WASHINGTON — Dozens of the nation’s faith leaders said on Tuesday that they’re ready to take on the gun lobby and demanded that politicians take quick and concrete steps to stem gun violence.
At a Capitol Hill press conference and in a letter to Congress, more than 45 clergy and heads of religious groups — representing the spectrum of American religious life — petitioned lawmakers to reinstitute a ban on assault weapons, require background checks on all gun buyers, and make gun trafficking a federal crime.
Organized by the two-year-old coalition Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence, the signers said the slayings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last month had pushed them to redouble their efforts, and created an opportunity to beat back the gun lobby.
The Rev. Jim Wallis, the evangelical who heads the progressive Christian group Sojourners, took on Wayne LaPierre, the outspoken executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, directly.
LaPierre’s statement after Newtown that the “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” is “morally mistaken” and “religiously repugnant,” Wallis said.
What would Jesus do with guns?
Would he own guns? Sell guns? Perform miracles and multiply guns for 5,000 people? Would he use guns? Would he ask his followers and disciples to own guns? I’m no expert on the topic of Jesus and guns but I do know Jesus and for this Jesus who encouraged people to “turn the other cheek” and gave encouragement to be “peacemakers," my guess is that he wouldn’t be a member of NRA.
What does the birth of the baby Jesus 2,000 years ago have to offer the violent, troubled world we live in? Or what would Jesus say to the NRA?
I want to suggest — a lot. A whole lot.
Jesus entered the world from a posture of absolute vulnerability — as an unarmed, innocent child during a time of tremendous violence. The Bible speaks of a terrible massacre as Jesus was born, an unspeakable act of violence as King Herod slaughters children throughout the land hoping to kill Jesus (which the church remembers annually as the massacre of the Holy Innocents).
Perhaps the original Christmas was marked more with agony and grief like that in Connecticut than with the glitz and glamour of the shopping malls and Christmas parades. For just as Mary and Joseph celebrated their newborn baby, there were plenty of other moms and dads in utter agony because their kids had just been killed.
From his birth in the manger as a homeless refugee until his brutal execution on the Roman cross, Jesus was very familiar with violence. Emmanuel means “God with us.” Jesus’s coming to earth is all about a God who leaves the comfort of heaven to join the suffering on earth. The fact that Christians throughout the world regularly identify with a victim of violence — and a nonviolent, grace-filled, forgiving victim — is perhaps one of the most fundamentally life-altering and world-changing assumptions of the Christian faith. Or it should be.
So what does that have to do with the NRA? Underneath the rhetoric of the gun-control debate this Christmas is a nagging question: are more guns the solution to our gun problem?
Facebook is breaking my heart.
As I survey the reactions of my fellow evangelicals to the Newtown tragedy, I have seen three strains of thought, each of which absolve us of any responsibility: (1) It would have been different if the principal or a teacher was armed; (2) If Americans care about the slaughter of innocent children, why don't they care more about abortion?; and (3) The secularization of school and society plays a role in these shootings. A few stray comments about mental illness have also floated around vaguely.
Absent from all of this analysis is any consideration of our own failure to do exactly what evangelicals should be all about: Evangelism, in the form of reaching out and giving meaning to lost souls like the loner kid who became the 20-year-old who committed these murders. If a relationship with God is what gives a young life a connection to community, a sense of humility and service, and a devotion to what is good, that is exactly what Adam Lanza needed.
This is not a blog post about gun control. Everything that can possibly be said about that subject, pro or con, has already been said millions of times since Friday. We are talking too much, too soon. In the words of my rabbi, “Judaism teaches that when there is nothing to say we should say nothing….Sometimes only silence gives voice to what has happened."
We Americans should all be sitting shiva.
But when, next week, we rise from our knees and begin working – together, I hope – to reduce the terrible problem of violence in our country, we must realize that our disorder goes much deeper than simply owning too many guns, and that any effective solution will have to go much deeper too.
When they are distressed, some people clean house or do push-ups I collect data. All week I have been amassing numbers and arranging them in rows and columns, trying to shed light on the question: Why are some nations violent while others are not?
President Obama addressed the nation on Wednesday morning to establish a commission led by Vice President Biden on stronger gun safety laws. Gone was the passion of his address at the interfaith service in Newtown and in place we have back the above-the-fray politician.
However, one point was clear. “If we are going to change things,” he said, “it is going to take a wave of Americans … standing up and saying ‘enough’ on behalf of our kids.”
Will Obama’s address beat the National Rife Association’s messaging strategy?
On Friday, Dec. 21, the NRA will hold its first a press conference after the Newtown, Conn., massacre—and America’s first reasonable conversation on stronger gun laws will come to an end.
In the wake of the recent school shooting tragedy in Connecticut, we will undoubtedly hear the lament, 'America is at the crossroads', as we struggle to contain an increasingly violent society. Sadly, this country left the crossroads some time ago. We have passed the tipping point, and are rapidly descending into the abyss of chaos when it comes to respect for human life.
Well-meaning voices are sounding the alarm that things are different now — innocent children have died in great numbers in Connecticut. This is true, but people are dying every day in towns and cities throughout our nation due to acts of senseless violence. The deaths in Connecticut represent an unspeakable new low, but we have been steadily arriving here for decades.
