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Christians say that one day violence will finally end, but what do we do when that reality seems so far away? Stories of people whose lives are changed by gun violence who decided they wanted to do more than only offer thoughts and prayers.



#79: Where the Gospel Meets Gun Violence

Note: The Love Thy Neighborhood podcast is made for the ear, and not the eye. We would encourage you to listen to the audio for the full emotional emphasis of this episode. The following transcription may contain errors. Please refer to the audio before quoting any content from this episode. 

ANNA TRAN: Hey listeners, it’s Anna. Before we get started, I wanted to remind you that this podcast is made possible by listeners like you. Your generosity allows us to keep making this type of content. To support us, go to, or support us on Patreon by going to Your support allows us to continue telling stories about following Jesus in modern culture. 

JESSE EUBANKS: A warning about today’s episode – it includes descriptions and brief footage of gun violence. If young children are nearby, you may want to come back to listen later.


AUDIO CLIPS: Love Thy Neighborhood… Discipleship and missions for modern times.

AUDIO CLIPS: 911, Operator Frost, where’s your emergency?… Hi, I’m at 333 East Main Street. We have an active shooter… Okay, yes ma’am. What’s your name?… 

ANNA TRAN: April 10th, 2023 – 8:38 a.m. Louisville Metro police officers received a call of shots fired at 333 East Main Street downtown at the Old National Bank. 

AUDIO CLIPS: Eight or nine people have been shot?… Uh-huh… Are you with any of them?… Yes, but I’m in a closet hiding…

ANNA TRAN: 8:41 a.m. Officers arrive at the bank where the shooter was actively firing. (AUDIO CLIP) But just as quickly as it had escalated – 10 a.m. It was announced officially that the shooter was down. He was dead, no longer a threat. 

AUDIO CLIPS: A rookie police officer clinging to life, one of about a dozen people shot by a mass killer in Kentucky… Police confirming 57-year-old Deana Eckert, Thomas Elliott, James Tutt, Juliana Farmer, Joshua Barrick also among the five employees shot and killed…

ANNA TRAN: And at 11 a.m., Kentucky’s governor had a press conference. 

AUDIO CLIP: I want to start by thanking the brave heroes in LMPD and our other responding organizations… 

ANNA TRAN: Meanwhile, less than a mile away, at a middle school nearby… 

JORDAN: Hi, I’m Jordan. I’m 13. 

ANNA TRAN: So, Jordan. He’s in 8th grade, an average kid, likes playing video games. 

JORDAN: I play tennis and am just a silly little goober.

ANNA TRAN: And the same day, April 10th, while the governor is at the press conference addressing the bank shooting, Jordan was sitting in his English class when – 

AUDIO CLIP: Lockdown. Lockdown. This is an emergency alert…

JORDAN: Out of nowhere, the principal just comes on the announcements and says we’re going to lockdown level three. We were kind of confused. 

ANNA TRAN: And, something strange happens. Even though the bank shooting is over, suddenly –

AUDIO CLIP: Around 11 o’clock, a lot of police cars took off in a big hurry… 

ANNA TRAN: Two blocks in a different direction from Jordan’s school, there was another shooting going on outside a nearby community college. Back at the middle school, Jordan’s teachers and classmates have no idea what’s going on – only that the lockdown level just went from level three –

JORDAN: They say we’re going to lockdown level four. Me and all of our class was just kind of all scared a little bit because we don’t know if it’s something happening right outside the school or something that could be happening four or five blocks down.

ANNA TRAN: Jordan’s teacher does exactly what they’re supposed to do. They bar and lock all internal and external doors, close window blinds. Students are not allowed in the halls. And as Jordan and his classmates are sitting there –

JORDAN: While it was happening, it’s sort of like an adrenaline rush sort of thing. There’s a potential for level five where there’s someone that is in the building and we will have to protect ourselves.

ANNA TRAN: But within the hour, before noon, the principal gets back on the loudspeaker, telling everyone –

JORDAN: Go back to level three, and then like five minutes later we went back to level two. 

ANNA TRAN: And as they go back to level two, the teachers unlock all the doors, they open up the window blinds, and school proceeds on as per usual. And sadly, Jordan was fully prepared for this situation because they do lockdown drills all the time. 

JORDAN: So we practice them five or six times a year. But yeah, we get them relatively often.

ANNA TRAN: And what’s interesting is that during this interview it actually took some time to get the facts straight. What was happening is that Jordan was getting details mixed up with multiple other real lockdowns that have happened at the school. He talks about real lockdowns and drills as if it was just another memory of school. Now, I know that this is not a ubiquitous experience for every single 13 year old. But for Jordan, this has become part of his regular reality. 

JORDAN: A 13 year old kid, like me, is having to spend part of his days at school just – I’m just trying to learn things. I have to spend some of that time basically having to hide from people who could do me harm. So it’s just, it’s concerning. 

ANNA TRAN: When it comes to the topic of gun violence, concerning – it makes sense. Not only for a 13 year old, but also for many of us here in the U.S. It seems like any time we look at the news there’s just another incident of gun violence waiting for us. And a lot of times, it leaves us with this question – what do we do about it?


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks. 

ANNA TRAN: And I’m Anna Tran. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Today’s episode – “Where the Gospel Meets Gun Violence.” We’ll be exploring the questions – How are lives being changed by gun violence? How are guns contributing to violence in the U.S.? And how does the gospel shape the way that we respond to gun violence?

ANNA TRAN: We’ll be hearing stories from Christians on both sides of the barrel – those who have been hurt by guns and also from Christians who wield them. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Welcome to our corner of the urban universe.


JESSE EUBANKS: So, according to Gun Violence Archive, this year in our city of Louisville alone, there have been hundreds of incidents of gun violence. So, we’re talking about a broad definition of gun violence – things like homicides, suicides, mass shootings, accidental shootings, and domestic violence all involving guns.

ANNA TRAN: Right, and while the public is polarized on guns, many Christians are also just as divided on the topic of guns. 

