I have a love-hate relationship with charlatans.
On the one hand, I admire their chutzpah and the skill with which they deceive the gullible. On the other hand, I'm disgusted they would use their talents to bamboozle their fellow man, robbing him of his money, her dignity, and their faith in other people.
The worst of the worst preys upon those most in need, whether they're a faith-healer promising a 10-year-old girl he can rid her body of cancer, a telephone con artist who has enthusiastically informed a fixed-income senior that she has just won a million bucks but first she needs to wire him $5,000, or an herbal shop clerk selling hard-on supplements to guys who, well, can't get a boner. They are wretches of the first order.
And then there are those folks who seem to have an honest desire to help but who appear to be consciously unaware of the ineffectiveness of the various cures they propose.
You know the kind of people, I'm talking about. That gal in HR who gave you a copy of Dianetics
, that intern who told you to watch The Secret
, that asshole in-law who gave you bee pollen because you have seasonal allergies. Their motives are genuine, or at least we hope they are. But the goods they're pushing are pure snake oil.
Which brings us to Sheepdog, a Texas-based group who instructs churches how to protect themselves from would-be shooters.
Next week, they'll be in town Aug. 28-29 to host a seminar
at Seacoast Church in Mt. Pleasant. The admission price: $99 for one person. However, there is a way to knock that cost down a bit. You can bring a friend for free. And, as the Sheepdog folks point out, you guys can split the cost, so each of you only pays $49.50. Having that extra cash will be handy since Sheepdog requests that the site in question ask vendors to show up to hawk their wares.
Sheepdog also has their own items to share
, including a Church Safety Kit ($159), a DVD of their seminar ($89), and a two-DVD set of the movie "Faith Under Fire" ($15.99). Now I don't know if those items will be available at next week's Seacoast presentation, but if they're not, you can currently buy them at Shepdog's online store.
But that's neither here nor there.
The point is that the folks at Sheepdog want to help, sincerely and honestly. And while they will surely offer all kinds of practical advice to churches — of the three core Sheepdog guys, one's an ex-cop, one's an ex-Army Ranger, and one's a vaguely defined ex-"first responder" — I have to admit I'm a little troubled by two things.
See, in addition to talking about armed security at your church and the like, Sheepdog will also teach seminar attendees that both prayer and fasting are deterrents to would-be shooters. Here's how it works, according to a blogpost by founder Jimmy Meeks:
An effective safety team also recognizes the "spiritual side" of church safety. Staying "in touch" with a "Higher Power" who can help - who knows all things - is also necessary. And this is precisely why you must see church safety as a ministry - and not a "secular" matter.
What you do on the safety team is as important as any other function in the church. As a matter of fact, your services contribute to everyone else's ability to carry on their ministry. You are protecting children and adults...so that they can learn more about the kingdom...
And because it is a ministry, the requirement of prayer is laid upon you as much as it is upon the minister!
Your safety team needs to spend time seeking the face of God. It may be that while doing so potential danger is revealed to you. This happened in the Bible time and time again...
Do you recall the story in Matthew 2 of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus? An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, and warned him in a dream that he was to take the child - Jesus - as well as his mother, and "flee to Egypt." The angel also told Joseph why he was to do this: "...Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."
Matthew also records a second time that an angel warned Joseph abut impending danger. These scriptures remind me of the absolute necessity for us to have our ears "tuned in" to heaven's frequency: for it is possible that God may warn you when someone of evil intent is headed toward your church.
Thus, you must be "prayerful," and in a "listening mode." What may be revealed to you by your Heavenly Father could very well save lives...
As for what Sheepdog calls the "weapon of fasting,"
the organization says, "We are going to introduce one weapon that your church may have never used: The Weapon of Fasting. We will show you how fasting can impede violence - just as it did in scripture...."
Moreover, Meeks notes that having a relationship with God will help keep the bogeyman at bay. He writes
Recall the story of Elisha's ability to hear the voice of God as recorded in 2 Kings 6. The enemy king of Israel, the king of Syria, often laid out his plans as to how he intended to attack Israel.
On one occasion, he told his servants that he was going to a certain place to set up camp. After he did so, Elisha "heard about it" and warned the king of Israel. This caused great frustration to the Syrian king. He was puzzled that Elisha could learn of his plans, and suspected that one of his own servants was a traitor, telling Elisha all the secrets of the king.
But that was not the case.
Finally, one of the Syrian king's servants set the king straight. "None of us are doing that, O King. The truth is, Elisha hears the words you speak - even when spoken in your bedroom!"
What was going on? The answer is simple - yet astounding. Elisha had such a relationship with God, that God chose to share His own heart with Elisha - and did so to protect His own people!
I want you to let that sink in for a moment because there's a twisted logic at play here, the dark side of Sheepdog's teaching if you will.
Here goes: So, if God protects those who have established a relationship with Him — through both prayer and fasting — then the inverse would have to be that God doesn't protect those who don't have a proper relationship with him. And with that in mind, and using Meeks' own logic, then one would have to assume that the nine innocent men and women who died on June 17 at the Emanuel AME Church did not pray properly, did not fast properly (if at all), and, as such, did not have the kind of relationship with the Almighty whereby He would let them know that a madman is about to enter their doors.
Now, Meeks does offer a few qualifiers to his prayer-and-fasting proposal. In fact, this is what he told
our very own Paul Bowers:
"We take a very spiritual approach to this," Meeks says. For example, one tool that Meeks advises church leaders to use is spiritual fasting, a period of abstaining from food or drink.
"In the Bible, on numerous occasions when God's people fasted, it stopped the violence," Meeks says. "Now, we don't say this is a guarantee; we just believe there's other things you can do. There's so many things you can do other than just going straight to thinking that a firearm is the answer."
I don't know about you but that sounds mighty convenient.
Either way, considering how devastated the folks in Charleston are about this senseless tragedy and how desperately they are to find some reassurance that it won't — it can't — happen again, I'm sure a good number of people will be marching two-by-two to Seacoast next week ... at $49.50 a pop.