Not So Happy Chinese New Year Thanks To Coronavirus

On January 25, 2020, millions of Chinese probably exclaimed, “Rats!” and not  because Chinese New Year ushered in the Year of the Rat. A pall was cast over China’s biggest holiday due to a public health scare. China is facing an outbreak of a new coronavirus, 2019 Novel Coronavirus–officially dubbed 2019-nCOV. The Chinese animal of the year is apropos since rats are symbolic of the drive to survive in times of danger.

The emergence of this virus is scary because it is one that hasn’t been previously identified–hence the name “Novel” Coronavirus. Because it is new, no vaccine exists to protect against the virus. And it will take a substantial amount of time (think months) to develop one. For modern society wanting instant fixes, that amount of time is hard to swallow.

The ultimate source of this new virus is as yet undetermined. Nevertheless, it has nothing to do with Corona beer despite a surge in Internet searches for “beer virus.” The virus’ name stems from the crown-like spikes on its surface.

Many of the initial Chinese patients who fell ill had been to Huanan, a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan. The connection to the now closed market suggested an animal source for the virus. Could it have been a rat?? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) believes this coronavirus first emerged from animal to people, but it is now being transmitted person to person.

Animals played a part in past coronavius health scares  because coronaviruses are zoonotic, i.e., they are transmitted between animals and people. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome {“SARS”), first recognized in 2002 also in China,.was traced back to civit cats. A less well known coronavirus outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (“MERS”), was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Point the finger of blame at camels for MERS.

The growing spread of 2019-nCOV greatly concerns health and governmental officials. The outbreak erupted in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, a megacity of 11 million people in east central China. In addition to cases in China, 2019-nCOV has now been reported in Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Macao, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, the United States, Germany, and France. Yesterday, China; tomorrow, the world.

The first U.S. 2019-nCOV case was announced January 21st. To date five cases have been confirmed by CDC, currently the only entity in the country that can diagnose it. All five patients had recently returned from–you guessed it!–Wuhan. Accordingly health screenings of incoming travelers on direct and connecting flights from Wuhan have been implemented at five major airports: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and New York (JFK). Outgoing travelers shouldn’t feel left out. CDC has issued a travel health notice recommending all nonessential travel to Hubei Province, China be avoided. (Well, duh!) The U.S. State Department has issued a similar warning. (Copycats!) So concerned were U.S. government officials for Americans still in Wuhan, that they chartered a Boeing 767 to evacuate U.S. citizens and diplomats.

Those remaining in Wuhan and surrounding areas are basically on lock down. On January 22nd, the Chinese government cut off trains, planes, and other links to Wuhan, a severe measure for the busy New Year travel time. The lock down was steadily expanded to surrounding cities and now affects over 50 million people. Two makeshift hospitals solely for coronavirus patients are being erected. Completion of the first hospital, to have 1,000 beds, was to be accomplished by February 3rd, i.e., in SIX days.

To avoid spread of the virus, New Year celebrations were cancelled in China and other countries. But it isn’t just New Year celebrations which have been impacted by the health threat. China’s economy has taken a big hit due to cancelled trips during their busiest travel time. In Hong Kong, schools have been ordered closed until February 17th. Likewise, Hong Kong Disneyworld is closed. Apparently Disney might make your dreams come true, but it can’t protect you from the nightmare of falling victim to a dread virus.

Chinese President Xi Jinping characterized the virus’ increasing spread as a “grave” situation. With over 100 deaths so far, the grave is the outcome for some patients. Worldwide cases now exceed 4,500, so the death toll will undoubtedly rise.

To control the spread of the virus, medical experts must determine how it is transmitted. They think the virus probably spreads through tiny droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. As a result, demand for face masks for protection has skyrocketed. The incubation period for the coronavirus is 1 to 14 days, and it’s infectious during that time. So, it can be spread by someone prior to their exhibiting symptoms and knowing they have it. Forget being a poet and not knowing it, you can be a coronavirus carrier and not know it.