AUDIO CLIPS: By the way, I’ve got a whole sermon – you can’t be a Christian if you don’t own a gun. You have a, not just a right to bear arms – you have a duty. How can you protect yourself, your family, or your neighbor if you don’t have a gun?… Christians should oppose the use of deadly weapons on principle because we’re committed to the way of Jesus, a practice of nonviolence. Followers of Jesus should oppose the use of AR-15s or machine guns in self-defense for the same reason that we should oppose landmines, drone strikes, abortion, you name it…

JESSE EUBANKS: Now, guns, of course, were not around during Bible times, but there were weapons. So, for us, as Christians, we can look at Scripture to see examples of how Jesus responded to a weapon, like a sword, and what God thinks about violence. 

Okay, so, in Luke 22:36, Jesus is sending his disciples on a mission, and he tells them, “But now, if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so it kind of sounds like Jesus is totally endorsing the sword. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. So folks that are gonna be pro gun rights, chances are they may reference this verse.


JESSE EUBANKS: Okay. So then later when Jesus is about to be arrested, Peter, one of the disciples, of course he takes out his sword, he cuts off someone’s ear in an attempt to defend Jesus. But then Jesus tells him, “Put your sword back into its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so in that instance, he’s like condemning the sword.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. And of course, like, all the folks that are about gun control or maybe even think that Christians should be pacifists, like they’re gonna make reference to this verse.

ANNA TRAN: Got it.

JESSE EUBANKS: And so what’s clear in the Scriptures is that Jesus hates discord among humanity, like that when we fight and we kill and we destroy each other. And we do. We live in this tension where Roman soldiers end up following Jesus, but he doesn’t tell them to stop being soldiers. And then on the other hand, you’ve got someone like the Apostle Paul, who his whole life was about bringing violence to people and then he never committed an act of violence again after his conversion. 

ANNA TRAN: Right. 

JESSE EUBANKS: It’s a tough tension for us to hold as people. But I think it’s one thing for us to be on the outside of these two issues, but it’s a totally different thing when you’re somebody who’s actually suffered from gun violence. 

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: I grew up in rural Ohio. I learned to shoot as a kid. That was a normal thing for me. That’s not unusual to have a gun in a home. That’s how I grew up. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so this is Sarah. 

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: Sarah Shoop Neumann. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So, Sarah lived in rural Ohio, but in 2009 she moved to Nashville for college. She had such a great experience that she actually decided she wanted to put down roots there. She eventually got married, and fast forward, she and her husband end up having two sons. And when her older son, Noah, was finally ready to go to school, they decided they were gonna go around and they were gonna tour some private schools. And so, they actually did end up at this one private school, and they really, really liked it a lot. She saw that they focused not only on academics, but they also taught about God and about the Bible. And so, after they’d taken a tour of the school –

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: “Well, that’s where he’s going. I don’t know how we’ll pay for it, but that is what we will do.” (laughs) Like, this is the sweetest school environment. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So, Sarah enrolled Noah in pre-K, and she really just enjoyed getting into the community there. You know, she got to know other parents, she got to know his classmates, she got on a group text with the other pre-K moms. She just really fell in love with the community there. But, when Noah was almost done with his first year, March 27th happened. 

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: Life is definitely defined pre- and post- March 27th. It was a Monday. It is important to note that my son was not at school that day. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So, that Monday morning, Sarah’s actually out running errands, and her son Noah and her husband – they’re off running errands elsewhere. Noah’s actually just getting a haircut. And when she’s about to wrap up shopping at the grocery store –

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: As I got in my car, an old co-worker called me, said, “Is 33 Burton Hills Noah’s school?”

AUDIO CLIP: Covenant School, uh, Covenant Presbyterian Church on Burton Hills Drive. 

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: And I said yes, and she said, “Where’s Noah?” I said he was, he was with his dad. And she said, “I, I think that there’s a shooter.” I said, “No, they do bad guy drills there. Noah’s told me about them before.”

JESSE EUBANKS: So, bad guy drills. You know, these are lockdown drills that the school had done on a regular basis for emergencies, you know, and Noah had done a bunch of these before and so Sarah was aware of that. And so when she hears, “Oh, that there’s a lockdown,” she just thinks “bad guy drills.” She doesn’t think it’s that serious. 

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: And she said, “No, Sarah, I’m seeing a tweet from the fire department. It says there’s an active aggressor. I think that there’s a shooter.” So I hung up on her and called a friend who works at the school, assuming she was going to tell me it was a drill.

JESSE EUBANKS: But, on the other end of the phone, she actually hears her friend panicking and screaming.

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: I could hardly understand her. As soon as I heard her voice, I knew it was real. 

AUDIO CLIP: We are monitoring breaking news. This is gonna be Covenant School. You can see people walking very fast. You imagine a lot of parents going to check on their kids. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So, Sarah hangs up the phone, opens up the group chat with the other pre-K moms, and she starts typing.

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: “Active shooter at school.” I couldn’t even frame it any other way. I, I just couldn’t believe I was typing the words I was typing. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So, Sarah starts driving towards the school, but of course because of the nature of what we’re talking about, you know, there’s emergency services there, there’s police there, there’s other parents there, there’s media there. It’s just a very congested place. So, at some point, Sarah has to park her car because she can’t get any closer and she starts walking towards the school. She finally gets to the school. 

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: There were SWAT cars everywhere, unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. Police everywhere. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And so Sarah, you know, she desperately wants to know what is going on here, and so she starts asking police officers.

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: I was asking if the kids were okay, and they said they don’t know. I’m getting all these calls from the pre-K moms, and, you know, they’re saying, “What’s going on?” and “Where do we go, what do we do?” 

JESSE EUBANKS: So, now that she’s starting to get some answers, she calls her husband to update him, and she’s like, “You need to come here.” So, her husband and her son, they jump in the car, they start making their way towards Sarah as well. Remember, all of this is still less than an hour from when she first got wind that something might be happening. So, as she’s standing there still trying to get answers, they finally do get an official response from the school. And it turns out – there was a real shooter. Now that shooter is dead, and they’re no longer a threat. 

