A Baptist organization in Kentucky is giving away guns at churches across the state in an effort to do “outreach to rednecks,” the Louisville Courier-Journal reported Monday.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention has been holding what it calls “Second Amendment Celebrations” where church leaders ply attendees with free steak dinners and firearms as door prizes in an effort to convert them. The guns are donated by local businesses and winners must reclaim them at a local gun shop, where they must first pass a federal background check, according to the newspaper.
The man who leads the events, Chuck McAlister, described the approach as “affinity evangelism.” McAlister is an ex-pastor and the former host of a religious-themed program on the Outdoor Channel, “Adventure Bound Outdoors.”
“The day of hanging a banner in front of your church and saying you’re having a revival and expecting the community to show up is over,” McAlister, an avid hunter, told the Courier-Journal.
“You have to know the hook that will attract people, and hunting is huge in Kentucky,” he added. “So we get in there and burp and scratch and talk about the right to bear arms and that stuff.”
McAlister told the newspaper that 1,678 men made “professions of faith” at the groups’ 50 events around the state last year.
Some clergy aren’t impressed by the means the Kentucky Baptist Convention used to achieve those results, however.
“Churches should not be encouraging people in their communities to arm themselves against their neighbors, but to love their neighbors, as instructed by Jesus,” a pastor at New Union Church in Versailles, Ky., Nancy Jo Kemper, told the Courier-Journal.
Rev. Joe Phelps of Louisville’s independent Highland Baptist Church said that “Giveaways for God” just seem wrong.
“Can you picture Jesus giving away guns, or toasters or raffle tickets?” he told the newspaper. “He gave away bread once, but that was as a sign, not a sales pitch.”
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.