What if you do get 2019-nCOV? The virus causes respiratory infections and symptoms similar to the common cold. Patients with the virus experience fever, coughing, and breathing problems such as wheezing and pneumonia. At the least, having the virus is uncomfortable; at the worst, it can be fatal.

Should Americans be concerned? Some public health experts are saying  reaction to the current situation is “hysteria and panic.” They point out that, at its current rate, 2019-nCOV is less deadly than this year’s U.S. flu season. Does this mean Americans should panic about the flu season instead?

While I’m not a doctor or public health expert, I do possess common sense and would encourage people everywhere to utilize theirs. Don’t travel to Hubei Province right now. Avoid situations where you might come in contact with people who have recently traveled there. If advised by your medical professional to get a flu shot, for heaven’s sake get one. Take into account the risk of exposure when in large public gatherings including, but not limited to, Chinese New Year celebrations. Consider wearing a face mask when out in public. You may not look smashing wearing that mask, but if it protects you from a possibly fatal illness, who really cares? Be like a rat in the Year of the Rat. Do what it takes to survive!

Just WONDER-ing:

Were you aware how widespread 2019-nCOV cases are? Are you alarmed about the situation? Should you be more concerned about catching the flu or 2019-nCOV?





MLB Sign-Stealing Scandal — Playing Fair Strikes Out

With the impeachment trial in full swing, wouldn’t it be more pleasant to think about another type of swing? How about the swing of a bat in America’s pastime? Or not. Just as accusations are being tossed about in our nation’s capital, so are accusations being hurled in major league baseball, particularly in Houston and Boston. A sign-stealing scandal has erupted on the sports scene leading fans to believe playing fair has struck out.

A familiar verse in Ecclesiastes notes that there’s nothing new under the sun. Cheating and baseball go way back. Approximately 100 years ago, the 1919 “Black Sox Scandal” took place. Eight White Sox players were alleged to have intentionally thrown the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds for a payoff. An investigation determined the accusations were true and banned the players from baseball. It also eventually led to the 1988 film, “Eight Men Out.”

Fast forward to 2020. Much time has elapsed, but Americans are still faced with allegations of cheating during baseball games. No, the players aren’t supposedly throwing games now, they are throwing a monkey wrench into the game’s integrity by the use of high tech devices–and apparently low threshold morals. Specifically, claims have been made that baseball players and coaches are illicitly using electronics to steal signs from the opposing team’s catcher.

But isn’t stealing a part of the game? Well, stealing a base is, and it is entirely permissible. Attempting to steal signs from the other team’s catcher is a long-standing baseball practice. The practice is allowed as long as a sign is stolen by using one’s wits, i.e., watching the other team and detecting patterns or sequences. Using extraneous equipment like binoculars, cameras, etc. to do so is not permitted though. Bottom line? The old-fashioned way of using your head is OK; using electronics is not.

Non-baseball fans may be scratching their heads wondering why a catcher’s sign is such a big deal. The catcher signs to the pitcher what to throw. If the batter knows what’s coming, he has a major advantage in being prepared to hit it. And by what’s coming, I’m not talking about a baseball. How the ball is getting to the plate is the key information. What type of pitch will be thrown? A fastball? Breaking ball?

Some MLB teams apparently do not adhere to the saying, “It’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game.” They want to win. And with winning comes big bucks. The temptation to engage in high tech sign-stealing is too great for them. In 2017 MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred fined the Boston Red Sox an undisclosed amount for “sending electronic communications from their video replay room to an athletic trainer in the dugout.” He also warned all MLB teams against utilizing electronic sign-stealing. But did they listen?

Well, the Houston Astros sure didn’t listen–or at least they heard but didn’t heed the commissioner’s warning. In November Mike Fiers, a former Astros pitcher who had been with the team from 2015 -2017, sang like a bird about the Astros’ sign-stealing. An in-depth investigation by MLB into allegations that the Astros had illicitly used electronics to steal signs during their 2017 World Series Championship season and in the 2018 season ensued. This investigation upheld the accusations. It wasn’t baseballs rolling as a result but heads.

