• 81°

Be smart, be strong, don’t stop worshiping

Should we now be afraid to attend church?

Schools, concert venues, offices — any gathering of people — are places that make some of us nervous. We can’t help but think about the “what ifs.” Where will I run if someone starts shooting? How can I protect my family if the unthinkable happens? Is there something I can use as a weapon if needed?

Now we will ask those same questions when we sit in a pew to worship. Already, churches have thought about those questions. It’s not uncommon to have security teams at houses of worship, and some have attended mass shooter training exercises.

It’s unfortunate that it has come to this, but there is no sign that these kinds of tragedies will stop anytime soon. The massacre in Texas was just the latest example of violence at a church.

A gunman dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault rifle opened fire inside a small South Texas church Sunday, killing 26 people including small children.

“He just walked down the center aisle, turned around and my understanding was shooting on his way back out,” said Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. “It’s unbelievable to see children, men and women, laying there. Defenseless people.”

As the shooter left, he was confronted by an armed resident who engaged the suspect, who was found dead in his vehicle after fleeing the scene.

People of faith are not immune to tragedy. Houses of worship are not either. But it has been rare in our nation’s recent history to see this kind of violence. It may be more common in the years to come. Though the Texas shooting appears to be a domestic situation, the killer clearly targeted people who were gathered to worship and were vulnerable to this type of attack.

Around the world, violence against the faithful is more commonplace than most of us realize. According to opendoorsusa.org, more than 200 Christian churches and church properties are destroyed each month around the world. More than 700 forms of violence against Christians are reported each month. Not all of this violence is based on the victims’ faith; some of it occurs because churches are easy targets.

America, unfortunately, may one day look like the rest of the world when it comes to violence against churches and church-goers.

There will be fear associated with church now, but it should not stop us from worshiping. It should not stop us from gathering with other believers.  It should drive us to gather more often and to proclaim in the face of fear that God is greater.

That doesn’t mean we should be naive though. Churches will need to step up their security efforts to confront this harsh reality. Some will argue that doing so will drive people from churches, but doing nothing will likely do the same.