Gun Violence

The NRA's Dangerous Theology


A membership card for the National Rifle Association. KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Tuesday was the 84th birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I don’t know about you, but I miss his words, so I offer a few. King said “people often hate each other because they fear each other, they fear each other because they don’t know each other, they don’t know each other because they cannot communicate, they cannot communicate because they are separated.” I would add to his words: ‘and in that separation they seek guns.’ As an evangelical Christian, I’m going to make this theological. 

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said this as his response to the massacre of children at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Conn.: “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” 

That statement is at the heart of the problem of gun violence in America today — not just because it is factually flawed, which of course it is, but also because it is morally mistaken, theologically dangerous, and religiously repugnant. 

States That Mandate Background Checks Have Fewer Mass Shootings, Study Shows

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A new study shows that states that require a background check before purchasing a handgun experience significantly fewer mass shootings, according to The Huffington Post.

Federal laws require background checks for handgun purchases, but many states skirt the law by allowing purchases to occur online or through private sellers. While the study from the organization Everytown for Gun Safety may seem to state the obvious, the notion that background checks save lives is hugely controversial in the U.S., for some reason.

Un-Haunted: Leaving Guns Behind in America

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In the end, we didn’t choose a house in the sprawling metropolis that is Waterloo. We took a home in a small rural town just outside the city. It reminds me of rural Pennsylvania: quaint, quiet, with lots of room for the kids to run and play. We can walk to school, the library, and the downtown shops. Kids run our streets playing ball hockey, riding bikes — all unattended by adults.

My friends in this town groan about the fact that due to the new practice of locking school doors, they can’t walk their kids all the way into the building anymore.

“I miss being able to help Olivia take off her coat, hang up her bag, and get her ready for class,” Kirsten tells me.

I nod respectfully, but I’ve never gotten to know what they’re now missing.

I want to be smart about my relief. I know there are certainly many ways my children can get hurt, even here. Still, I’m so grateful that my friends don’t know what I’m missing from life down in the States. I’m so glad that when I drop Noelle and Nathan off at the school doors each morning, I leave un-haunted.

What If We Just Get Rid of Guns Altogether? 

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With upwards of 42 percent of homes in America having guns in them, we have to muster the courage to engage people in our lives around this issue. 


It's hard to see it, but I truly believe we'll get there. This, I think, is one of the great gifts of our world religions. Each religion's prophets helped to paint a vision so that adherents might be able to live in a new way, and a new world, of peace, salvation, enlightenment, and holiness — even while still inhabiting this world. In my own tradition, Jesus came not only to save and give eternal life, but also to invite believers to take up residence in what he called the Kingdom of God. This was a profound calling — to move to a world where enemies were loved, where peace reigned, and where all were valued equally as children of God, even while still living in Rome. 

This notion of moving to a gun-free world is not a new religion. In so many ways it's simply a reminder of the invitation(s) already extended. We too can move to a different world even while still living in this one. It's just over there. I believe we will get there.

The Urgency of Joy

Alexey Losevich /

Photo via Alexey Losevich /

The phrase has captivated my imagination for some time now, as I seek joy in the midst of a world crying out in pain. In a nation of mass shootings and executions, in a world devastated by war crimes and the crime of war, where working for peace means learning the depths and pervasiveness of violence, despair threatens to seep in through the air I breathe. Hope often evades my grasp, and fear like a weight drags down my every movement.

But when I find myself in a morass of bitterness, my soul gets a jolt of energy from my laughing toddler, or the accidentally insightful comment from my precocious 6-year-old, or the warm hand of my husband on my shoulder. I savor the comfort of these gestures and let them lift me out of my cynicism. And as the tears clouding my vision disperse, I remind myself that joy, too, permeates the world and can be found by those with eyes to see it.

'Nothing We Can Do' and Other Lies About Gun Violence

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There is nothing we can do to reduce the growing number of mass shootings in America — except get more people to have guns. Unbelievably, that’s what conservative spokespersons and Republican presidential candidates are saying after the latest college massacre in Oregon which killed 10 and wounded 7 others.


Saying there is nothing we can do to end such killings is patently untrue. And suggesting that more guns in more places would reduce gun violence is not only morally irresponsible, but also flies in the face of all the facts. Suppose we arm everyone — do we really want to live in that kind of country and raise our children there? Or send our children to college on those campuses, as I will do for the first time next fall? I think there is a better interpretation of the Second Amendment than the idea that the Constitution allows individual citizens to own whatever form of lethal weapons they want.

Why Gun Violence Calls for Religion in Politics

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As an Oregonian who grew up deer hunting in Oregon’s forests and fishing in Oregon’s rivers (including the beautiful Umpqua River), I have a deep respect for traditional hunting culture and responsible gun ownership. Like everyone else, I was overwhelmed with sadness at seeing the news of the recent shooting in the beautiful town of Roseburg, Ore. Like so many others who are praying for these families and for this town, I cannot imagine the sense of loss that the Roseburg families are going through right now. I add my prayers to the chorus of prayers; may God help these families and this community through this unspeakable catastrophe.

The Center for American Progress now claims that in 2015 fatalities caused by guns will surpass those caused by cars. For these reasons – and adding in the massive psychological damage caused by gun violence in families and communities — it is not an exaggeration to claim that gun violence is the single greatest domestic problem in the United States today. Gun violence is also, of course, a huge economic burden. Americans spend around $230 billion a year paying for it.

When the NRA Writes Your Theology

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When it comes to the facts surrounding domestic violence (or intimate partner violence), the challenge presented in the fourth chapter of 2 Timothy remains as relevant today as it was more than 2000 years ago. In the U.S., “abundant life” competes regularly with the false prophets of violence. The terrifying rate at which women are dying at the hands of their intimate partners intersects with an entrenched American gun culture that has sold believers on the idea that more guns means more safety. In reality, women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other high-income countries.

Over the course of October, or Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an average of five women per day—155 total—will be killed with guns. Intimate partners will comprise the majority of their killers, and too many who embrace death over life will come from Christian congregations.

The recent shooting in Oregon marks the 294th mass shooting in 2015 alone, a terrifying number in its own right and a reminder of just how far America has enmired itself in the consequences of its gun culture. More than half of all mass shootings also include the death of an intimate partner and family member.

Why We Need Far More Than Gun Control

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Photo via LoloStock /

We’d really like to have an explanation that makes these killers “other” than the rest of us. So we say they are mentally ill and demand our society do a better job caring for them.

While it’s true that we need to do a better job caring for the mentally ill, the vast majority of people with mental illness will never harm anyone. Mass murderers don’t tend to be mentally ill.

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