Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Fear Not !

Dear Friends,

Thanks to psychopathic cult-leader and mass murder Charles Manson, I became a prosperous college student at a time in my life when I was too lazy to join my friends who worked in fast-food restaurants. As I read about Manson’s recent death two Sundays ago, I recalled the chilling fear that had gripped our neighborhood following the horrific torture and savage murders of seven people in their homes over a two night killing spree.

Terrorized by the thought that it could happen to them, there was a high level of fear and panic being experienced by people in the entertainment industry who lived with their families in the Hollywood Hills. That’s where I lived with my family when I was a collage student. The man across the street from us was a popular Black singer with a wall filled with gold records. Up the street, an actor who starred in a James Bond movie. Further up and around the bend, a record producer with dozens of gold records from the most popular singing groups. I babysat for our celebrity neighbors. In 1969, the minimum wage was $1.30 per hour. High school girls could make a decent $1.00-$2.00 per hour babysitting. Thanks to Charles Mansion, I made $10.00 per hour for those who I babysat for weekly and $15.00 per hour for my non-regular customers. Feelings of panic had seized this neighborhood of entertainment industry people and they trusted in the 6'3"- 220 lb college student to keep their children safe when they left their house. Thanks to the terror unleashed by Manson, I sat in someone’s dining room doing my homework, and in one hour, I earned more than those who really worked hard for a living would see in one day. There was an unreasonable fear that no one was safe in their home. They were terrified that a violent hippie-cult was going to break into their house to kill all their children and that fear made me a wealthy college student.

Two Sunday nights ago, I was at a church function where someone told me that after the recent church shooting in Texas, they were afraid of going to their Sunday service. I’m reading more and more about pastors arming themselves with guns canceled under their vestments. An Anglican Bishop with a 357 magnum under his robes. A megachurch pastor with a semiautomatic tucked into a holster fastened to the inside of the pulpit. In a national magazine for Christian pastors, a police chief in California wrote an article about how to put together an active shooter plan for your church and a New Jersey city is holding active shooter training for all the city’s clergy. Rev. Robert Jeffrees, pastor of a Dallas megachurch recently said that he feels safe because anywhere from one-quarter to one-half of his 12,000 member congregation is carrying a concealed weapon on any given Sunday. 

All over America, church ushers are now carrying concealed weapons, and in one Florida megachurch, newcomers are greeted with a sign that reads: “Welcome to The River at Tampa Bay Church – Please know this is not a gun-free zone – We are heavily armed – Any attempt will be dealt with deadly force.” Signed.. “The Pastors.”  Do these pastors have to avoid raising their hands while worshiping the Prince of Peace so that their jacket doesn’t ride up and expose the Glock? Is a friendly hug during the “passing of the peace” the excuse for a surreptitious pat-down so that we can identify who is “carrying” that day? Is our motto becoming “Trust Not in God but in Smith & Wesson?”

But should we really be fearful about attending our local church service? Let’s put it into perspective. People are killed and dozens more receive major injuries every day in Los Angeles area traffic accidents. We still get into the car and drive. There are only 2.7 shootings per year in churches (nearly all involve the death of one person in a domestic violence incident) but 350-400 people are shot and killed per year in the workplace and we still go to work. Just one year ago in Sylmar, a mentally disturbed homeless person was chasing people in our local Von’s grocery store and threatening to stab them with a large piece of broken glass. He was shot and killed by a security guard. The next day, in full confidence that we were in no danger, we went grocery shopping at that Von’s. Why would church be any different? Are we overreacting? After the back to back Manson cult killings, there was an unreasonable fear that no one was safe in their home. After the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting, there is an unreasonable fear that no one is safe in their church. Human terrorists know that killing people creates widespread fear and intimidation. But our worst enemy is Satan. He’s the terrorist who is using the Sutherland Springs church shooting to create panic and cause people to fear going to church.

We need to cast off these fears and get a grip on reality. According to statistics published two weeks ago, you have a 1 in 6,552,000 chance of your congregation being involved in a church shooting. But you are over twice as likely (1 in 3,000,000) to die from food poisoning at the church potluck. And the most dangerous thing you can do is to stay home from church! That’s where you have a 1 in 4,238 chance of dying while falling out of bed or falling out of the chair in front of the TV! Your church is one of the safest places you can be on a Sunday morning, but if you are not convinced and if you’re still afraid, give me a call and I’ll come and sit by you and hold your hand at church for my normal rate of $100 an hour. (NOTE: Current hourly fee of $100 has been adjusted for 567.0% inflation from my $15 rate in 1969)  Amen?

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