Civility the right response to church bombings, Baptist pastor says

Churchgoers were left shaken during Sunday morning services after authorities say explosions occurred less than 30 minutes apart outside two Las Cruces churches. (BNG Photo: Robin Zielinski/The Las Cruces Sun-News via AP)

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LAS CRUCES, N.M. (BNG)—Kevin Glenn published a book last year detailing the loss of civility in American culture and proposing ways to revive it. Now Glenn has a chance to put Hand over Fist: An Invitation to Christ-centered Civility, to the test—thanks to the bombing of his church.

kevin glenn350Kevin Glenn, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Las Cruces, N.M., which was slightly damaged by a bomb attack Aug. 2.Bombs exploded at Calvary Baptist Church and Holy Cross Catholic Church in Las Cruces, N.M., Aug. 2 but caused no injuries and minimal damage. Glenn, former pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Columbia, Mo., was spending his first Sunday in Las Cruces in preparation for his new pastorate at Calvary Baptist.

“I’ve already been asked what message I have for the bombers,” Glenn said. But his message isn’t for the perpetrators. It’s for members of the community and the targeted churches who may be harboring feelings of revenge for the attacker or attackers, who have yet to be apprehended.

While the bombings were evil acts, they were committed by someone acting out of severe misery and pain, he insisted. Maintaining that perspective will help victims see those responsible as people for whom Christ died, he said.

“Civility can keep us from demonizing them and dehumanizing them,” Glenn said.

When church becomes a crime scene

The device at Calvary Baptist exploded about 10 minutes before the start of its 8:30 a.m. traditional worship service. The church held an abbreviated version of the service in a shady area of the property, Glenn said. It concluded just before authorities declared the entire property a crime scene.

Gov. Susana Martinez flew to Las Cruces, where she led a press conference along with investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Homeland Security, FBI, and state and local law enforcement agencies.

“Only a coward would place an explosive in a place of peace and worship,” Martinez said. “Whoever did this will feel the full pressure of the law.”

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Glenn, who stood behind Martinez while she made those comments, said it had been a whirlwind couple of days since he arrived in Las Cruces Saturday evening, Aug. 1.

hand over fist300“We drove here in one car, and my other car was on a moving truck,” he said. “Nothing is unpacked or unloaded or anything.”

Glenn wasn’t scheduled to preach any of the three worship services at Calvary Aug. 2. Although he planned to attend the later services, he wasn’t at the church when the explosion occurred.

“I had a cup of coffee in my hand, and I was watching the news, and I saw my church on the news,” he said. “I will never forget that.”

He immediately headed to the church, where he found lay people had taken all the steps necessary, including cooperating with police, to secure the building and ensure everyone’s safety.

One of his first official acts as pastor at Calvary Baptist was to participate in a briefing and news conference about the bombings.

“I was taken aback when I got a call … that Gov. Martinez wanted to meet with me,” he said. “That definitely got my attention.”

Aug. 3 was just as “crazy” a day for Glenn, he said, as speculation and rumors began swirling through Las Cruces about why someone would bomb churches. Nor can anyone figure out why Baptists and Catholics were targeted, he added.

“All of us are stumped on that one, because there haven’t been any sort of outright controversial statements from either one of the churches,” he said.

Explosions unified Christians in the city

But it become quickly evident the explosions unified Christians in the city, Glenn said.

“The Christian community in Las Cruces is just galvanized right now. It’s incredible,” he said.

“There is more dialogue taking place between Protestants and Catholics” which “is giving a lot of hope to what could be if we maintain and keep the main thing the main thing,” he added.

One of the main things at Calvary Baptist will be taking measures to keep churchgoers and staff safe, Glenn said.

He has experience in that kind of thing. A few years ago in Columbia, Memorial Baptist’s sign was vandalized by someone who spray-painted over Glenn’s name. After the sign was repaired, the vandalism occurred again, and a note was added threatening Glenn’s life.

“As a result of that experience we went through as a church, the measures we took to have the campus be more aware, I know exactly what we need to do” at Calvary after the bombing, Glenn said.

Demonstrate confidence in Christ

And one of those things is to preach—which Glenn planned to do Aug. 9 for the first time at Calvary.

“It’s going to be a message on the confidence we have in the Lord and what it means to be vigilant,” he said.

Glenn also planned to encourage believers who undergo an attack like the Las Cruces churches to react with a spiritual calm.

It will demonstrate “how to live faithfully and why not to be paranoid, and that we need not fear,” he said.

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