Rave blog Post

Are Church Massacres in the United States On The Rise?

Determining whether church massacres in the United States are on the rise is difficult due to different organizations using different criteria to record mass shooting incidents. However, what appears to be the case is that the number of “deadly force incidents” at houses of worship is increasing.

Depending on what database you use as your source, there have been six church massacres in the United States since 1982 (Mother Jones database), ten mass shootings at places of worship since 1980, or eighteen fatal attacks on Christian churches since 1999 (Facts and Trends database). If you try to identify trends from these statistics, church massacres in the United States are definitely on the rise (Mother Jones), about the same as they have always been or were far worse ten years ago than they are today (Facts and Trends).

Unfortunately, none of these database are reliable sources for determining recent trends in shootings at churches or other houses of worship as most rely on reports published on the Internet - which was not a popular medium for news outlets until little more than ten years ago. Furthermore, as is evident from the above, different organizations use different criteria to record church massacres - one going as far as excluding mass shootings at non-Christian houses of worship from its database.

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Most Church Shootings are not Recorded on Most Databases    

On 13th June 2019, sixty-two year old Arthur Edigin fatally shot his wife and critically injured his thirty-one year old daughter at the Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in Cypress, Texas, before taking his own life in a nearby hotel. Due to the way in which most organizations record church shootings, this tragic incident will rarely appear in any database; yet, according to one source, domestic violence is the second most common reason for deadly force incidents at places of worship in the United States.

In 2017, church security expert Carl Chinn compiled a database of deadly force incidents at faith-based organization in the United States - a deadly force incident being defined as any attack, suicide, suspicious death, or deadly force intervention. His database started in 1999 and covered 1,705 incidents in which 617 victims died (not including suicide victims or shooters killed in action), and an analysis of Chinn's database reveals a selection of motivations:

church massacres on the rise chartThere are many interesting takeaways from this analysis, especially - and contrary to what the media might have one believe - that religiously motivated church shootings account for only around one-in-twenty deadly force incidents. Indeed shootings of any nature (including suicides) only accounted for slightly more than half of the recorded incidents - implying that it is not just gun crimes churches and other houses of worship have to defend against.

Deadly Force Incidents are on the Increase

Unfortunately, it is not possible to determine from Chinn's database whether deadly force incidents involving guns are on the increase, although over the past ten years (a period Chinn describes as the most accurate due to the availability of online reports) there has been a noticeable increase in both the number of incidents and the number of deaths resulting from them. The following table lists the number of recorded incidents between 2008 and 2017, and the total number of non-accidental deaths.





































In an interview following the publication of his database, Chinn commented that many churches do not make security a priority and “spend more time and money training their choir than they do investing in safety”. Chinn also started the Faith Based Security Network charity to encourage houses of worship to share safety strategies and intelligence about localized threats - writing on the charity's website that ministry partnerships with each other and with law enforcement agencies can reverse the increasing trend of deadly force incidents in houses of worship:

“Times are serious for churches and faith based organizations around the world. In America, we had let our guard down in an ideology that God was different here from in the rest of the world; that evil would never invade our sanctuary. The time for denial is gone; evil has invaded our sanctuaries and will continue to do so. It is time to take individual ministry readiness to the next level.”


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Andrea Lebron
Andrea Lebron

Andrea is Rave's Director of Digital Marketing, a master brainstormer and avid coffee drinker. Andrea joined Rave in August 2017, after 10 years of proposal and corporate marketing at an environmental engineering firm. You'll find her working with her amazing team in writing and producing blogs like this one, improving your journey to and through our website, and serving you up the best email content. When she's not in front of a keyboard, she's chasing after her three daughters or indulging in her husband's latest recipe. Andrea has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing/Management from Northeastern University and an MBA from Curry College.

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