Book Review: “Pistol in the Pulpit”

This book review is almost a continuation of a previous blog I have done entitled “Don’t be a Statistic.” In the previous blog, I talked about our own personal responsibility of protecting ourselves against the real-life threats of terrorists at our door steps and active shooters seeking to kill. That blog stemmed around the church shooting that happened in Fort Worth, Texas a few months ago. Their church video was released and I broke down the video discussing things that went right (which were minimal) and all the things that, looking at it from a security prospective, went wrong.

     I was seeking some reading material that may have some specific research on statistics of active shooters, primarily in churches. Does the shooter typically like to sit in an area with more members seated or be away to the side in a less congested area? How many shooters sat in the middle of a row as opposed to the aisle seat? How long into services did the shootings happen? Is there anything else that could give me a little more insight to how active shooters think in a church environment? 

After a tough decision of looking at multiple books, I settled on “Pistol in the Pulpit: A biblical and tactical response to active shooters in the house of worship” by Tim Rupp. I read multiple reviews on a handful of books and what sold me on this one was the author’s background and the positive reviews. The reviews had testimonies from church security teams and how it helped establish and set a foundation for their teams. 

     I feel like this is a good place to make this statement or point. Whether you are an individual that attends a church or not, or a believer in God or not (which if not I’d be more than willing to talk) many principles in this book could also be extended to businesses, schools or any establishment that you deem could be a target of an assault and could be applied to reduce the chances of a successful attack.

     Tim Rupp has a law enforcement background that spans four decades that includes his time as a law enforcement officer in the Air Force and his time with the San Antonio Police Department. Tim’s father had a similar background in the military and once retired became a full time Pastor. Tim spent time as a patrol officer, homicide detective, patrol sergeant, sex crimes sergeant, police academy supervisor, and internal affairs sergeant-investigator. He was a certified police firearms instructor and supervised firearms and tactics for several years. After retirement, Tim was called to the full time Pastoral position in Idaho. With his understanding of security, tactics and looking at it through a biblical approach, I thought it would be a great mesh of everything I was looking for.

     Chapter 1 is entitled “A New America.” The main points he proposes here is he outlines how over the course of our time in the US, certain situations have forced our hands to change how we operate. He mostly uses law enforcement examples to prove his point, which I believe were all relevant and full of great information. He tells us how in 1979, patrol officers or first responders were trained to only secure the perimeter and take up positions when called to shootings or possible hostage situations. After that happened, then the special teams of SWAT or negotiators were called in to handle the situation. They were taught when they had to enter and clear a house or any room, it was to be done slow, deliberate and methodical. Anyone who knows how to conduct room clearing knows this is actually how you get hurt or killed. The reports say the Columbine school shooting was a tipping point in which tactics began to change.

         He then outlines how years ago, many public attacks were happening inside government buildings because they were “soft” targets. They had no real structure to their security procedures and once government buildings tightened up, then school shootings became the norm. As we tighten the security of our school systems, shooters are now turning to the next public soft target, and that is the church.

     A great report he found about adapting to situations was the statistics on school fires and deaths associated with them. In the 1970s, schools were designed in an open architecture concept. There were no doors to the classrooms. The ones with doors had windows with no locks. The reason was school administrators were more concerned about school fires and deaths caused by fires at the time. Between 1908 and 1958, there was a reported eight school fires in which 10 or more students died claiming a total of 755 lives. From 1958 to 2015, there have been ZERO fires in which 10 or more deaths occurred! The take away was the school system was a “soft” target for fires. The administration realized and accepted the issues and acted with fire codes, sprinkler systems, fire drills, and fire proof materials. The schools rehearsed these drills and made aware the reality to the children that a fire could occur. The take away from this chapter is to realize where we are this day and age. The church, being a “soft” target by default, is next in line for the active shooter. The shooter isn’t motivated by the greed of money or assuming power. They want to kill. What better place for them to act out their crime than in a place of love, mercy and a sense of safety. It’s the duty of the members to bestow those characteristics to everyone, but to also protect the flock.

     Chapter 2 is “What does Scripture say?” I am not going to dive too deep into this. I feel this isn’t the appropriate platform to start debating Scripture to refute or defend this topic. Things can get misconstrued and taken out of proportion. He does outline some scripture use and themes on the protection of the church. I will give the sub sections that he uses for his discussion. “Joshua fights with the sword” Exodus 17:8. “David guarding the sheep.” 1 Samuel 17:8-9. “Nehemiah-armed and ready.” Nehemiah 1:3. “Elisha commissioned to kill.” 1 Kings 19:16. “Peter carried a sword.” Luke 22:49. “What did Jesus say?” Matthew 6:13. “A Balanced Approach.” Romans 12:20.