The MLB Commissioner suspended the Houston manager, AJ Hinch, and the Astro’s general manager, Jeff Luhnow, for a year. To add an exclamation point to the “No, no,” Houston team owner Jim Crane then fired both Hinch and Luhnow. The adverse report not only cost the Astros personnel, but it also hit them in the pocketbook; the team was fined $5 million, the maximum amount allowed by the MLB Constitution. But wait! There’s more! The Astros will also forfeit their first and second round amateur draft picks for the next two years. That stings worse than being hit by a pitch.

The repercussions were not limited to the Houston Astros though. The fallout from the MLB investigation led to two other teams losing their managers. Former Astros player Carlos Beltran lost his job as manager of the New York Mets, a position he’d held a mere 2 months and for whom he’d never even managed a single game. Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora left his manager’s position after the MLB report identified him as the ringleader of the scheme in Houston. Cora had served as the Astros’ bench coach in 2017.

Apparently it wasn’t American Express that Cora didn’t leave home without. He is accused of bringing his sign-stealing system with him to Boston. A separate investigation by MLB focuses on whether Cora installed a system similar to what he used in Houston in Beantown. The alleged sign-stealing under investigation occurred in 2018 when the Red Sox (coincidentally?) won the World Series.

So what was this ingenious but illicit sign-stealing scheme the Astros used? It was part high tech and part low tech. The high tech part was misusing video from a camera positioned in center field which was fixed on the catcher. That camera was supposed to be used to help the manager decide whether to challenge an umpire’s call. Cora told the replay room to provide information to a player who would share it with other team members. The info was relayed using the dugout phone or a cell phone. Eventually the Astros put a monitor displaying the video just outside the dugout in the tunnel leading to the clubhouse so players could watch it themselves. The low tech part of the scheme was using a nearby garbage can to signal to the player at bat what pitch was coming. No bang meant a fastball was to be served up; one or two bangs conveyed that an off-speed pitch was imminent.

Social media in part helped lead to the downfall of the sign-stealers. A shot of the garbage can nearby the Astros’ dugout was posted as well as numerous video clips of instances of garbage can banging by the Astros.  In fact, the Internet’s social media skills greatly reduced the time the league had to go through videos to find evidence. Social media users found it for them.

So now that the rule-breaking by the Astros and Red Sox has been uncovered and condemned, has baseball been cleansed from sign-stealing? Nope. The generally accepted belief is that the problem is pervasive in major league baseball. Everyone seems to be doing it, but that doesn’t make it right. Supposedly cheaters never prosper, so hopefully those tarnishing the iconic American game won’t prosper in the end. The only good thing to come out of this scandal? A possible movie idea. My suggested working title? “Bang The Garbage Can Slowly.”

Just WONDER-ing:

Do you enjoy watching baseball? Is your enjoyment lessened by knowing cheating is prevalent in the sport? Were the penalties meted out by the MLB Commissioner (suspensions, maximum fine, loss of two years’ #1 and #2 draft picks) too severe? Not harsh enough?











Floridians Face A Real Jungle Out There

In the abstract, living in Florida is a paradise with warm weather, beautiful beaches, and Disneyworld. In reality, living in Florida can be a jungle. No, I’m not referring to the concrete jungle caused by overdevelopment. I’m talking about a real life jungle complete with fanged fauna. Burmese pythons are taking over the Sunshine State! HELP!

Yes, Florida’s a hot spot for tourists. But it’s also a national and global hot spot for non-native, invasive species according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Florida is the point of entry for about 3/4 of the plants imported into the U.S. and the majority of the world reptile trade. Lucky us–we Florida residents get to share our state with a bunch of tourists and over 500 non-native fish, wildlife, and plant species.

