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The Growing Dangers of Going to Church

Crimes against Christians continue to rise.

Church should be a place of safety. It is somewhere we go to listen to the gospel, engage with other Christians, and feel a sense of fellowship and sanctuary. But crimes against Christians are on the rise, so much so that some churches are hiring armed security guards to protect their parishioners. Why are religious centers being increasingly targeted – is it politically or racially motivated?

Crimes Against the Church

Recently, Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church made headlines when a woman, who sometimes identifies as a man, went to the facility with her seven-year-old son and started shooting. Two people were injured – one, her own child, was shot in the head. The shooter was then killed during the gunfight with off-duty officers who were on the scene.

This is only the most recent church shooting case. In 1980, five people were killed and ten others injured at First Baptist Church in Daingerfield, TX. According to reports, the shooting was a result of a domestic issue.

In 2012, six people at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin were shot and killed by a 41-year-old who had talked about starting a racial holy war. Another shooting reportedly motivated by a desire to ignite a holy war happened in 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine black parishioners were killed.

In 2017, 26 people – half of them children – were killed at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A family feud is believed to be the cause of this tragedy.

These are only a few of the many hostile acts against religion and church over the years. “From 1966 to 2000, only 1% of mass shootings were motivated by religious hate,” Voice of America (VOA) reported last year. “After that, the number escalated. From 2000 to 2014 9% of mass shootings involved religious hate. That number jumped to 17% between 2018 and February 2020.”

A report from the Family Research Council (FRC) stated: “The first three months of 2023 saw approximately three times the number of acts of hostility perpetrated against churches in the same timeframe last year.” These incidents did not all involve shootings; the report tracked arson and bomb threats as well. Arielle Del Turco, FRC’s director of the Center for Religious Liberty, explained: “The problem of acts of hostility against churches in the United States is widespread and growing. Increasing anger and frustration directed at church buildings points to a larger spiritual battle and a growing climate of hostility toward Christianity.” She continued:

“The motivations for some of these acts of vandalism, arson, gun-related incidents, bomb threats, or other acts appear political while many more seem completely inexplicable. Yet, all of these incidents represent a deeply concerning trend and have the potential to be intimidating. In response, Americans should be united in our affirmation of religious freedom and the ability of all people to worship and live out their faith freely—without fear that their church or religious community will be targeted.”

VOA shared some interesting data on profiling church shooters. In an article titled: “History of Mass Shooters,” it claimed that there isn’t a single profile that accounts for all of these criminals, but there are several characteristics such shooters tend to have in common.

For instance, “Almost three-quarters were white, and all were men. Sixty-four percent were single. Nearly two-thirds had criminal records and a violent history. And nearly two-thirds had experienced childhood trauma.”

The Violence Project described a house of worship shooter as a “suicidal white male in his 40s who used a handgun in a Christian church. Almost half of them were motivated by religious hate and half knew at least one of their victims.” Here are some other statistics:

  • 46% of shooters were motivated by religious hate.
  • 27% of church shooters expressed racism toward people of color.
  • 18% of perpetrators had broken up or were separated from their spouses our partners.
  • 64% of church shootings happened in southern states.

There was a time when houses of worship were sanctuaries, places to feel safe. Who would have thought churches would need to start having armed guards to protect their congregation? Adult Discipleship Pastor Don Blackmore in Jonesboro, Arkansas, told KAIT 8 they have an armed, uniformed, off-duty police officer to protect church grounds during services. “Our thinking is if someone drives up who has evil intent, and they see a police officer’s vehicle in front of our church campus, then they will realize that we’re not a soft target.”

America was built on the idea of liberty – including religious freedom. But as violence against worshipers continues to rise, going to church has become a potentially dangerous practice.

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