shooting past foam dummies and trying to hit two hanging steel targets. Bullets zip, bite and smack into the steel plates with sounds like “PING! TING! POP!”
As they run through the training, the men call out phrases like, “Dave, are you good? Call 911!”
Other men distract the shooters by swatting at their backs, yelling things like, “We’re all gonna DIE! Look OUT! They’re gonna GET ME!”
As a final training drill, he asks each man to draw a handgun and fire two rapid shots as accurately as possible. Henry records the shots with an audio box that measure response time. He says this drill simulates the West Texas shooting from December and dares the men to draw faster than the gunman did.
One by one, the men attempt the quick draw challenge. Two are disqualified for missing the small bullseye. A few others log scores between a two-second and three-second response.
“Not too shabby,” Henry says.
When his turn comes, Henry whips out his gun and buries two shots in the bullseye zones – shots to the thoracic and head area of the target – in 1.94 seconds. He looks over the results and shows the men the door prize that he, alas, must keep: a maroon coffee mug that says, “Good Morning. This is God. I’ll be handling your problems today.”
“I was a bit disappointed with my time. I bobbled my weapon presentation a little. I usually do about 1.26 – 1.35-ish on that drill,” he said a week later in a text message. “I was really happy with everyone’s times overall. Everyone (and even the DQ’s) had shots that would have likely saved the day at the WFCC attack in TX.”
Paul Glader is executive editor of ReligionUnplugged and a professor at The King’s College in New York City, where he directs the McCandlish Phillips Journalism Institute. He spent 10 years as a staff writer at The Wall Street Journal. Michael Ray Smith is a journalism professor and journalist now based in Pennsylvania. He taught journalism at Lee University in Tennessee, Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida, Campbell University in North Carolina and, most recently, LCC International University in Lithuania.