As a result of the presence of these many invasive species, all of Florida’s native habitats–marine, freshwater, and land–are now threatened. The invaders are a cause of great concern practically, financially, and environmentally. Hurricane season is limited to a defined period of time during the year, but invasive species are a threat to Floridians year around. Oh, joy!

How do these invaders have a financial impact? According to The Nature Conservancy’s website, the cost of managing Florida’s invasive plants alone is $100 million annually. Let’s consider a certain weed which is taking Florida by storm. No, not THAT weed! The non-native air potato vine is growing like a proverbial weed–but on steroids. The aggressive, noxious weed can add up to 8 incher per DAY and smothers vegetation. It costs big bucks to weed out this weed.

Moving over to the reptile category, green iguanas are the bane of property owners. The big lizards’ presence was first reported in the 1960’s, but their population has mushroomed so that they now infest South Florida. The iguanas are destructive and leave unsanitary droppings behind as a memento.

Rhesus macaque monkeys appear in the non-native invasive animal category. In the 1930’s six of the monkeys were brought to Silver Springs in an effort to attract tourists. These monkeys were placed on an island in Silver River, but SURPRISE!, the monkeys swam away from the island and took up residence in surrounding forests. About 200 of them are estimated to be located in Silver Springs State Park alone. The monkeys are prone to approach and intimidate visitors to the park resulting in some park areas which the monkeys frequent being closed to visitors.

And don’t go into the water! Forget worrying about sharks; swimming about offshore are lionfish. This nonnative species loves to snack on baby reef fish, decimating that population. When they aren’t devouring little fish, lionfish are scaring humans. Their fin spines are highly venomous and have led to human deaths.

Most alarming is the presence of Burmese pythons here in Florida. Snakes alive! These snakes, while native to Southeast Asia, are Florida’s largest invasive species. Their population in the Sunshine State is believe to exceed 100,000. The first Burmese Python found in Florida was spotted in the Everglades in 1979. It was likely a former pet (PET? What idiot has a Burmese Python for a pet?) which was released or escaped into the wild, making the wild even wilder.

Burmese Pythons are wreaking havoc on the environment because they eat endangered species and disrupt natural food chains. Usually they live near water, and scientists report that these snakes have eliminated 99% of the native mammals in the Everglades. Burmese Pythons can eat adult deer and gators up to six feet. Their only predators are (armed) humans and very large gators.

Tens of thousands of Burmese Pythons (yes, that means a figure with FOUR zeroes) inhabit the mainland around Everglades National Park. (Note to self: Do NOT plan any trip to the Everglades in the near future.) The population is likely to be increasing since it is currently Burmese Python mating season, and each adult female lays between 60-100 eggs per year. No one will think those are cute babies other than the momma python.

Clearly, Burmese Pythons must be eliminated, but how? Nature Conservancy Florida launched a Python Patrol in the Florida Keys in 2008 and expanded this service to the mainland in 2010. The Python Patrol’s trained responders can safely and humanely (who cares–it’s a big snake!) capture and remove Burmese Pythons. And by remove, I hope they mean permanently remove such as send them to the big snake pit in the sky.

The State of Florida has been paying python hunters to catch and kill Burmese Pythons since March 2017. As a result of this program, around 3,000 such snakes have been “extinguished.” Please tell me that term equates to “exterminated.”

In an effort to raise public awareness of the python problem, the State of Florida, along with the Florida Wildlife Commission and the South Florida Water Management District, is putting on the Florida Python Challenge. The Challenge, held in conjunction with this year’s Super Bowl which will be played in Miami on February 2nd, is also dubbed the 2020 Python Bowl. 550 individuals (among which I am NOT numbered) have registered to participate. What’s the goal? Catch and kill Burmese Pythons!

The Challenge kicked off on January 10, 2020 and will run through January 19th. The hunter who catches the largest snake during that time will win $2,000. While Burmese Pythons can grow to 26′ and over 200 pounds, the average size found in Florida is 8-10 feet. That’s still too big for me! The hunter who catches the most Burmese Pythons in the Challenge wins a Tracker 570 Off Road ATV provided by Bass Pro Shops. Winners will be announced January 25th during the opening of Super Bowl Live. VIP guests will receive python skin footballs. For once, I’m happy NOT to be a VIP guest.