Okay, so at this point, Sarah – she knows that her son is safe, but there’s all these other parents that still have all these questions. Like, everyone’s trying to figure out – how bad was this? How serious is this situation? So they’ve actually created a reunification center, a place where they’re all gonna meet up together, so she heads towards the reunification center at the nearby church to try to figure out what’s going on. And when she gets there –

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: It was just an out of body experience. It just didn’t feel like it could be real. You’re just looking around and watching, and you feel like, “This, this can’t be my life.” 

JESSE EUBANKS: And then the media and the news coverage start coming in, and they’re standing there hearing –

AUDIO CLIP: We are coming on the air with breaking news right now. At least three children are reported dead after a shooting at Covenant School, a private Christian school in Nashville. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And so when she hears about the deaths, she decides, like, this is not a place for her son. So she calls her dad, says, “Can you please come pick him up?” But, as soon as she hung up the phone –

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: We heard a scream that is unlike anything I ever heard in my life. And my son heard that, and he just grabbed me and said, “What’s happening, Mommy? What did they tell her? What did they tell her?” But you could tell even he knew. It was just awful.

JESSE EUBANKS: So, her dad comes, picks up her son, and Sarah decides she wants to stay there to be with the community in the middle of all of this tragedy. You know, parents are texting people, they’re trying to get details on exactly what’s happened. And then, as time goes on, they really start to get the scope of how bad this was.

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: You know, I don’t, I don’t even remember what time of day it was by the time we got home. I mean, it had been hours, but that’s when we got the actual confirmation of all the, the people that we lost that day. 

AUDIO CLIPS: Thank you for joining us. I’m Carrie Sharp. And I’m Rory Johnston. This, and this of course coming in the aftermath of the Covenant School tragedy, a shooter killed three adults and three nine year olds… Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, and Hallie Scruggs, 61-year-old substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61-year-old custodian Mike Hill, and the head of the school, 60-year-old Katherine Koonce…

ANNA TRAN: Gosh, this is really like a parent’s worst nightmare. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. Sarah actually said that, you know, understandably, in the days that followed, like, it was really hard for her to even function in life.

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: I, I don’t think I cleaned my house for three months. It just felt like you couldn’t do anything. I just felt like everything that we knew that was safe and secure and good just felt like it had been ripped away.

JESSE EUBANKS: And of course, like, Sarah and her husband – they’re wrestling with like, “How do we talk to our little boy about these things?” They have to sit him down and have this life-altering conversation with him where they have to tell their son his principal died, staff members died, some of his classmates died. 

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: He said, “Mommy, our teachers were really brave and they knew what to do because we practiced bad guy drills.” And he asked me, “Why did they know how to practice bad guy drills?” And he said, “Has this happened before?” I said, “Yes.” And then he looked at me and said, “So Mommy, the shooter is, is dead, but another one could come.” And at this point, like, I can’t lie to him. Like, we don’t have that luxury. We can’t give him false reassurance.

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I, I can’t even imagine what I would say. Do I talk about how there’s evil in the world? Do I talk about how the school is trying to take extra safety measures? I wouldn’t know where to start. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, and there’s obviously all those questions like as a parent in terms of how do you talk to your kid about their loss, you know, in this horrible situation, but there’s also this other set of questions which is – “Okay, for me, as the parent, as the adult, as a part of this country, this nation, what’s my responsibility in response to all of this?” And Sarah was faced with that question – you know, “What is my responsibility as a parent to step into this?” And she finds her answer, actually, at the Tennessee Capitol Building. Stay with us.


JESSE EUBANKS: Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. Jesse Eubanks. 

ANNA TRAN: Anna Tran. Today’s episode – “Where the Gospel Meets Gun Violence.” 

JESSE EUBANKS: We’ve been following the story of Sarah Shoop Neumann, whose son attended the Covenant School in Nashville, where someone came into the school with a gun and killed six people. 

ANNA TRAN: Before the break, Jesse, you were telling me that Sarah was about to find her answer to the question about, you know, what is her responsibility as a parent to step into this topic.

JESSE EUBANKS: Right. Okay, so, you know, the shooting at Covenant, it took place on March 27th, and, you know, just 11 days later, Sarah’s at home, she’s obviously, she’s still, she’s still grieving, she’s still confused. I mean, so much of her life had changed. And it’s when she’s at home she hears about this thing that’s happening at the Tennessee House of Representatives.

AUDIO CLIPS: The Tennessee State House deciding if they should expel three Democratic lawmakers who violated decorum during this moment… Enough is enough!…

JESSE EUBANKS: And the deal was that these three representatives – they were breaking protocol on purpose as a way of drawing attention to the issue. 

AUDIO CLIPS: Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton on a radio show accusing them of trying to incite an insurrection… What they did today was equivalent, at least equivalent, maybe worse, depending on how you look at it, of doing an insurrection in the Capitol… My walk, my colleagues’ walk to the House floor was in a peaceful and civil manner, and it was not an insurrection…

JESSE EUBANKS: So, there’s this hearing happening – “What are we gonna do about this?” 

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: I’ll be honest, I didn’t know who these people were. They, they’re not politicians that I followed before. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And here’s the thing – Sarah, because of what had happened at Covenant –

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: I wanted to know what was going on.

JESSE EUBANKS: She actually grabs a couple of friends, they get in the car, and they actually make their way to the Capitol building. 


