13 July, 2024

The Lone Ranger Comes to Church

by | 18 June, 2024 | 2 comments

By Daniel Schantz 

“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. A fiery horse, with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver. The Lone Ranger rides again!” 

So began my favorite television show in the 1950s. The Lone Ranger was a fictional character, a former Texas Ranger turned vigilante, fighting crime on his own time. 

We do indeed seem to be returning to those “thrilling” days, as more and more Americans are toting guns, even in church: hunters, gun collectors, rednecks, veterans, smart single women, even nervous grannies. And now, according to Christianity Today, a growing number of churches are training church members as armed guards*. Is this a good idea? 

THE RISKS 

I have to admire these courageous church members who are willing to put their own lives at risk to protect the flock of God, but if we are going to weaponize the pew, we need to make sure that these Lone Rangers are checked out and well-trained. Personally, I would interview their wives and ask some nosy questions, such as, “Is it true that your husband’s friends call him ‘Johnny Ringo’? And, “Does he really sleep with his guns at night?” 

The Lone Ranger followed a strict moral code, given to him by his creator, Fran Striker. The “Masked Man” did not drink, smoke, or use drugs. He did not swear or even use slang. He was not a womanizer, a pervert, or an “angry young man.” He was never trigger-happy and always tried to talk down the bad guys before ever drawing his weapon. 

SERIOUS STUFF 

To kill another human being, even a bad guy, is a sobering act. It’s one thing for me to kill a deer at 200 yards with a scoped rifle, but quite another thing to fire at a human being in a crowded room with a handgun. The shooter may be out of pistol range, in constant motion, and surrounded by dozens of innocent people. If I aim a gun at him and hit someone else, I will have a lifetime to regret it, possibly behind bars. Even if I take down the shooter, I will have to answer for it.  

I believe in the right to bear arms, but a “license to carry” is not a “license to kill.” Only uniformed police have that power, and they are often loathe to use it. 

Sure, to take out one shooter could save the lives of 20 innocent people, but I still would have to live with the fact that I may have taken out someone who perhaps was a badly abused kid, or a deeply wounded divorcee, or a decorated veteran, having battlefield flashbacks.  

The Lone Ranger never fired his gun to kill, only to disable the bad guys, but that takes exceptional talent and cool, a reminder that the Lone Ranger was a fictional character. The Lone Ranger left silver bullets as his calling card, which Striker meant to symbolize the high cost of using guns. 

TRICKY BUSINESS 

Truth is, I really don’t know what I would do if confronted by a shooter. I might see myself as a “holy hero on a white horse,” but I might just freeze-up or even faint dead away. I might accidentally shoot my best friend or my own foot. Compounding the danger is the fact that many churches turn the lights out in the auditorium during worship. As Ben Franklin once said, “In the dark, all cats are gray.” Darkness may actually be a boon to a shooter, who doesn’t need light to carry out his mayhem. But if I am a church enforcer, gray is not good enough. I need all the light I can get for accurate aim.  

Perhaps there is a place for these Lone Rangers in church, if they are well-trained, but, personally, I feel that the more guns there are in church, the more danger there is of accidents. 

SAFER APPROACHES 

In spite of high-profile church shootings in the news, churches are still one of the safest places to be on Sunday, according to experts. 

The non-lethal security measures that churches use make me feel reasonably safe. Precautions such as perimeter patrols, video cameras, two-way radios, hall monitors, locked doors, and emergency training for workers and members. These are helpful. Leaving the lights on during worship, and moderating the music volume, so I could hear gunshots or communicate with authorities, might also help. I would feel more secure with a uniformed officer or a private, professional guard on duty than I would with several amateur gun-toters prowling about. 

I also have a lot of faith in everyday church members to do heroic things in a time of crisis. Like the youth minister, who whacks the shooter on the head with his Jackson guitar, or the high school quarterback, who tackles the jerk, or even a grumpy granny who smacks the shooter in the face with her five-pound purse. 

Most of all I feel safe in church for the same reason I feel safe everywhere. Because I have a loving heavenly Father watching over me. He is my Tonto, my Faithful Companion, and he has my back. 

As songwriter Mildred Dillion put it, “Safe am I, safe am I, in the hollow of His hand. No ill can harm me, no foe alarm me, for he keeps both day and night.” 

_ _ _

*Aaron Earls, “Most US Pastors Use Armed Congregants for Church Security,” Christianity Today, June 7, 2023, accessed online at https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2023/june/guns-church-shootings-security-armed-members-lifeway-survey.html

Daniel Schantz is a professor emeritus of Central Christian College of the Bible, Moberly, Mo. 

_ _ _ 

ARTICLES ABOUT CHURCH SAFETY: 

“Simple Steps for Improving Security at Your Church,” by Jim Nieman (Nov. 7, 2018). 

“The Complete Church Security Program,” by Ed Sanow (March 20, 2019).

2 Comments

  1. Sharon Schaub

    Excellent article.

  2. Lloyd Colston

    The Lone Ranger was never designed to be alone. He always had Tonto.

    Your armed congregants are not alone either.

    If you’re doing what the International Disaster Emergency Services … ides.org … teaches, a team is trained and prepared to offer aid and confrontation, if necessary, for an all-hazards approach to a problem.

    Are you more likely to have an armed intruder, a medical emergency, or a fire?

    Your insurance provider will be a good resource to help with the plan … for free.

    Your local emergency management office will help with your plan.

    Homeland Security has training and grants to help with the plan and equipment to help make it harder for evil to come calling. See DHS.gov/faith for information.

    The true Lone Ranger is the attendee who fails to realize he/she does not have to do it all … alone.

    Be blessed

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