Two weeks ago, I was in a Baton Rouge, Louisiana movie theater, sitting near someone who was in the midst a psychiatric mood episode. The young man became unable to focus on the movie and was visibly agitated. He used his cell phone during the movie, silently doing things on it — tweeting, texting, playing games — to keep his hands and mind calm.

A week later, in a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater, John Russell Houser was also a man with a psychiatric illness. He pulled out a gun and opened fire, killing two and wounding nine, then killing himself.

Cell phone or handgun? Which one is explicitly forbidden to use during a movie?

Our Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal claims that Louisiana gun laws would have prevented Houser from buying a gun here. Perhaps. He declares that other states should follow Louisiana’s lead on “toughening up” gun laws. Don’t believe it. Louisiana has some of the least restrictive gun purchase laws in the country, and — no surprise — the highest rate of gun deaths in the country.

Cell phones or handguns in movie theaters?

If Texas Governor Rick Perry gets his way, handguns would be allowed in movie theaters to “prevent shootings.” Using a cell phone is, of course, still prohibited during movies and could result in a movie-goer’s removal from the theater.

Allowing guns, banning guns. What to do in church? Some advocate that handguns be allowed in churches. Pastors should “carry” in the pulpit, they say, to protect ourselves and our flocks. South Carolina had a law banning handguns in church. Still, a man concealed a gun, went into a Charleston, South Carolina church and killed nine people. As of a year ago, concealed carry guns in church was legal in 25 states.

I once took for granted that all church sanctuaries were “sanctuary” from guns. (Some aren’t.)

Until I moved back to Louisiana, I had never wondered if a relative was coming to family gatherings with a weapon. (At least one does.)

I once watched a pastor shame a child for holding — holding, not using — a cell phone in church. (I confronted that pastor.)

So . . . I would love to propose a solution in a world of danger and uncertainty, the era of handguns and cell phones. My remedy would involve sensible gun safety regulations, using technology well, adequate healthcare for all, and safe, love-filled spaces to worship, watch movies, eat turkey dinner with family, and nurture children to their full God-dreamed potential. I dream, I know.  In the between-time:

As pastors, we can be faithful in our congregations to embody the vision of God-realm-infused community that we call Body of Christ. God help us and save us.

And as citizens, we can work for the legislation and vote for the politicians we think will support “life abundantly” values in our society. Also, when necessary, stage protests.

Because I do like the idea of going to a movie theater or a worship service where the worst thing that happens is when someone pulls out a cell phone.

* * * * *

RevGals coverIn celebration of ten years of ministry and community for RevGalBlogPals, the first commenter on this post will receive a copy of our book, “There’s a Woman in the Pulpit: Christian Clergywomen Share Their Hard Days, Holy Moments, and the Healing Power of Humor” (Skylight Paths Publishing). All commenters are eligible with the exception of contributors to the book and members of the RevGals board.


header image courtesy of Javier Gonzales,

5 thoughts on “The Pastoral is Political: Handguns and Cell Phones

  1. Terrific post – I completely agree. I’d much rather have to deal with cell phones than handguns in church and other public places.


  2. In light of the response of the wonderful families of the saints from Mother Emmanuel AME Church, I wrote this article to go in our Diocesan newsletter. Since then there have been other shootings/massacres.

    Here is an article from the Washington Post detailing the 204 shootings in the first 204 days of 2015

    When is this going to stop?


  3. Thank you, Sharon Temple. Well said, and I dream with you and in the in-between time….well, there is plenty of work to do.


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