The Rev. Farley O’Stoutville stared out the front window. The Rev. usually sits by himself and studies his iPad, but today he simply stared. I took a cup of Armenian coffee to him and asked what was going on with the parish.
“If you’re not busy, have a seat,” he said. “I need to unload.” After I sat, he said, “As you know, I’m neither conservative nor liberal. I like to think of myself as a Christ follower, a servant to all. I think that my theology is shaped the most by the Sermon on the Mount.”
“Yeah, Rev. I haven’t heard any complaints.”
“This week–I suspect because of different news stories—two different church members asked me if I could have a service of blessing for their guns and who knows what other weapons. And now the head of the congregation has asked me for a decision.
“I’ve known priests to pray and bless the military going off to war. I’ve read about such blessings on both sides of a war—for example, the Germans and the Americans during World War II—and it always struck me as a basic theological conflict. But now I’m the one with the conflict. Why would I bless shotguns? Why did that church bless assault weapons? What does that have to do with the Prince of Peace? Why am I dumping this on you? Don’t answer that because I’m not finished.
“It’s not like I haven’t taken stands on public matters. People know, for example, that I’ve named the sins of racism and homophobia and that I’ve questioned the confusion of nation and religion. If I have such a service, I’ll feel like a hypocrite. My heart isn’t in such an event. It would be like knowingly officiating at a wedding for a couple unsuited for each other—except I’ve done that. If I don’t have such a service, people will say that I don’t love the community or the nation or some such. But I keep coming back to a basic question: Why would a Christian pastor bless weapons that kill? Oh, I’ve heard all the justifications concerning the defense of human life, but I don’t see that happening very often. And if guns, then why not knives and blackjacks and nuclear weapons? I’m not saying that I’m a pacifist, but I don’t see this as what God wants. At least not as I read the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about turning the other cheek and giving your coat and cloak to the person who asks for the coat. Jesus talked there about anger and forgiveness and not retaliating. I don’t see him blessing the Roman occupation forces or even the Temple guards. So I’m sitting here and thinking. I may be here until you close.”
“Rev., my customers are on every side of this issue. I guess I’d ask the church folks why they want the blessing. Is there something else going on? I know Saint Timothy-by-the–Gas Station blesses animals in remembrance of Saint Francis. Would it be OK to offer to bless individuals in the congregation without their guns or pets? Maybe people want that blessing for themselves and they use the shotguns as an excuse.”
“Maybe. Just maybe that could work! How ‘bout we do it here at the coffee club instead of the church? You’re closed on Sundays. How ‘bout it–a Sunday afternoon here and the old guys jazz band could play. I’ll talk to them. Thanks! I really appreciate this!“
And now I’m trying to figure out what I said to become involved.