     Chapter 3 is titled “Organizing a Safety Response Team.” He gives some vignettes on incidents that occurred at churches where an SRT had stopped a potential active shooter incident. He goes into detailed discussion on the organization of three different types of teams to consider within the church: An armed SRT, an unarmed SRT, and a medical SRT. He outlines some considerations of people to be cognoscente of that may cause disturbances. He outlines and gives guidelines to consider and attributes to look for when selecting individuals for your teams. He gives tips on wording to use for church policies and how to handle disturbances to help in case anything has to go to civil courts. He provides statistics, which was something I was looking for initially in the book. A 2014 study showed that 94% of church shooters are male from various ethnical and racial backgrounds. The ages ranged from 13 to 88 years of age. 55% of the shooters had some connection to those they attacked. Handguns were used 59% of the time. Rifles were used 26% of the time and shotguns 8% of the time.

     Chapter 4 is “Training-for reality.” He again begins with some vignettes using what was called the Newhall shooting. The moral of this vignette is how two criminals who were stopped at a traffic stop were able to out gun and kill four professionally trained cops. He explains how many people when training for life and death situations stick to flat ranges, with no elevated heart rate, and they don’t move around on the range which is the formula to real life gun fights. Well, these criminals trained like they planned to fight. Mr. Rupp then moves to retired COL Dave Grossman who wrote the books “On Combat” and “On Killing” to talk about the levels of awareness. He labels them condition white, yellow, red, and black. If you have never read these two books and have not heard about these levels of awareness, check them out. I bet many of you live in condition white, when we all should remain in yellow.

     Chapter 5 is “The implications of being involved in a shooting.” Here, he uses some material from Mr. Grossman’s studies. He talks about another vignette of how the police were involved in another shooting where some of the officers died. It was another example of how these ordinary men, who are raising families, love sports, watch movies, and are all around “good” guys and how if not trained properly, these “good” guys when thrown into hatred and a gun fight, odds are not on their side. Here you’ll read that when in a fight you should automatically go to condition red as discussed earlier. You’ll dive into perceptual distortions discussions. He’ll explain a little why time seems like it slows down for some and speeds up for others. Why do you experience tunnel vision? Why does memory loss happen and why sometimes don’t you even remember the loud sounds of your gun going off? Why do some people literally “freeze” when confronted with extreme fear? 

     Chapters 6 and 7 are entitled “Firearms Basics” and “Equipment.” Nothing fancy to discuss here.

     And the last chapter talks about general security concerns for the church.

     Ok. Finally. The part I have been dying to get to. My overall review and reception of the book and it’s material. So, this book is definitely intended for an individual or group of people that have little to no knowledge or background in security and how to handle life or death situations. Now, don’t get me wrong. I will ALWAYS walk away with some knowledge or better insight into something I just read no matter how familiar or advanced I think I am at it. I found myself though at times resisting the urge to just move on to the next chapter. Now, consider this a good thing as far as me validating this book. If I disagreed with his thoughts and methods, I would be picking it a part and analyzing it in depth so as to warn you all about its material. But, everything I read is right in line of how I would teach or even write this book.

     The main take away that I would promote from the book is how we MUST adapt to our times and culture when it comes to security. The police departments all over the US had to adapt to all sorts of things to make their methods more practical and efficient with the evolving criminal. If you remember my book review on Gladwell’s book “Talking to Strangers” there was a section on how cops changed tactics on how they pulled motorists over during traffic stops. The whole premise of the book to drive the point home was about Sarah Bland and her traffic stop that led to her suicide.

     This is a good book for the average church member or anyone interested in protection to pick up and read. I’d even maybe recommend it as a men’s study for your small groups. It’s a great topic for men to discuss. It has tons of scripture to go over and analyze. And it will hopefully lead to wiser men leading and protecting the flock within the congregation. 

     I would rate the book a 4/5. For me, it wasn’t as in depth as I was hoping for. But again, for others it may be some stuff that would blow your mind. You never know. Being picky, there were some sentence structures and formatting that at times made it hard to read. But, goes to show the author is just a normal man wanting to get his knowledge out there to help people and not be fancy about it.      I’m hoping, for now, this will be the end of my church security phase. But I just think it’s important overall that we not allow ourselves to live in condition white and take back this great country and make it a place where kids can stay out past dark again. You could leave doors unlocked and didn’t have to worry about some random dude snatching your kid out of your arms while at the mall and so on. And as an insight on the current book I’m reading, Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Tipping Point,” he discusses how one small event or action can turn into an epidemic that changes and reshapes our culture and society. Let your personal diligence and commitment to resist and stop evil be you own “Tipping Point” victory. With all our own victories being won together, we can take back and reshape this country to what our parents and grandparents may have called “the good ol’ days!”

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