What's the best way to get Kentucky men to go to church?
The Kentucky Baptist Convention thinks it's a sermon on gun rights and a raffle for a free gun. That's what takes place at the organization's Second Amendment Celebrations that are held at Baptist churches throughout the state. The organization is calling it "Outreach to rednecks."
Chuck McAllister, a former pastor who leads most of the events, said guns are the best way to get Kentucky men into Baptist pews, because most of them share hunting and firearms as a common interest.
"You have to know the hook that will attract people, and hunting is huge in Kentucky," he told the Courier-Journal. "So we get in there and burp and scratch and talk about the right to bear arms and that stuff."
He also said that more than 1,678 men who attended the 50 Second Amendment Celebrations last year converted made proclamations of faith. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the Second Amendment Celebration slated for this Thursday at the Lone Oak Baptist Church in Paducah, KY. Attendees will receive a free steak dinner and the chance to win handguns, shotguns and rifles.
"You have to know the hook that will attract people, and hunting is huge in Kentucky. So we get in there and burp and scratch and talk about the right to bear arms and that stuff."
The events include a sermon about hunting, gun rights and the teachings of Jesus, and the honeypot: the gun raffle. Prize winners are presented their guns during the events for picture taking, but they can only claim them at an authorized local gun shop after passing a federal background check.
McAllister, who is also the former host of "Adventure Bound Outdoors" that aired on the Outdoor Channel for 16 years, said that guns and gun rights are not part of the Bible, but they are an effective way to draw in new churchgoers.
But other Kentucky Baptist pastors don't see eye to eye with McAllister.
"Can you picture Jesus giving away guns, or toasters or raffle tickets?" said Rev. Joe Phelps, pastor of the Highland Baptist Church in Louisville. "He gave away bread once, but that was as a sign, not a sales pitch."
Phelps' colleague Nancy Jo Kemper, pastor of the New Union Church in Versailles, KY., is also not pleased with the gun giveaways.
"How terrible it would be if one of those guns given away at a church were to cause the death of an innocent victim."
McAllister said he understands why some people disagree with giving guns away at church, but he insists that the guns are only intended for hunting and self-defense.
As for what McAllister thinks Jesus would say about giving guns away at church, he had this to say.
"I don't know, but he was pretty handy with the whip when he ran the money-chasers out of the temple."