Health & Spirit

A few notes to help jumpstart your new year

By Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

"Thank you for your clear discussion on the subject of worshipers bringing guns (handguns) to church/temple/mosque. We watch the EWTN daily Mass almost every day and we are relieved to see a uniformed officer at the chapel entrance.

"Although we are challenged to give up our lives for our faith as martyrs, we have no right to expose others to death. Again, a great piece, it should be discussed by the hierarchy and pastors."

And in the same appreciative vein, Rev. E from Elma, N.Y.:

"I want to thank you for your response to the question on security at places of worship. I plan to include the column in our church bulletin with full acknowledgement of your authorship."

However, there were those who were appalled by what they thought I said.

D from Wilson, N.C., wrote to me:

"Practically, I understand your answer; philosophically, I am appalled. The need for security is understandable, but I would bet the house that no observing Jew carries a weapon into a synagogue. Nor should any Christian embarking on prayer carry one into a church. That should really have been your answer in this terribly gun-conflicted country."

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J from Hamden, Conn., wrote in high dudgeon:

"Rabbi Gellman, did you really just write that it's OK to bring guns to church to possibly protect yourself? It is more likely that the gun-toting worshipper will kill his other worshippers rather than protect himself and others. I am appalled that you would even enter into this discussion -- we as a society should try to be stopping gun violence, not contributing to it. For shame!"

To whom I responded in the spirit of Oscar Wilde: "My dear, you have not had the pleasure of understanding me."

Dear J and D,

I understand and appreciate and endorse your concerns. My suggestion following the Texas church shootings was for houses of worship and the human beings who pray inside of them to take reasonable, moral, spiritually acceptable, and most of all, effective steps to protect themselves and their fellow parishioners against unjust, tragic, murderous attacks. The best way for this to be done is not, I agree with you, for congregants to bring guns into church or synagogue, except perhaps for trained off-duty police officers. However, there is a solution that does not force worshippers to be completely vulnerable to the scourge of violence against worshippers, and that solution obviously is to employ trained security personnel to stand guard and screen people before they can enter the church or synagogue. Self-defense is not a sin. It is a fulfillment of the commandment to protect innocent life from unjust assault.

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including "Religion for Dummies," co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)



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