Scary as having these invasive species in our backyards is, maybe we Floridians should capitalize on the situation. Let’s use it to draw tourists! Why should they travel to Asia when they can see Burmese Pythons and Mickey Mouse in the same trip?

Just WONDER-ing:

Were you aware there was such a threat posed to Florida by non-native species? Does awareness of the pervasiveness of Burmese Pythons in the Everglades dissuade you from wanting to travel there? Moving forward, what’s the best way to protect against further non-native invasive species taking a foothold here in Florida?





Just Fire Up The Barbie–Not The Whole Continent!

It’s summer Down Under. What better time to kick back and throw some shrimp on the barbie, eh? On second thought, maybe not. Australia’s on fire, literally, with bushfires raging during the country’s worst drought in decades. Aussies need to douse fires, not start new ones. Ongoing efforts to fight the out of control flames are a hot news topic, and I have a burning desire to bring folks up to speed about this catastrophic current event.

Bushfires are a regular occurrence during Australian summers, so what’s the big deal with the fires currently being battled? Well, the fire season typically begins in December, but some fires have been burning for about five months now and millions of acres have been scorched. The extent and intensity of these fires has led to New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state,  declaring a state of emergency. New South Wales and Victoria have both been declared disaster areas.

Fires are burning in places where they have never before been experienced. These include the rain forests in northern New South Wales, tropical areas of Queensland, and wet old-growth forests of Tasmania. The U.S. Embassy has even warned tourists to leave the country because of the danger from the fires. Holy smokes!

And there is no end in sight to this disaster. Authorities say these fires will continue for months. The weather forecast is for below average rainfall and above average temperatures for the foreseeable future. Believe me, the Aussies are not chanting, “Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day.”

While the bushfires burn, political fires are raging as well. A hot button issue is whether climate change has contributed to these infernos. Lending credence to this conclusion is the fact that 2019 was the hottest year on record for Australia. On December 17th the average temperature in Australia set a new record of 105.6 degrees. Whew! Additionally, 2018 and 2017 were the third and fourth hottest years on record for Autstralia. In fact, eight of Australia’s ten hottest years on record have occurred since 2005. Record breaking heat waves led to drier conditions making Australia vulnerable to a longer and much more dangerous fire season. Drought plus record heat plus blustery winds have been the formula for a perfect fire storm.

Despite this climatic evidence, the Deputy Australian Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, is not convinced climate change has anything to do with the fires covering four of his country’s six states. He’s been quoted as saying that global warming is a concern of “raving inner city lunatics.” Well, don’t hold back, Mr. Deputy P.M.! Let’s just say Mr. McCormack is not a fan favorite of environmentalists and those whose homes are in the path of the raging fires.

And the Australian Prime Minister, a big promoter of the country’s coal industry, is also on the hot seat. His government has been criticized for not doing enough to fight climate change. And making the political pot boil over is Morrison’s recent apparent lack of concern for the disaster. What better time to take the family on a vacation than when your country is going up in flames? Yes, Scott Morrison beat a hasty retreat home from Hawaii in December. His constituents were none too happy he was lounging in a tropical paradise while deadly fires were ravaging his country. Is he distantly related to Nero, perhaps?

Scorched land is not the only result of these deadly fires. Thousands of homes have been burned to the ground and dozens of people have died. But those who are still alive are facing threats to their health from the smoke generated from these massive fires. So much smoke has been produced that the air quality in the capital city of Canberra is currently worse than any other major city in the world. Doctors have reported that babies are being delivered in smoky hospitals with poor air quality. And the air pollution from fires’ smoke, according to health studies, may be linked to premature births and lower birth weights. Adults in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, are also being affected by the pervasive smoke leading to related health problems for them.

