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Once upon a time, a youth leader at a church locked his guitar in the teen ministry closet. One of the smarty-pants teens teased him: This is a church. Why lock anything?

Answer, given with a wink: "Because this is a church, but we're still in the World."

Christians must walk in the World, too. Sometimes tiptoe. Sometimes stomp. But the World is always there, always looking, always in the background, sometimes even in the foreground. As a preacher often told us, be careful of your Christian witness. As our mama often said, just be careful.

As long as His people build churches in the World, we're going to have to be smart about it. After all, Christians lock their car doors, too.

During the holidays--the holidays!--a troubled man disguised in a wig and fake beard went into a Texas church--a church!--and pulled out a shotgun that he'd smuggled in under his coat. In a matter of seconds, three people were dead: two members of the church and the shooter, who was taken down by an armed security volunteer.

This is one of those cases in which a bad guy with a gun really was taken out of the picture by a good guy with a gun. There's not much of an argument for the other side. This is the extraordinarily rare situation that the NRA poses during debates about concealed weapons.

The shooting in Texas got our reporters snooping around, which is their specialty. Bill Bowden, who gets all the good stories, talked with several ministers and security types for an article last week. The point being: Arkansas churches have security teams, too.

It was reassuring to see the reporting, not just because most of us would like to take communion without having to worry about who's at the back exit. The reporting was reassuring mostly because not one of the people Bill Bowden quoted sounded like an Internet meme, or what old-timers call bumper stickers. Not one person said it's a good thing that churches have armed people patrolling the Prince of Peace's various houses of worship. But they acknowledge, wisely, that this is the World.

"The goal," said a police officer who attends services in Cabot, "is that you would identify somebody like [the Texas shooter] before they ever got in the sanctuary. We would go up and have a conversation with them--'Hey, I've never seen you before. Are you new?'"

You know, witness to them. Maybe hear their testimony or share your own. WWJD? And asking a new person for a little information is almost tradition in Southern churches. Sometimes the first few minutes of a service are dedicated to shaking hands with somebody you don't know.

And should the person have bad intent, better that a security volunteer knows it before the crowd gets seated, yes?

Which is why so many states have passed laws allowing trained concealed-carry permit holders, but we repeat ourselves, to pack heat in His house.

"Arkansas law allows the same type of armed protection in churches or synagogues as is permitted in Texas," the governor of Arkansas told the paper. "I personally know that most worship centers in Arkansas have enhanced armed volunteer security either through the use of off-duty law enforcement or members of the congregation being trained and armed."

What's even more remarkable is that Asa Hutchinson, the most even-tempered and unruffled Arkansas politician in recent memory, sounded like the hard-liner in this story. Which made us even more proud to be an Arkansan.

For example, take Greg Addison, associate executive director of the state's Baptist convention: "We teach our churches that good security is good ministry. It might be a homeless person who needs help, and that's why we're there. But we don't know until we engage them."

Said another security officer: "At the same time, you don't want to be unwelcoming. I don't want people to be scared to go to church. I don't want people to feel like they need to be carrying a gun when they go to church. Our goal is to mitigate that to where people don't have to worry."

Said yet another pastor: "The word of God tells us to use wisdom."

In a perfect world, there'd be no need for security in churches, or at football games, or in malls, or at schools. There'd be no need for hospitals or jails, either. When the Messiah comes (again) there'll be no need for many things.

But right now, we're still in the World.

And must act like it.

Editorial on 01/08/2020

Print Headline: Thoughts, prayers

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