JESSE EUBANKS: And of course, it’s Nashville, so lots of traffic congestion, takes a while to get there. And then when she gets there, the Capitol is actually really crowded because of this hearing. So on the way there, I’m gonna imagine she probably thought it was gonna be like a typical, like, what you would see on C-SPAN sort of experience, which is something like this –

AUDIO CLIP: Item number six. We have a motion, we have a second, and Chairman Howell, I am showing couple of amendments. What we’re gonna do – uh, you’ve explained what your amendment does. We don’t take untimely filed amendments, but it simply changed…

JESSE EUBANKS: But, that is not what she encounters. What she sits there and experiences is this –

AUDIO CLIPS: And we should all be outraged!… Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I call for the previous question… Then 75 people overruling the wishes of 78,000 people, and you’re gonna cut off debate?… Please explain to this woman and to America why you committed a falsehood… I wanted to hear your thoughts on how coming to the House floor with a bullhorn and drowning out the voice of my constituents is helpful in this exchange… Well what about the thousands of people who were here that Thursday who you never recognized?… 

JESSE EUBANKS: And most of the time, obviously, like, it is not that intense, but in this situation, the meeting lasted almost six hours, there was an official vote, and two of those three legislators – they were expelled.

AUDIO CLIP: Pursuant to Article two, Section 12 of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, I hereby declare Representative Justin J. Pearson of the 86th Representative District expelled from the House of Representatives of the 103rd General Assembly of the State of Tennessee. Next order, Mr. Clerk… Announcements… Announcements! Next order, Mr. Clerk… Roll call… Roll call!

JESSE EUBANKS: So, Sarah has just experienced this crazy thing at the state capitol. She goes home to process what she saw in the meeting, but she decides that she actually wants to go one step further. She actually starts researching Tennessee state gun laws, and what she discovers is that over the last few years that a series of laws have been passed that she actually thought were really unsafe.

ANNA TRAN: Hang on. What are some examples of that? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so, 2013, Tennessee passed a law allowing people with handgun carry permits to store guns and bullets in their personal vehicles while on public or private property as long as the gun is kept out of sight and locked up. And so, on the surface, that probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but what is also true in Tennessee is that Tennessee has a really high rate of gun theft from cars.

ANNA TRAN: So it’s like, people who break into cars – they’re criminal, they could easily get a gun to do something pretty bad with it. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. Okay. So fast forward – 2021. 


JESSE EUBANKS: In a lot of situations in the U.S., if you want to be able to have a gun on you concealed or out in the open, you need a permit. 

ANNA TRAN: Kind of like a driver’s license.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. In the same way that we have to kind of go through a series of requirements to be able to have the responsibility of driving a car, in many states it’s “If you want the responsibility of having a gun on you in a public space, we need to make sure that you are adhering to some things.” Well, Tennessee actually changed that. So now they passed a law where with handguns in particular, if you are over the age of 21 and if you own the gun legally, those two things are enough. You don’t actually need the permit. So you can carry a gun either openly or concealed on you in most public spaces. And so Sarah’s, you know, looking at all of these gun laws, and what she sees from her perspective is that Tennessee just keeps lessening the restrictions on guns.

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: And I think that’s when I realized, you know, like, I’ve not been paying attention to what’s going on here and realized at that point I need to be taking an active role. I am unaware of what is going on in our state. Um, to be quite honest, I felt complicit in everything. 

ANNA TRAN: It’s so interesting because, you know, on some level Sarah believes that state legislation can make an impact on gun violence and so she feels guilty because she hasn’t been involved with that. But on the other hand, you have Christians who think the government shouldn’t be as involved in gun rights as they are. And so they have really different feelings about this entire topic. 

JOHN CORREIA: If I’m being honest, in my own soul, I think that the size of the government is about 80 percent bigger than it should be.

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so, this is –

JOHN CORREIA: John Correia, and I am the founder and president of Active Self Protection, which is a self defensive firearms training company. 

ANNA TRAN: So, John’s got an eclectic background. He served in the Navy. He graduated from seminary.

JOHN CORREIA: I was a pastor for 14 years and a professor of biblical studies adjunct at a Christian college for nine years. 

ANNA TRAN: And before graduating from seminary, John was working as a manager of a video game store to help pay the bills for school. And as he was working there –

JOHN CORREIA: In 2006, uh, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 came out and managers were getting hurt for them, like, like mugged, uh, armed robberies because they were selling on the secondary market, specifically on eBay, for big money that Christmas. And, uh, I just decided I wasn’t gonna be it. 

ANNA TRAN: So, at the time, John had also been taking martial arts classes. But then, he realized –

JOHN CORREIA: Man, uh, kung fu – not so helpful against an armed robber. And so I went and got my concealed carry permit, started carrying a firearm. 

ANNA TRAN: And so as a way to defend himself from being held at gunpoint, John – he started taking classes in gun safety, gun training. He even got certified with the NRA. And because of that certification, he could use that to teach classes, and he actually started his company, Active Self Protection, to teach people how to use guns for self-defense. 

JOHN CORREIA: We travel the country and teach good, sane, sober, moral, prudent people to protect themselves and their families from criminal violence.

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so fast forward to 2011. John – he’s still taking martial arts classes, still taking firearms training courses. And so, one day, a friend of his sends him a video. 

JESSE EUBANKS: What is the video? 

ANNA TRAN: So, it’s a clip taken from security footage, and the clip is of someone being attacked in real life. 


ANNA TRAN: And so John, being all about self-defense, he sees this video and is thinking to himself, “Okay, if I were in that situation where that person got attacked, how would I defend myself?”

JOHN CORREIA: And I took it to my martial arts class that night and talked to my professor and was like, “Hey professor, I, I don’t know how to defend myself against this kind of attack.” And, uh, he said, “Well, let’s just workshop that in class tonight.” And so we did. We, we worked on that problem, and I went home feeling better about it. 

ANNA TRAN: So later, John went home, he posted some of his thoughts on Facebook with that same video, breaking down everything that he learned in his class. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And were people interested? Like, was he getting responses online? 

ANNA TRAN: Oh yeah, yeah, people were commenting, asking him to tell them more about what they could do if they were in a situation like that. And so, because of all this positive response, this is like an epiphany for him. He realizes, “Oh, I could really help people if I make more of these videos and explain to them how they could defend themselves if, you know, they were being robbed, if they were being attacked or carjacked.” And so eventually he learns how to edit videos, to narrate over them, and he breaks down these situations moment by moment, telling people how they could defend themselves in that situation.

