Hundreds of evangelical Christians clutching AR-15 rifles and pistols packed into a church in Pennsylvania to worship and have their weapons blessed and celebrated as life-saving “rods of iron.”
The women wore white bridal gowns and the men wore dark suits as they gripped their weapons. Many wore crowns—some made of bullets —while church officials dressed in flowing bright pink and white garments and held weapons during a service at World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in New Foundland, Pennsylvania.
The event comes two weeks after a man with an AR-15 massacred 17 people at a school in Parkland, Florida, on February 14.
A spokesman for the church said in a statement that the staff of the Florida school should have been armed, a strategy also put forward by President Donald Trump, despite widespread criticism from teachers.
“Each of us is called to use the power of the ‘rod of iron’ not to arm or oppress as has been done in satanic kingdoms of this world, but to protect God’s children,” Moon said, citing the Book of Revelation in the Bible.
A couple who attended the ceremony with their AR-15 told the Associated Press their weapon was for defending her family against “sickos and evil psychopaths.”
“People have the right to bear arms, and in God’s kingdom, you have to protect that,” she said. “You have to protect against evil.”
Protesters demonstrated outside the church holding signs that read: “Worship God, not guns” and “What would Jesus pack?”
Here are some photos from the event, courtesy of Reuters, Getty Images, and AFP:
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