gunA New York Times article from last Thursday describes how Rev. Ken Pagano has asked members of his congregation to bring their guns to the sanctuary.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church here, is passionate about gun rights. He shoots regularly at the local firing range, and his sermon two weeks ago was on “God, Guns, Gospel and Geometry.” And on Saturday night, he is inviting his congregation of 150 and others to wear or carry their firearms into the sanctuary to “celebrate our rights as Americans!” as a promotional flier for the “open carry celebration” puts it. [more after the jump]

“God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,” Mr. Pagano, 49, said Wednesday in the small brick Assembly of God church, where a large wooden cross hung over the altar and two American flags jutted from side walls. “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.”

I’m quite alright with people expressing their second-amendment rights and even being proud of a tradition their families have maintained since, say, the Revolutionary War or the taming of the American West.  The problem here isn’t that guns are bad.  Rather, it’s that Pagano’s demonstration just doesn’t make sense.

A joyous, armed-to-the-teeth parade through the town square would have been a great way to publicly demonstrate the perceived centrality of guns to American culture.  But Pagano makes a classic mistake and allows American rights to bleed into Christian virtues.  Perhaps God and guns were both involved in the formation of America.  But that means neither that the two are connected nor that they should be celebrated the way these people hope.  Pantaloons and feather pens (and slavery) were also part of the founding of this country.

The situation lays bare something that I’ve held for a while now: The separation of church and state is at least as, if not more, beneficial to the Church as it is to the State.  With a stronger sense of separation between Pagano’s right as an American and his duty as a Christian (for they are not always the same!), he might be able to discern between the two instead of allowing his church to be co-opted by the gun lobby.  It’s hard to tell what’s more lethal: Pagano’s Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun or his bad theology.