Back in March, the Kentucky Baptist Convention was reported to have been hosting gun giveaways to lure followers into religion: marketing God with guns. Ignite Church of Joplin, Missouri has followed suit by having a gun raffle to “get more people to follow Jesus.” This is a political buy of people’s religious faith and guns are the currency.
“If we can get people in the door, we get to preach the gospel,” said Ignite Church lead pastor Heath Mooneyham of snagging people hook, line, and sinker. “If we can get more people to follow Jesus, I’ll give away 1,000 guns. I don’t care.”
There are a number of things wrong with the marketing tactics. First off, it commodifies religion, which, if not scripturally wrong then it’s at least ethically wrong. It also perpetuates the dangerous blend of politics and religion because the raffle is obviously catered to the conservative, gun-toting crowd.
And if nothing else, the raffle is another pathetic attempt at churches trying to look “cool” by marketing themselves to a younger generation with rock music and counter culture aesthetics, like tattoos and piercings.
“We’re not trying to put on a show for anybody,” said Mooneyham.
Some in the religious community are criticizing the strange marketing tactics, thankfully.
Steve Urie of the Joplin Diversity Fellowship doesn’t like the unorthodox and weird means of outreach. “I think giving away weapons, with all the violence in this country, gives way to new violence,” said Urie. “I don’t think it’s just nontraditional. I think it’s careless and reckless.”
“How ironic to use guns to lure men in to hear a message about Jesus, who said, ‘put away the sword,’” said Louisville reverend Joe Phelps. “He gave away bread . . . but that was a sign, not a sales pitch.”
Religion is not a commodity, and politics and religion are a toxic mixture that has gone back thousands of years. Perhaps it’s just a universal fallacy of mankind that we can’t completely separate religion and politics. But it never hurts to protest against it and indicate its wrongness.