There are several topics that very clearly demonstrate the gulf that exists between an American and European mindset. The clearest example for me is guns. In the UK I only know one person, as far as I’m aware, who owns a gun and that’s for clay pigeon shooting and I only met him last year. I know, I think, two people who have guns in Sweden for hunting. I’m nearly 45. The first gun I ever saw that was not on TV was held by a policeman in France. I’d never seen a police officer with a gun before. I was 12. Everybody else that I’ve met who owns a gun is American.
There are a few times I’ve spoken to some friends in the US and somehow the topic of church security has come up. Our understanding if that term is a little different, apparently they mean more than remembering to lock the doors on your way out. According to this article, “Around 4 in 5 Protestant pastors (80%) say their church has some type of security measure in place when they gather for worship…”
Two thirds of churches have developed plans for what they call an ‘active shooter situation’. A quarter have radio comms for their security personnel and a half of them have plans that include having members of the congregation armed. A quarter have gone the other way with a no-firearms in church policy and 3% have metal detectors. 30% have either uniformed police officers or private security on site during worship services.
All this in response to 14 mass shootings (4 or more killed) at faith-based properties since 1963, with a rise in them since 1999. At least 623 people killed, according to this report.
I’ve been in church leadership for a while now and I’ve never yet talked to anyone, in Europe, afraid of coming to church because of fear of shooting. I’ve never met anyone in Europe afraid of that happening anywhere in Europe to be honest. I’ve never encountered a church with a security team. I’ve never met one that had a security plan. I’ve never met one that has thought of having a team. Or having a plan. Or hiring private security. I’ve never been into a church that wasn’t a cathedral in a major city that had metal detectors. And no-one not once, not ever would have thought to remind people not to bring their guns to church. Because they don’t have guns. It is almost inconceivable.
So what’s the point? It’s really a reminder to me, because I’m so often shaped by leaders and writers from the US that they are often thinking and leading in an environment that I simply cannot conceive of. I can’t relate. At all. If that’s the case in places where I can see the difference maybe it’s also true in other areas too. It’s not about not listening but listening more carefully and also ensuring I’m listening to other voices too.