Monday, September 14, 2009

Christians in the cross-hairs

Jeanne Assam may have saved hundreds of lives when she shot a madman who attacked the New Life Church in Colorado Springs

A Shootist Named Jeanne Assam
by Robert A .Waters

In Ecclesiastes, the poet writes: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun…” From the foundation of the church 2000 years ago, Christians have always faced violent attack.

Saul of Tarsus (who later became the apostle Paul) tormented Christians, subjecting many to imprisonment, torture, and even death. Nero used Christians as torches to light his gardens, and persecuted them for starting the conflagration that burned much of Rome to the ground. (Nero actually set the fires.) Throughout the centuries, Christians have been targets for violence.

Today is no different. Those who attack churches in the modern era may be anti-Christian zealots; they may be mentally disturbed individuals; they may carry a grudge or hatred against a particular church or certain members; or they may be disillusioned former members. For whatever reason, attacks on churches and Christians continue to this day.

When Oklahoma police recently found the mutilated body of Carol Daniels, pastor of a small church in Anadarko, Oklahoma, she was posed in a “crucifix” position. Many speculated that a serial killer was responsible. But the murder proved that there is no safety inside the church.

In Wisconsin, a disgruntled member of the Living Church of God pulled a 9mm semiautomatic pistol and blasted away. When it was over, seven members of the church were dead, including the pastor.

In Kansas, an abortion doctor was shot and killed inside the church he attended. In Knoxville, Tennessee, a psycho entered the Unitarian Evangelist Church and opened fire with a shotgun. One parishioner died, six more were wounded. At the Mount Olive Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, a masked man entered and began blasting away with a shotgun. Two women were killed, and two others wounded.

On March 8, 2009, Fred Winters, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois, was delivering his weekly sermon when a stranger walked down the aisle. As he neared the podium, the man pulled out a pistol and fired. The minister held his Bible up to his chest, and the first bullet sent pages flying as it ricocheted into a wall. The second, third and fourth bullets felled Winters, who died at the scene. Several members of the congregation rushed the gunman and subdued him. According to reports, the shooter, Ted Sedlacek, suffered from a severe case of Lyme Disease which had altered his mental faculties.

Recently, a Kentucky minister invited his congregation to bring their guns to services for protection from random attacks. Predictably, the intelligentsia railed against him and others who would use weapons to fend off attacks in churches. In an article for the Washington Post entitled “Support Your Religious Gun Nut,” columnist Susan Jacoby wrote, “This country is in the grip of a powerful anti-rationalism that, while it is the work of a minority, is nevertheless seeping like poison into the body politic.” Calling pastors and rabbis who wish to arm their congregations “lunatics,” she suggests that “about the only justification I can think of for writing about them [the ministers who call for arming their congregants] is that the articles may alert the FBI to the clerical threats in our midst—men who use titles like ‘Reverend’ and ‘Rabbi’ to make the world less, not more safe.”

The Kentucky minister’s plea to bring weapons to church makes more sense than the intelligentsia will admit. Since the mid-1980s, concealed carry statutes have been passed in more than forty states. Permits to carry concealed weapons are now routinely granted to adults who take a course in gun safety and have no criminal record. These are among the most successful laws ever passed. There are millions of permit holders all over America. Thousands of rapes, robberies, and murders have been stopped by individuals who carry concealed weapons, and very few crimes have been committed by them.

Two weeks before Christmas in 2007, a gunman walked into the massive New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Matthew Murray had already murdered four people. According to the Los Angeles Times, Murray had once attended a training program in the missionary school run by the church. “School officials refused to assign Murray to a mission,” reported the Times, “because of an unspecified health problem that could make such work unsafe.” Murray, 21, was gunning for revenge.

Before arriving in Colorado Springs, Murray gunned down two church members in Arvada. Outside the church, he shot and killed two teenaged sisters who were getting out of their car. The gunshots were clearly audible in the auditorium and parishioners began to scamper for cover. As Murray walked into the sanctuary holding a semiautomatic rifle and carrying 1,000 rounds of ammunition, Jeanne Assam hid and pulled out her pistol. “I just prayed to the Holy Spirit to guide me,” she said later. “I give the credit to God. This has got to be God, because of the firepower he had versus what I have.”

Assam was one of twelve volunteers that the church had enlisted to act as security guards. A former police officer, she had a permit to carry a weapon. As Murray entered the church, Assam said, “I came out of cover, identified myself, and took him down. My hand wasn’t even shaking. It seemed like it was me, the gunman, and God.”

Assam shot Murray four times. As he lay bleeding on the floor, Murray put his own gun to head and killed himself.

Assam was credited with saving dozens, if not hundreds of lives.

New Life’s Senior Pastor explained the church's security system. Volunteers attend one of the morning services, then remain for a second service to be available in case of trouble. There are more than a dozen security guards. The ones who have concealed carry permits are armed, the others are not. The guards are all members of the church and “not mercenaries that we hire to walk around our campus to provide security.”

Regardless of the out-of-touch leftists, other churches might consider such a system.

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