Monday, November 7, 2011

Guns In Church

The Catholic archbishops of Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, Green Bay, and Superior say that it is up to individual churches whether to allow parishioners to carry weapons into churches, now that Wisconsin law allows people to carry concealed weapons. "Whatever an individual parish decides to do regarding its policy on concealed weapons, we ask that all people seriously consider not carrying weapons into church buildings as a sign of reverence for these sacred spaces."

I guess we've come a long way since the 1960s, when John F. Kennedy had to confront people's concerns that as a Catholic he would have to obey the Pope, which could conflict with his obligation to the nation. Today, the church hierarchy doesn't even seem to feel comfortable telling people how to act in its own churches. Now that carrying guns in church is OK, gum chewing must be, too.

I like that the church's statement encourages people to make their own choices on how to behave, although it does seem odd, coming from a church which is famous for telling people which choices they should make in their own bedrooms. And I like that the church reminds people that they are supposed to have reverence for sacred spaces. What I am having trouble figuring out, though, is why the church is being so timid. Surely the Catholic church can't think that their churches are really dangerous places to be on Sundays, or they would be arming the ushers.

For the past ten years, very few religious organizations have taken a stand on the most fundamental of all questions: whether we should make wars and kill people. I have been told that a lot of religious leaders sidestepped that issue for the very practical reason that they didn't want members who disagreed with them to stop coming to church and contributing to their church's coffers. Is this why the Wisconsin Catholic churches aren't taking a stand on guns? Are they afraid that Wisconsinites love their guns more than they love their God?

Without claiming to be an expert on Catholic church doctrine, I feel safe in saying that a basic belief of that church is that people are supposed to have faith in God, and that people are supposed to demonstrate their faith in the way they live their lives. Could the church think it would be asking too much of people to show their trust in God for a few minutes each Sunday by take their guns off?

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