The smoke from the Australian fires has negatively impacted the environment as well as humans. It has drifted over a thousand miles across the Tasman Sea where it has darkened glaciers located on New Zealand’s South Island. The glacial ice is now melting even faster as a result.

The fires have devastated wildlife. New South Wales authorities estimate 500 MILLION birds, reptiles, and other animals have perished. Tens of thousands of cuddly, cute koalas have been killed and much of their habitat has been burned. Koalas are at high risk from flames. They are slow moving and live in eucalyptus trees which are oily, highly flammable plants. Those koalas who survived face a burnt habitat and may be stranded in scorched areas with no water or food. As a result, they are likely to be listed on the endangered species list.

How is Australia combating these dire conditions? The Prime Minister has ordered 3,000 reservists to assist in battling the raging fires. Navy ships have been called into action to rescue thousands who took refuge on the beaches. Tens of thousands of others were urged to flee the affected areas.

Rescuers have mobilized to look for surviving animals, particularly on Kangaroo Island, home to a wildlife park with a population of around 50,000 koalas prior to the bushfires. Approximately one-third of Kangaroo Island has been burned, and it is estimated that over 50% of the koala population has been lost. Helping in the hunt for survivors is a “koala detection dog” named Bear who has achieved fame for his rescue efforts while wearing protective red socks.

Battling the fires is an uphill battle given the record breaking heat wave and the lack of rain to help quell them. In fact, having water to fight the blazes is an issue itself. Sydney is experiencing a water shortage with 5 million people in the greater Sydney area under restrictions on water use since June. Tighter restrictions are a distinct possibility.

Celebrities have used their influence to encourage people around the world to donate to firefighting efforts in Australia. Actress Nicole Kidman, singer Kyle Minogue, and the Hemsworth family (actors Liam, Chris, and Luke), all Australians, have pledged large amounts. Even American Kylie Jenner has poured $1 million into the effort.

Sadly, no matter how much money is raised, some things can’t be rectified. Dollars can’t undo the loss of lives and the devastation of wildlife and their habitat. The image of enjoying shrimp off the barbie while watching kangaroos hop by and koalas curiously peering down from eucalyptus trees is a pipe dream at this point. It has, literally, gone up in smoke.

Just WONDER-ing:

Have you been following the stories about the fires covering Australia? Do you think climate change caused, or at least contributed to, the deadly bushfires Australia is experiencing? Other than health problems and depleted wildlife, what issues might Australia be facing as a result of these fires?







Church Shootings — No Sanctuary In The Sanctuary

Attending church in this day and age is like showing up at the Hotel California of which the Eagles sang–it could be heaven or it could be hell. While the heaven part of being in a church may be figurative, the hell part could be literal. Being caught in a hellish shooting is an all too real risk of participating in a worship service today. Guns may blaze before the preacher even gets to discussing hellfire and damnation. Yup, there’s no sanctuary in the sanctuary any more.

The word “sanctuary” has a couple of different meanings. The more familiar meaning is a sacred place. Church worship services are conducted in a location referred to as the sanctuary. Ironically, the second meaning is a place of refuge or safety. With the rise of violence in places of worship, sanctuaries can no longer be viewed as safe places.

In fact, the threat of violence at a church is so real, that some churches have taken to organizing security teams to protect their members while in a sacred but possibly not safe place. Moreover, a Texas law which took effect in September makes it legal for individuals to possess guns in houses of worship. Security teams and personal weapons are thus available to assist the Lord in delivering assembled congregants from evil.

Guns and the violence they represent seem inappropriate in a house of worship. Sadly, they were successfully called upon to save lives during church services at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas on the morning of Sunday, December 29th. Congregants were taking communion unaware that bodies and blood would shortly be strewn about the sanctuary. One moment worshippers were peacefully assembled and looking to the Lord; second later shots rang out and they were ducking for cover or running for their lives. Hell lasted for six seconds before the threat was eliminated.