JESSE EUBANKS: It’s almost like a sports commentary. You know, it’s like the four guys around the table and they’re watching the game and they’re breaking down move by move what happened and what the team could have done. 

ANNA TRAN: Right. It even has, you know, those little drawn arrows and circles. And because of this, he started his own YouTube channel that has now over 3 million subscribers.

JOHN CORREIA: My target audience is trying to help good people to avoid, if they possibly can, uh, being targeted for criminal violence, to de-escalate and escape if possible, and then if not, to, to have the most effective means available to them to enforce their boundaries that no one can force them to do anything and no one can hurt them.

ANNA TRAN: And so for John, he believes that we should be able to defend ourselves. So he’s all about how and when to use a gun in a right way in a dangerous situation. 

JESSE EUBANKS: You know, listen, like I’m never gonna advocate for someone else having the right to do violence towards you. I think though the tension that I personally, like I wrestle with – what does it look like to be a follower of Jesus and willingly lay down our life voluntarily versus like this other part of me that wants to be able to protect the people that are around me, you know, and to take care of others? And that’s not a new tension. I mean, you go back to the Civil Rights Movement and you see that. Like Dr. King advocated for nonviolence, like, “Let people do violence towards you because it actually has strong transformative power to other people.” On the other hand, you had Malcolm X who said, “No, like we should be able to have the right to do something when people are attacking us.” And it feels like so much of around this topic is that tension point, you know? And so I understand what John is saying, but, man, there’s this other part of me that’s just struggling. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, for sure. You know, but for John, he believes that being trained in using a gun to defend – that’s an appropriate response to gun violence if it’s a threat to you or if it’s a threat to innocent people around you.

JOHN CORREIA: Uh, one of the reasons I believe in self-defense is the powerless and the outcast and the marginalized and the oppressed and, you know, people of color – no one’s coming to save you. Police can’t be there to protect you. They’re not going to be there. We can say, “But they should,” but that’s not gonna change a thing. And so only you can protect yourself in the moment. And that doesn’t mean to live scared. I’m not scared of anything. I, I love people and I, I carry a firearm as a tool of last resort and I think that that is morally acceptable and good as a follower of Jesus.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so, let’s go back to Sarah. 


JESSE EUBANKS: So, Sarah went to this meeting at the State House, she has made all these discoveries about what she perceives as Tennessee loosening their laws on gun control, she’s struggling with feelings of complicity about the whole thing, and she’s asking like, “What is my responsibility as a U.S. citizen, as a mother, as a neighbor, as it relates to guns and gun violence?” And so as she’s wrestling with all this, one day she gets on Instagram. And while she’s on Instagram, she actually comes across a post from another Covenant School mom, and this mom is talking about her support for gun safety laws.

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: I saw her being very vocal. She was putting out that, you know, she was a Republican and had, you know, grown up like me. She was conservative, and she was a gun owner. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And so Sarah reached out and sent a message saying –

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: “Hey, I don’t know if this is strange, but I’m a parent from Covenant. I’m seeing what you’re posting. It really resonates with me. Can we get together and talk about where we go from here?”

JESSE EUBANKS: So she and Sarah, they get together, and then eventually some other parents from Covenant came to talk with them as well. They all start having these conversations about what actions could they take as a group at a state level. And members of the group actually start going to the Capitol periodically over the months to come to begin having all these conversations with different state legislators.

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: We just wanted to share our story and ask – “What can you do? Where do we go from here? What, what can you do to make this safer?” You know, there’s, there’s some firearm safety laws we supported, but we also just wanted to hear what their thoughts were, or, you know, if they didn’t agree, why. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And so, you know, as she and these other parents are having all these conversations with state legislators, they’re looking into all of these state laws, they’re seeing that they want to actually bring change to the way that Tennesseans are relating to guns, they decide, you know, “I think there’s a bigger need than just our little group.” And so they decide to formalize this thing, and so they actually start a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. 

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: We formed Covenant Families for Brighter Tomorrows. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so what do they officially do? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, so their website says that they actually focus on three things. So first, they advocate for school safety enhancements. So, what can we do to make sure that our school staff and our employees in schools are as well protected as possible? Second, they actually provide mental health support to minimize violence. So, how can we care for people well enough so that they never even get to a condition where they might commit a mass shooting? And then finally, the last thing is that they promote responsible firearm ownership. So, if you are going to own a gun in this country, what does it look like to do that responsibly? And they wanna really push forward these three initiatives. And of course, one of the big ways they’re gonna do that is by working with state lawmakers and trying to get bills passed in order to make their state safer. And so, they create this thing, and after a few months, Sarah realizes, like, she’s starting to actually spend quite a bit of time with different state legislators and it’s a really interesting experience for her to go from somebody who, like, never talks to state legislators to being somebody who does because she actually realizes – 

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: They’re people just like us, and they’re hired to work for us. It is our job. Like, we are supposed to go to them with our issues. And we can’t be upset if they’re not changing laws if we haven’t spoke up.

ANNA TRAN: It’s interesting. Like, Sarah really believes that legislation can make a difference. But when I talked with John about addressing gun violence with legislation, in his opinion –

JOHN CORREIA: I, I am of the mindset that, uh, you don’t win hearts and minds by passing laws.

ANNA TRAN: He acknowledges that people wanna address issues of gun violence, but he said that if people really wanna see change happen – 

JOHN CORREIA: They need to happen culturally in how people treat one another, not legislatively. And so the answer here among believers in Jesus, in my opinion, is we have to go and, as Jesus said, become the neighbor of our people around us.

ANNA TRAN: So, in light of all of this, you know, there’s two more angles that we still need to explore. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Right. First – what is gun violence like in urban communities? 

ANNA TRAN: And second – what are Christians doing to reduce gun violence that doesn’t focus on gun laws? Stay with us.


JESSE EUBANKS: Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. Jesse. 

