A tactical event scheduled for Saturday in southwest Missouri that organizers said was to train Christians in areas including “hand-to-hand combat” has been canceled.
“Because of low attendance numbers, we are having to cancel this event,” organizer Kevin VanStory posted on his Facebook page. No other details were available, and the online link for the event has been taken down.
The Missouri Embattled Warriors Event had been scheduled to run from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday on wooded property in Newton County between Neosho and Joplin. The training was being held by the Salt and Light Brigade MAKO edition, a group that includes supporters from Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma.
VanStory, a real estate broker from Neosho, described the brigade as “a group of Christian men and women that go out and will stand against unrighteousness.”
He told The Star on Wednesday that the training would be “an intensive study about self defense.”
But some who monitor extremist organizations said the gathering raised concerns, saying it sounded like far-right paramilitary training and that the group was using scaremongering tactics to draw people in.
VanStory said the “very loosely organized” group was not a militia and that the event was nothing to fear.
News of the event drew a barrage of reaction, most of it critical, on social media Thursday.
“Nothing says Jesus like a 9mm and a throat punch,” wrote one man on Facebook.
“What would Jesus be packin’?” said another. And on Twitter, one said, “’Grab your swords, boys! Tonight we’re gonna kill some Romans!’, said Jesus never.” And another: “I think anyone who’s read the gospels knows the importance Jesus placed on hand-to-hand combat. ‘If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, offer him a knuckle sandwich and draw your sidearm.’”
Others defended the training.
“Real simple solution, if your so scared of these Christians, then get your own self defense training,” one man posted. “Problem solved.”
Said another: “Funny, when armed looters were burning cities down and killing before the election no-one was against them. But let people prepare against that, somehow they’re criminals. It’s that weak minded thought process you gotta get away from.”
The Salt and Light Brigade is part of Pass the Salt Ministries, a nonprofit based in Hebron, Ohio. Saturday’s training, the organization said on its website, was designed for “Brigade members/Christians understanding the times in which we live” and for “Christians willing to learn tactical skills, preparedness skills & fighting skills.”
It was also for “Christians willing to adapt, change the way we think, change the way we respond & overcome difficulties & dangerous situations we may find ourselves.”
The training was to cover “room clearing, hand to hand fighting and fighting from a vehicle,” according to a post on VanStory’s Facebook page.
Additional one-on-one training was to be available on Sunday, the post said, which would have included personal training on hand-to-hand combat and on rifles and pistols.
The Salt and Light Brigade has held similar events in other states, including Ohio, Oklahoma, Montana, Texas and Wisconsin.