The “Piece Church”

One wonders what the “Prince of Peace” would have to say about “bringing a piece” to Church. Tonight, the New Bethel Church, in Louisville, Kentucky will be “packing it (guns) in the pews” to “celebrate our rights as Americans.”
That’s right, Pastor Ken Pagano is urging his flock to bring their weapons to his Assemblies of God church. Talk about “fire and brimstone.” Open guns must be unloaded; concealed firearms … well, they won’t be checked.
An AG Professor friend who knows Ken Pagano tells me that Pagano is a reasonable, well-educated conservative chap. (with a Doctorate of Ministry) My friend suspects this event to be more about publicity to attract new members to a small church. Indeed, Pagano has received much media attention, even appearing on Fox News.
Pagano asserts that he wants to celebrate how “God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,” that if we didn’t have guns, we wouldn’t have America. Any proceeds from a “raffle” at his bring-your-guns-to-church-day, he says, will “go to charity.” (Would that be the NRA?)
Pagano says he wants to start a dialogue, that he just wants to “promote responsible gun ownership,” that he is open to considering other approaches. Then again, who would want to “dialogue” with someone toting a semi-automatic machine gun?
I wonder too about the fears driving this. We’ve heard about horrible shootings in churches lately. The solution isn’t to bring more “pieces” into the church, but more peace. If matters get really bad, then metal detectors and security. The notion of weapons in a modern sanctuary “creeps me out” — as a person of faith. I wonder too if there’s a good bit of ole’ time southern revanchism afoot here, as I’ve heard all too much “chatter” about “the black man who is going to take away our guns.”
Pagano apparently revels in the attention and is undaunted by the few criticisms he’s heard: “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.”
On that point, Pagano does not know his own church’s history. Until 1967, the Assemblies of God Church was officially an antiwar, pacifistic, and peace-seeking church; even today, youth from that church are able to claim “conscientious objector” status. (though very few do)
For more on this lesser known history, I recommend a new book by Paul Alexander: PEACE TO WAR: Shifting Allegiances in the Assemblies of God. Alexander chronicles how the former peace church (among the fastest growing worldwide) devolved into a war church — and suggests how it might yet reclaim a middle position, for the sake of its own witness.
Paul Alexander, a Professor at Azuza Pacific University, deserves a wide reading in “charismatic” circles — his book was even favorably reviewed by Amos Yong of (Pat Robertson’s) Regent University.
Alexander runs a new organization called, “Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice.” (strange as that may sound to those who recall my lament about “the mother of all sermons” here at JWN” ) Alas, I doubt his influence is felt very far – yet. Shunned by the AG and mega-evangelical presses, his book was jointly published by two Mennonite Houses. (kudos to Cascadia & Herald)
As for tonight’s gun-fest, cameras are banned, to protect the “privacy” of the gun owners. No doubt. Maybe one of those courageous Iranian protesters with cell cameras can get a peek for us?
As far as I know, the Assemblies of God church hierarchy has remained muzzled about Pagano. The silencer ought to be removed. Or are guns and war the only “fire” left in the soul of the Pentecostal church these days?

10 thoughts on “The “Piece Church”

  1. Titus

    Guns in churches is a bad idea, almost as bad as the common pattern of explosives and assault weapons in mosques one would know from reading the news in the last few years, yet certainly not as bad as Imams instigating violent jihad every friday at mosques, and clearly much more benign than said Imams running militia appendices to their religious organizations.
    Perspective always helps.

  2. scott h

    Ah, I had hoped we wouldn’t go off on that off-topic tangent. But since you brought up “perspective,” I’m of the view that there are serious “jihadis” among all major faiths — not just among Muslims, but also among Christians, Hindus and Jews. That is – people who dig into their faith and eschatological “dispensations” to find justification for “pre-emptive” aggressive wars and acts of violence.
    Are they on the fringes of these faiths? — Mercifully yes, but we ignore them at our peril.
    It happens I’m soon to deliver a formal paper on the subject of Christian Jihadis. (and all too many of the Pentecostal preachers I know well fit that category ) And I won’t be excusing what they do because another faith purportedly does something worse.
    In any case, I don’t know if Pastor Pagano is of that ilk. Main point of my quick note was to comment on his “piece” event tonight — and to suggest he doesn’t know the history even of his own church.
    I no doubt need to re-write this for another venue.

  3. Muezzin

    Titus, you are a relentless little bigot. Synagogues were notorious for stockpiling weapons in Palestine. They were used offensively on poor people who couldn’t fight back. They were used by well trained europeans on untrained, barely literate, villagers. I am always amused at the number of American and Israeli flags in synagogues, not to mention the presence of vending machines dispensing soft drinks for a few shekels. A truly toxic and noxious blend of insane religiosity, hyper-nationalism, and never ending quest for yet one more shekel. This is the most perfect emblem of what you are all about.

  4. Titus

    Pssst, Helena, could you please look into Muezzin’s personal attack above, it goes against the spirit of your site, on the personal and of course the hate filled and false assertions about houses of worship.
    I have never heard of a US synagogue storing weapons, or religious leaders with militias. Muezzin is consumed by his own propaganda, poor soul. His judgement so blinded that he even swings at vending machines, a modern Don Quijote swinging at windmills…
    Please Helena, call him to order and be even handed for once.

  5. Salah

    News Release
    For Immediate Release
    22 June 2009
    Quakers call for Unarmed Forces Day

    As the government prepares for its first ‘Armed Forces Day’, Quakers are busy preparing themselves for peace. In recognition of the essential work carried out by peacebuilders around the world, Quakers in Britain are calling for an Unarmed Forces Day.

    Quakers believe that each person is uniquely valuable. They reject the view that governments’ responses to the inevitable tensions arising from international relations should be to constantly upgrade weapons and to train in readiness for war. Instead, Quakers advocate putting energies and resources into developing and training for non-military ways of solving conflicts and averting wars.

    The problem here is not about respectable or high regarded people in the society who calls for peace….
    The history tells us the ruthless and less respected and unqualified who jump to the front were most of them are Devils…..
    Bush was elected although you may argue his credentials, Bush elected twice by people in US not for his “is a reasonable, well-educated conservative chap “, Bush with his weapons of mass destruction were discovered to exist only in bush’s imagination, but he did what he have done with his the disastrous invasion of Iraq.
    The calls by good people not necessarily wins the battle for the peace. in the human history with all horrible events Devils With breathtaking hypocrisy approved been a winner more than those who are “is a reasonable, well-educated conservative chap. (with a Doctorate of Ministry)” who we wish him good for his mission.

  6. JES

    Salah, don’t be offended, but I think that you are under a misapprehension here. The building serves as a synagogue today. There’s nothting in either article to say that it did so 60 years ago.
    But I think that it is Muezzin who needs to be set straight (if he isn’t permanently bent already), not Titus.

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