This was the headline on a recent Reuters story on church security in America, post-Charleston:
But are guns really an answer to a prayer?
Or does that title foreshadow a superficial, cliché treatment of the subject?
JACKSON, Mich. —The Sunday service was winding down, but before it ended, Bishop Ira Combs led the congregation of 300 at the Greater Bible Way Temple in prayer. The shootings that killed nine people in a Charleston church could not happen here, he reassured his flock.
"If they had security, the assailant would not have been able to reload," Combs declared. "All of us here are not going to turn the other cheek while you shoot us."
As he preached, Combs was flanked by a man on each side of the pulpit, each armed with handguns beneath their suit coats. Other members of the church's security team were scattered among the crowd. Congregants did not know who was armed and who was not — an undercover approach that is part of the security plan.
"We aren't looking to engage people in violence, but we are going to practice law enforcement," Combs told Reuters before the service. "And we are going to interdict if someone comes in with a weapon."
Am I the only one immediately confused by the lede? Is the reassuring of the flock part of the prayer? Is the prayer part of the sermon? Reuters sprinkles bits and pieces of religious language but fails to connect the dots.
However, the bigger problem with the story is this: The wire service raises the question of whether a house of worship should protect itself with weapons. But the article never seriously engages the issue from a theological perspective.
Instead, Reuters fires and misses with quick soundbites of little substance:
Congregants have mixed reactions to the security presence in church.
"In the times we live in today, it's necessary," said Joshua Webb, a church member from nearby Lansing.
Rose Phillips, of Jackson, said the armed security detail made her feel no safer. "God is my gun," she said.
Would Jesus pack heat on Sunday morning? Or would he frown on weapons in the sanctuary? Why or why not? Reuters fails to engage obvious questions such as these.
As a result, this story doesn't have a prayer.