Descriptions like "bullet crowns" and rose buds nestled in the mouth of a semi-automatic rifle might sound straight out of a gritty Cormac McCarthy novel taking place the middle of nowhere. But photos of the AR-15 church blessing ceremony at the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland of Pennsylvania's Wayne County show that it actually happened — and it's surreal.
According to NBC Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania church members gathered on Wednesday morning to drink "holy" wine and bless their AR-15s. NBC Philadelphia reports that Rev. Sean Moon, who spearheaded the event, and his wife are known as the "king" and "queen" at their church. The congregation reportedly calls the AR-15 the "rod of iron" as a biblical reference to The New Testament.
In the photos taken by journalists and reporters, church attendees are seen in traditional clothes as women wore white and men donned black and grey suits. Several attendees wore crowds made of AR-15 bullets. While speaking in front of his congregation, Rev. Moon said, "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."
The reverend also spoke of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting that took place on Valentine's Day and killed 17 people, according to law enforcement authorities. He said that if one of the teachers was armed, the tragedy would not have happened. "If the football coach who rushed into the building to defend students from the shooter with his own body had been allowed to carry a firearm, many lives, including his own, could have been saved," Moon said.
1. Crowns and AR-15s
Members of the church sat in silence while holding their AR-15s as Moon led the prayer.
2. Women Wore White
Several women who attended the church gathering in Pennsylvania wore white dresses.
3. One School Relocates For The Day
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Wallenpaupack South Elementary School relocated its young students on Wednesday due to the proximity the school shares with the church. Keith Gunuskey, the school's assistant superintendent, told The Inquirer that the ceremony "has definitely had put some parents on edge. For us, there are no templates to follow, so it does cause some anxiousness within the community, which is understandable."
4. Encouraging Couples To Buy "Rods of Iron"
On its website, the church encourages attending couples to buy AR-15s. "If unable to purchase and legally transport such a 'rod of iron' because of laws barring the purchase of such weapons, or other reasons, couples are invited to purchase a $700 gift certificate from a gun store, as evidence of their intent to purchase a 'rod of iron' in the future."
5. Touting Their Rifles
Members said prayers while holding their rifles against their chests.
6. Couples Carried Their AR-15s
Men and women were seen lugging their firearms through the church.
7. Pink Coats
Some members wore bright and neon pink silky coats over their clothes.
8. Praying With an AR-15
In this photo, an elderly woman can be seen praying in the company of her AR-15.
9. More Attendees
While some members wore traditional church clothes, other wore military apparel while touting their AR-15s.
10. More Crowns
Many male attendees of the event wore plastic golden crowns.
11. No Magazines
The church did not allow members to bring loaded AR-15s into the premises.
12. Pistols, Too
Some members brought (emptied) pistols.
13. Deep In Prayer
Attendees listened to the reverend lead the prayer on Wednesday morning.
14. All Ages
While many of the attendees seemed to be middle-aged, some of the church-goers were much older.
15. Holders For Members
Some aisles in the church carried signs that said, "AR rifle [or] pistol holders."
16. Collective Praying
Members seen praying together.
17. Tiara Plus AR-15
A member seen listening to the reverend.
18. Arms In The Air
More members seen with their hands in the air, presumably praying.
Online the AR-15 blessing ceremony was criticized by social media users while one Twitter user simply said, "This is seriously disturbing."