ANNA TRAN: Anna. Today’s episode – “Where the Gospel Meets Gun Violence.”

JESSE EUBANKS: Earlier, we heard two stories – one of Sarah Shoop Neumann who, in the aftermath of a tragic shooting at her son’s school, was convicted to take action and advocate for safe gun laws. 

ANNA TRAN: And second, we heard from John Correia, a former pastor and currently a self-defense instructor who advocates for firearms training as a preventative measure against violence.

JESSE EUBANKS: Both are Christians, but with different convictions. But, before the break, I asked the question – what about gun violence in urban communities? And that question leads us here. 

KENNETH FORBES: My name is Kenneth Forbes, born and raised in West Louisville. I’ve been here for 51 years. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So this is Kenneth. Kenneth has always been the type of man to be out in the community. He coached local football for 24 years. He’s really social. A lot of people know who he is. But he also just lives a very simple life. 

KENNETH FORBES: I go to work, come home, deal with the kids. Just a normal family. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, but I wanna go all the way back to 2012. So, Kenneth is married, two sons – one 19, one 10. And one day in December, he’s on the phone with his 19-year-old son, Kenny Jr. 

KENNETH FORBES: I said, “Look, I don’t know how to shop for you anymore. I thought I was kind of into fashion.” 

JESSE EUBANKS: Kenneth was telling his son, Kenny Jr., about a type of clothing that he was wanting to get him for Christmas, but Kenny Jr. told his dad –

KENNETH FORBES: He said, “Daddy, we don’t wear that anymore.” I said, “You know what? This is what I’m going to do. I’m just going to give you the money and Merry Christmas because you’re making it too difficult.” 

JESSE EUBANKS: But that holiday season, things for their family would change forever.

KENNETH FORBES: Two days before Christmas, December 23rd, 2012. So I was in the basement watching the game. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Kenneth is sitting there watching the Steelers play the Bengals and his phone rings and it’s his wife. She tells him Kenny Jr.’s been shot. 

ANNA TRAN: Oh no. 

KENNETH FORBES: When I got the phone call, I’m like, “What, what do you mean?” I was confused. 

JESSE EUBANKS: His wife rushes home. Kenneth jumps in the car. They make their way to the hospital. But once they get there, they’re just waiting for Kenny Jr. to arrive. And they’re waiting and they’re waiting. And Kenneth starts thinking –

KENNETH FORBES: “What’s going on? Why is there a delay? Where is the ambulance? What hospital did they go to? Did they, you know, treat the wound at the scene?”

JESSE EUBANKS: And there, in the emergency room waiting area, a relative’s on the phone with somebody who’s actually at the scene where Kenny Jr. was shot. 

KENNETH FORBES: And then I heard her gasp and say, “Oh my Lord.” And she hung the phone up and then said, “They’re not bringing him here,” and I could see that look in her eye. I said, “Where did, where did it happen at?”

JESSE EUBANKS: So they found out that actually it happened in a totally different part of town. It was actually in the parking lot of this liquor store. So Kenneth and his wife – they jump into the car, they start making their way there, but the thing is that it’s Sunday afternoon, it’s on a really congested street, it’s bumper to bumper traffic. And so at some point they realize, “We are moving way too slow.” So Kenneth’s wife pulls the car over. Kenneth opens the door –

KENNETH FORBES: I just jumped out of the car and ran, just ran. Cars was honking their horns at me, and I just, just ran. I seen people gathered and then off in the distance I seen this yellow tape and then I ran towards the yellow tape and when I got out there I just seen him covered in a sheet and that’s when it actually hit me. It’s like, “My son is dead.” I was in shock.

JESSE EUBANKS: And naturally Kenneth starts making his way towards his son’s body. 

KENNETH FORBES: And one of the officers grabbed me. And then another officer grabbed me and pushed me back to the crowd. They wouldn’t let me go to the tape. And then a group of people grabbed me, and I just collapsed. I was just, uh, hysterical. And I was saying, “God, help me. Please help me.”

ANNA TRAN: Gosh, that, that, that is terrible. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, it’s every parent’s worst nightmare. And sadly, you know, what Kenneth experienced in 2012 – it happens way too often in urban environments, specifically homicides. And, and really what’s alarming is that according to the CDC, between 2019 and 2020 the firearm homicide rate in the U.S. actually increased by 35 percent. 

ANNA TRAN: Shoot, that’s a huge jump. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, and so you look at that stat and then it makes sense why Kenneth was telling me that a lot of people in his community have lost multiple family members to gun violence. This year in Louisville alone, we’ve already seen over a hundred lives lost to homicide largely by someone using a gun. 

ANNA TRAN: So what does Kenneth do after this?

JESSE EUBANKS: I mean, yeah, he does what people do when they’ve lost a loved one to gun violence. So they have a funeral, they begin the pursuit of justice, and in this case they actually do find the killer. They do go through the whole legal procedure. That’s four years of Kenneth’s life, just dealing with that. They do finally get justice. The shooter ended up receiving life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. And so Kenneth gets through all of that – the funeral, the legal process, the sentencing – and then he finds himself just going, “What’s next?” 

KENNETH FORBES: So after the trial was, uh, concluded, what I do now? I’m still not whole.

JESSE EUBANKS: So, Kenneth knew he was not past all of his grief. Like, he knew that he needed to grieve. But he also wanted to do something proactive with his grief. And so, as he’s wrestling with that, he suddenly has this thought – “What would happen if other people who have lost loved ones to gun violence like me got together? What would it be like if we supported each other?” And so, Kenneth takes this idea, he goes online, he finds a few people that he had in mind, and he invites them to be a part of a group. And it was a really simple vision. 

KENNETH FORBES: A Facebook page with four people – myself and three others. 

JESSE EUBANKS: But then, over time, the group grew. And then they started meeting in person. 

KENNETH FORBES: Well, we hold private meetings and we make sure the meetings are safe and when you come there you can express your feelings – how you’re doing since the last time we met, what significant changes has been going on since the last time we meet, all within the last week or today.