We will rightly pray for and comfort the families and communities of the victims. We should do no less. There will also be calls for greater gun control. However, we can count on this: we cannot count on our governments to get this epidemic of violence under control. Nor can we retreat to the false comfort of innocuous statements such as, 'Guns don't kill people. People kill people.'
As the winds and the rain of Hurricane Sandy settle down, one bit of the aftermath is going to be another round of conversation about how climate change is affecting our world.
It’s not a conversation you have heard much of in the presidential campaign this year. Climate change is one of a quartet of issues that will have a huge impact on the future of this nation that have gotten short shrift by both President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney.
Poverty. Guns. . Drones. Climate change.
Bring up any of those issues and watch the candidates make a quick nod of concern and then scamper away from any specifics. Yet those issues will be with us long after Nov. 6, so it is incumbent on those of us in the faith community to be laying the groundwork now for how we will address them in the coming year.
That work has already begun, of course. The challenge is not to let the post-election exhaustion sweep away those concerns like they were potted palms on a pier in the midst of the hurricane.
Updated at 11:22: New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Jeffrey Johnson, 53, shot and killed a former coworker at Hazan Imports, 41, with a 45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. Johnson had been laid off from the women's apparel company.
Nine other people were wounded or grazed as police exchanged gunfire with the shooter. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said some of the injured may have been victims of accidental police gunfire, and none of them were seriously injured.
"I want to assure people that this had nothing to do with terrorism," Bloomberg said.
Updated at 10:30 a.m.: According to Reuters, two people are dead, including the shooter. At least eight were wounded.
According to the Associated Press, several people have been shot near the Empire State Building in New York City.
From the report:
"City police say three or four civilians have been wounded in the Friday morning shooting and that the shooter is dead. A fire department spokesman says it received a call about the shooting just after at 9 a.m. Friday and that emergency units were on the scene within minutes."
We at Sojourners offer our thoughts and prayers for all those involved in yet another instance of senseless violence.
After the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., and a deadly shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., Americans are divided on gun control, and within certain religious groups, attitudes are far from ambivalent.
But on the question of guns in churches, there is actual consensus: A strong majority of Americans don’t want them in the pews, according to a new poll released Wednesday (Aug. 15) by the Public Religion Research Institute conducted in partnership with Religion News Service.
"Although the issue of gun control tends to divide Americans by party, gender, region and race, there is broad agreement among the public that there are some places where concealed weapons should be off limits," said Daniel Cox, PRRI’s research director.
Of all the controversies that have followed in the bloody wake of the July 20 shooting rampage in Aurora, Colo., few have provided such a clarifying insight into the moral tensions and contradictions in American culture than the argument over whether gun control is a religious issue.
The Rev. James Martin, a popular author and Jesuit priest, was among the first to set out the terms of the debate, when he penned a column at America magazine arguing that gun control “is as much of a ‘life issue’ or a ‘pro-life issue’ … as is abortion, euthanasia, or the death penalty (all of which I am against), and programs that provide the poor with the same access to basic human needs as the wealthy.”
Martin’s central point was that abortion opponents spare no effort to try to shut down abortion clinics or to change laws to limit or ban abortions, so clearly believers should be committed to taking practical steps to restrict access to guns.
“Simply praying, ‘God, never let this happen again’ is insufficient for the person who believes that God gave us the intelligence to bring about lasting change,” Martin wrote. “It would be as if one passed a homeless person and said to oneself, ‘God, please help that poor man,’ when all along you could have helped him yourself.”
Seldom does anyone accuses Geraldo Rivera of being a reporter. More often than not, he’s good for audacious soundbytes and a campy mug at the camera while sporting his trademark “look at me” mustache. He’s more circus performer than analyst, but in as much, he’s a sign (or symptom) of the state of “news” in today’s media.
Opinion journalism is one thing. I do it all the time. There’s a time and place for opinion. But there’s an important distinction between expressing genuine, informed opinions and lodging verbal salvos into the media fray sure to garner one some much-coveted attention in the next 24-hour news cycle.
Geraldo’s most recent stunt had to do with the case of Trayvon Martin. Most folks are familiar with the story in which neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman shot teenager Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed, and that Zimmerman remains a free man because he claimed self-defense. I’ll forgo rehashing the details, as you can find them elsewhere, but there’s much discussion about what’s to blame for the boy’s death.
Occupy igloos ... and rooftops. Buy a gun for the one you love ... or a walk-on role on True Blood (for charity!) Theological wisdom from the mouths of (muppet) otters and stand-up comedians. And you never know what you'll find on Google Earth.
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Let’s face it — while lawmakers are picking their own battles in Washington, they aren’t fighting on the ground in Afghanistan. Winning elections has become more important than implementing winning foreign policy strategies that would end the war and bring our service men and women safely home.
And it’s my generation that’s being sacrificed.
Last Mother's Day, the Violence Prevention Coalition of Los Angeles ran a gun buy-back event where people could exchange firearms for grocery coupons -- no questions asked. The VPC collected more than 2,700 guns that day.
Now some of them are being "up-cycled" -- melted down and re-purposed -- as works of art called "Peace Angels."