The Common Good

Don't Call It Unimaginable

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Julie Henson of San Francisco joins other people outside the White House to remember shooting victims. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The little children were probably dreaming of Christmas morning when a monster opened fire with his state-of-the-art weapons. Don’t say you’re shocked that 20 children were slaughtered — and more of us must admit that, unless something changes, we expect there will be more such massacres. Isn't it time for this nation to say, "We've had enough?"

When will people of faith awake and lead this gun-crazed country to adopt laws which make our streets and elementary schools as safe as those in other developed nations? Any gun lover who does not grieve over this tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and who continues to oppose any and all preventive measures to stop gun violence, serves an idol instead of the Living God.

As I wrote in  9mm Golden Calves in this month’s issue of Sojourners magazine:

Back in 1990, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) issued this warning: "The religious community must ... take seriously the risk of idolatry that could result from an unwarranted fascination with guns, which overlooks or ignores the social consequences of their misuse." Two decades later, about 660,000 more Americans have been killed by guns, with a million more injured.

These figures convince me that what was a risk in 1990 has become our reality today: For too many, guns have become idols. They claim divine status; make promises of safety and security they cannot keep; transform people and neighborhoods; create enemies; and require human sacrifice.

James E. Atwood, a retired Presbyterian pastor, is a gun owner, author of America and its Guns: A Theological Exposé, and chair of the Greater Washington chapter of the anti-gun- violence group Heeding God's Call.

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