JESSE EUBANKS: And then eventually he realizes, you know, “I don’t want to just limit this thing that’s really helping me and other people only to folks that have lost loved ones to gun violence.” So he started encouraging more people to attend, you know, people who had lost loved ones to –

KENNETH FORBES: Drunk drivers, overdoses. And I was adding them because a loss is a loss. No loss is greater than the other. I mean, we’re almost up to 500 members in the group, and people say, “That’s great, Ken.” I say, “Well, I wish it was still the same four.” 

ANNA TRAN: Oh, wow. This is almost like a group that you hate to see get bigger. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, you know, the reality is this – like if you’ve never lost a loved one in this way, it’s really hard to understand what somebody is going through. You know, Kenneth didn’t feel like there was always room for him to grieve openly or to express his emotions openly. 

KENNETH FORBES: Grieving and depression and anxiety. Sometime you’re judged, you know, you’re really judged, and when we spend time with each other, we can kind of fit in.

JESSE EUBANKS: And he wants the group to, you know, be a place where people can grieve, but also a place where they can find the support that they need to just continue living their lives.

KENNETH FORBES: Because we’re gonna deal with this for the rest of our time. This is a life sentence that I’m dealing with. 

ANNA TRAN: So, in light of this, what does Kenneth think about guns? 

KENNETH FORBES: I’m a veteran, I’m a Marine veteran, and I believe you have the right to bear arms, but what we’re dealing with is people who are using that recklessly. There’s a lot of responsible gun owners, but there’s a lot of guns in the hands of the wrong people. 

JESSE EUBANKS: He actually turned the conversation away from gun reform to something else. 

KENNETH FORBES: We could talk about gun laws, restrictions, but what about resources? What about resources at the, at the bottom level? What can we do to prevent a young man or woman to want to pick up a gun? Those need to be addressed at our level.

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so that brings us to the question that I was wondering about – what are Christians doing to reduce gun violence that doesn’t focus on gun laws? And that brings me to this man. 

MICHAEL ALLEN: You know, in Chicago, if you commit a gun violent crime, you have an 80 to 90 percent chance of getting away with it. My name is Michael Allen.

ANNA TRAN: So, Michael is in Chicago, a city well known for gun violence. He’s the director for Together Chicago. And Michael says that one of the biggest things holding us back from making an impact on gun violence is not that we don’t have people doing good work, but it’s that we’re doing that good work alone. 

MICHAEL ALLEN: We have to do this together. We cannot remain in silos. We can’t be segregated by race or by geography or by denomination or by political affiliation because bullets are no respecters of those boundaries and, and those labels. 

ANNA TRAN: Michael actually has his own experience with gun violence as well. Michael was a pastor, and they were in the middle of a church service when a drive-by shooting took place right outside his building. Four people were injured, and one was killed. 

MICHAEL ALLEN: It just left me wondering – what can the church do? Rather than just sit back and also in addition to our prayers, but is there something else that we could be doing and should be doing? I wanted to know how we can minister to the victims and the perpetrators on both sides of the gun.

ANNA TRAN: And so those questions end up leading Michael on a journey. Over the next several years following the incident at his church, Michael goes on a quest to figure out a better solution for the church to combat gun violence. He does a lot of research, talking with community members, criminology professionals. He goes through all this training, learning how to decrease violence through partnerships – partnerships with police, social workers, and other city organizations. The basic idea is that each group has strengths but we need to work together to solve this issue. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And so how does that play out? 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so Together Chicago has multiple areas of focus, one of which is education.

MICHAEL ALLEN: Where we would try to intervene in the, the youth that were at risk of dropping out of school, joining gangs, and committing crimes. 

ANNA TRAN: And the reason this education piece is so important – gangs are a big cause contributing to violence. So if you can give them a good education, it’ll keep people from resorting to violence.

MICHAEL ALLEN: The teachers and principals would identify the at-risk kids that were not reading and writing at a third or sixth grade level and, and, um, tutor them and then mentor their parents. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, another area of focus is what Michael calls –

MICHAEL ALLEN: A gospel justice initiative. 

ANNA TRAN: Together Chicago partners with a legal aid clinic. They strategically place what they call gospel justice centers in local churches located in high crime, high poverty neighborhoods. 

MICHAEL ALLEN: We recruit Christian attorneys to give pro-bono time to help people solve civil legal issues that they can’t afford an attorney to help them solve. 

ANNA TRAN: It’s essentially a church-based legal ministry.

MICHAEL ALLEN: And we knew by statistics that if people don’t solve their legal issues they may have to commit a crime or skirt around that civil issue and then it becomes a criminal issue.

ANNA TRAN: And here’s the thing – this is working. Michael told me about this guy named James. 

MICHAEL ALLEN: Who described himself as an urban terrorist when he was in high school. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, when he’s saying urban terrorist, like, what is he even talking about? 

ANNA TRAN: So, James, he was part of a gang – drugs, guns, turf wars. James was in his early 20’s. He was just getting his life started. Michael and his team at Together Chicago – they started to get to know James. They wanted to help him get out of that lifestyle. They had been in touch with him – phone calls, text messages. But then one day, James – he stops answering any texts, any phone calls. And so, they say, “Well, we gotta go visit him.” And considering James’ background, they knew that it might not be totally safe. So, they brought along some police officers. Michael and the police – they drive over to James’ house, they knock on the door, and when they walk in –

MICHAEL ALLEN: And he was sitting on his couch watching television. His mom was ironing clothes nearby in the living room. He tried to pretend like he didn’t know why we were there and what, what this was all about. 

ANNA TRAN: Michael said that his mother really didn’t know how deep James was into gang life, but that day –

MICHAEL ALLEN: Finally, she said to him, “You know, James, tell them what just happened to you.” She had bought him this brand new SUV and he was engaged in a gun battle and his car was riddled with bullets and he narrowly escaped with his life.

