Do We Pray, or Do We Shoot? An interdisciplinary approach to reconcile polarized stances: Peace and defense church theological and practical responses to the threat of a mass shooting

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Virginia Tech


The goal of this research was to find ways to help churches keep safe from a mass shooter. To do that, I hoped to find common ground among academics, law enforcement, peace churches, and defense churches and then leverage that common ground to find ways the groups could collaborate on church safety. I observed three churches and conducted interviews at 14 churches. I reviewed academic literature about academics and law enforcement officers. The common ground I found between all groups was fear of violence, desire to be safe, and a general belief in metaphysical forces. Other key takeaways were that outsiders cannot make accurate assumptions about religious groups based on denomination and that a religious group's response to the threat of violence might not be internally consistent or make sense to outsiders. I designed a course based on my research results and pedagogical best practices. I limited the target audience to police officers because they were the easiest to identify and contact and because their job was to counter violence. Police officers who complete the course should better understand religious worldviews, know examples of how different Christian groups view violence, know how to effectively interact with religious groups, and know how to leverage common ground between religious groups and law enforcement officers. Future efforts include producing the course, observing law enforcement officers, and creating an undergraduate course on contemporary Christianity.



Academe, active shooter, Anabaptist, armed security, Baptist, Brethren, Christianity, church shooting, Holiness, law enforcement, Mennonite, Methodist, pacifism, Pentecostal, police, Quaker, religion, Restorationist, spiritual warfare, Society of Fri