Unfortunately, sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. The shooter was confronted by members of the church’s security team. He was shot and died. Many go to church hoping to meet their Maker in the sense of connecting with Him, but this shooter was killed and figuratively sent to meet his Maker. Unfortunately, two church members, a 64 year old deacon and a 67 year old security team member, were killed. Their meeting with their Maker was likely more pleasant than the shooter’s.

A shotgun was wielded by the shooter, and the sanctuary was filled with congregants who normally numbered around 280. Had no action been taken by the volunteer security team, how many worshippers would have lost their lives or been injured? Violence is not the answer to everything, but it may be necessary to defend one’s life and that of others. Yes, violence is evil, but using a gun against the shooter in these circumstances was the lesser of the evils. Innocent lives were saved by having to snuff out the life of one hellbent on doing harm. Trying to reason with the shooter is a laughable option. Use of a weapon was the way to go under the circumstances.

And just who was this shooter? A terrorist? Nope. Keith Thomas Kunnunen was one of our own. The 43 year old man, according to the FBI, had an extensive criminal record. One of his ex-wives described him as “violent” and “crazy.” Well, I hope she was right about the crazy part; I’d hate to think that someone in his right mind would commit a violent crime in the middle of a church service. Another ex-wife indicated she’d obtained a protective order against him, describing the shooter as a religious fanatic who was paranoid and violent.

Although the shooter was transient, he had some ties to the area where the shooting occurred. The town was not one known for violence. It was a small suburb about 8 miles northwest of Fort Worth with a population of just over 16,000 per the 2010 census. West Freeway Church of Christ cared about members of its community. In fact, the church had given the shooter food on multiple occasions. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you–or perhaps more accurately, shooting the hand that feeds you.

Not only have citizens lost their sense of safety and security in a church building as a result of these shootings, but they are now forced to scrutinize others attending services with them. According to reports, the West Freeway Church of Christ security team already had its eye on the shooter before the incident. A woman in attendance at the service reported that she had never seen the man at church before, and his appearance made her very uncomfortable. He had on dark clothes, wore sunglasses, and sported a beard that looked fake as well as a wig. Worshippers will have to ask themselves whether the unknown person in the congregation is wearing a toupee just to cover his thinning hair or to avoid detection after an intended crime. The customary meet and greet might have to be extended from a mere handshake to a pat down of those seated near you.

Given this violent context, churches are going to have to take a long hard look at their procedures. Do they need to organize an armed voluntary security team? This type of volunteer work may appeal to some of the men who aren’t comfortable helping out in the nursery. (Sorry, I’ll take on a dirty diaper before an armed shooter any day.) Do churches need to be a bit more exclusive as to whom they open their doors? My church has the motto “Come As You Are.” Does this motto need to be modified to read “Come As You Are As Long As It Is Not Armed?”

The shooter’s motive, as of the writing of this post, is yet unknown. It appears that mental illness played some part in his actions. One of his ex-wives noted he was battling a demon. That makes sense. Wouldn’t the devil want to raise some hell during a church service? Had the shooter survived to face the judicial music, his defense could have been that the devil made him do it a la Flip Wilson’s Geraldine. But if a crazy person is going to wield a gun, don’t we want some trained, sane person to be available to take him on?

Sometimes we have to do things we don’t like such as take horrible tasting medicine or swallowing a horse pill to achieve a positive result. In this case, peaceful and innocent people deserve to be safe in a house of worship; threats to their safety may have to be eliminated. If having an armed security team in place is what it takes to make that happen, then we need to hold our noses and take that action. As the well known saying goes, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” You can take common sense steps to have protection in place in a sanctuary or simply allow worshippers to come as sheep to the slaughter.

Just WONDER-ing:

Do you feel safe when you are in attendance at a worship service in your local area? Does the existence of a church security team fly in the face of a sanctuary as a peaceful place of worship? If concealed carry is legally authorized, should worshippers be allowed to carry their gun as well as their Bible to church?