ANNA TRAN: The car was completely totaled. And here’s the thing – before any of this happened, James’ mother had a dream, and the dream was that James was in danger. 

MICHAEL ALLEN: So when this happened, it really shook him to his core, and then we showed up to give him these messages. The police gave him the message of warning, and I gave him the message of help. And before I got back to my office, he called and said, “Hey, look, I, I really want to get my life together, and I, I think I want to become a phlebotomist.” And I didn’t even know what a phlebotomist was until he told me. 

ANNA TRAN: So James had already enrolled himself in a course, but he had this problem. Since his car was totaled, he didn’t have a way to get to class. And what that meant was that he was going to have to take public transportation, and that was going to be a problem. 

MICHAEL ALLEN: “I have to be on public transportation, and I’m a marked man. If I’m on the train or the bus, I could be, you know, spotted by my ops.” 

ANNA TRAN: So, ops is opposition gang members, people who essentially wanted him dead.

MICHAEL ALLEN: He said, “So could you pick me up to take me to school?” So I started picking him up, taking him to school. And then I took him to take his exams at a local community college, and he passed and got his first job as a phlebotomist. 

ANNA TRAN: A few years pass, and Michael said that James eventually got raises, he saved up enough money to get his own place and even buy his own car. Fast forward a few years, and James is now in his late 20’s. And one day, when James calls Michael up –

MICHAEL ALLEN: He said, “Pastor, can we have lunch together?” And I went and had lunch with him, and he said, “Hey, this is what I wanna do. I wanna go back to my high school and say thank you to a bunch of people.”

ANNA TRAN: They get in the car, they stop along the way to get flowers, and when they get to his high school James hands out all the flowers that he brought.

MICHAEL ALLEN: The teachers, the principal – they were all in tears because they thought this guy was either dead or in prison, and here he was wanting to come back to school to, to say thank you because they all believed in him and some of them who were Christians were praying for him and he knew that. And he also knew that they thought that he wasn’t gonna make it. And so he wanted to let them know that he made it and he made it out of the gangs alive and he never went to prison.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so I hear all these stories, and it just strikes me how wildly different each of these Christians is responding to this issue. You know, you’ve got, like, Sarah’s motivated to move toward legal action, you’ve got John motivated to teach people how to defend themselves. 

ANNA TRAN: And Kenneth was moved to make space to help others grieve, and Michael was moved to mobilize the church to meet people where they are.

JESSE EUBANKS: So if you’re listening to this and you’re wondering for yourself, you know, “What do I do about this issue of gun violence, and how does the gospel shape the way that I approach it?” – as you can see, the answer is not always so clear. What is clear is that we’re called to love our neighbors, and what is clear is that we’re called to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our neighbors. The reality is, is that the world will probably never believe the goodness of the gospel if they just believe that Christians turn a blind eye toward injustice and a blind eye towards people in pain. So wherever you are, what does it look like to care for victims of gun violence, to show people that Jesus cares about them, cares about the pain that they’re suffering? But we’re also told that we’re a part of building a future in which we’ll finally get to taste shalom. Isaiah 2:4 says, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” 

SARAH SHOOP NEUMANN: We’re not putting our hope in these legislators because if we are we will forever be disappointed. They are broken people just like us. What we need to do is approach it with God as our hope. Pray for them and meet with them.

KENNETH FORBES: And this causes hope and I have faith and God has given me the tools to keep doing what I’m doing. If I’m just needed, I’ll just reach out to tell my story to your loved one, to a group of individuals, to the community. Just use me. That’s what I’m here for. 

JOHN CORREIA: Whether you believe that “Hey, I’m, I’m never gonna touch a gun because I think that they are a part of the wrong society” or “I’m gonna always carry a gun because it’s the only thing that’ll keep me safe,” don’t let it become an idol and in everything that you do make sure that it comes back to, uh, “Jesus, what would you have me do today, and how would I live for you today?” 

MICHAEL ALLEN: So when we say we wanna reduce gun violence and increase thriving, thriving means “shalom.” It means nothing broken, nothing missing from your life, from your community. So that includes your finances and your family and physical health, your spiritual health, your mental health. The gospel comes to bring light and love and wholeness, um, seeking to redeem that which is lost or broken.


JESSE EUBANKS: Special thanks to our interviewees – Sarah Shoop Neumann, John Correia, Kenneth Forbes, and Michael Allen. 

ANNA TRAN: Senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks. Co-host is me, Anna Tran.

JESSE EUBANKS: This episode was written by Anna Tran with Jesse Eubanks. Anna Tran is our producer and audio editor and who the other day after I sent her a video of me making fun of her –

JOHN CORREIA: And I took it to my martial arts class that night. 

ANNA TRAN: Editorial input from Kiana Brown and Anna Johnson. Music is from Lee Rosevere, Poddington Bear, Blue Dot Sessions, and Murphy DX. 

JESSE EUBANKS: This show is brought to you by Love Thy Neighborhood. If you want a hands on experience of missions in our modern times, come serve with Love Thy Neighborhood. Love Thy Neighborhood offers summer and year long missions internships for young adults ages 18 to 30. Bring social change with the gospel by working with an innovative nonprofit and serving your urban neighbors. 

ANNA TRAN: Experience community like never before as you live and do ministry with other Christian young adults. Grow in your faith by walking in the life and lifestyle of Jesus and being part of a vibrant, healthy church. Apply now at 

JESSE EUBANKS: Which of these was a neighbor to the man in need? The one who showed mercy. Jesus tells us, “Go, and do likewise.”


This podcast is only made possible by generous donors like you!


Special thank you to our interviewees Sarah Shoop Neumann, John Correia, Kenneth Forbes, and Michael Allen.
Senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks. Co-host is Anna Tran.
Episode written by Anna Tran with Jesse Eubanks.
Editorial input from Kiana Brown and Anna Johnson.
Anna Tran is our producer and audio editor.
Music for this episode comes from  Blue Dot Sessions & Murphy D.X.