Dear Friends,

I have struggled with writing this, partly because my heart is so heavy after the senseless death of 19 children and two of their teachers. I wonder, how long O Lord, until we take real measures to protect the most vulnerable among us. I cannot even imagine living through this horrific loss of a child. The PC(USA) has taken a stand on gun violence over the years with a document produced by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy in 2010 entitled Gun Violence, Gospel Values; Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call. There is a resolution that reiterates this document and expands on it that is going to be presented at the General Assembly this year. I cannot express, in my own words how important it is for people of faith to consider the moral and spiritual tragedy of gun violence. Following is a portion of the report I mention above:

The Gospel Imperative

“Jesus went further in naming the idols that become the foundation of an unredeemed society. He reprimanded Peter for first grabbing a weapon in his defense. “For all who live by the sword will die by the sword.” (Matt.26:52) If weapons become the basis of your social relations they will kill you. If preserving your guns has become more important than the safety of thousands of other people, then weapons have become your idol, in diametric opposition to the vision of a city that is a joy, where children and old people live out their years, and the weeping of grief-stricken mothers is no longer heard.

Let us be clear: this is not a call to arms but to community. There is a direct connection, as we have seen, between God’s intentions, the prophets’ visions, Jesus’ teaching, and the implications for our own actions. If God commands that we not kill and that we work for a future when former enemies work together a friend, then the injunction extends beyond our own individual choices, as important as they are. We are compelled to work for policies, or ways of ordering society, which ‘defend,’ ‘promote tranquility,’ ‘ward off harm,’ and remove harm. How we love the stranger is not through our good feelings or individual acts of charity but through advocating for policies that will extend protection to the greatest number of people.

Confronting the crisis of gun violence in the U.S. and indeed around the world, we are called to advocate policies—and to act upon them—which will defend and protect the public, not only from external threats, but too often from itself. The church is not as disturbed with the legitimate possession and use of hunting rifles, shotguns, and sport shooting guns, but we are categorically opposed to the poor regulation and easy flow of guns that are manufactured to kill efficiently human beings. We must exert special efforts to stop unlicensed sellers peddling guns at our county’s thousands of gun shows with ‘no questions asked,’ and to stop unscrupulous licensed dealers from selling to straw purchasers who then turn guns over to traffickers. Too often, this easy access results in harm to self or others that could have been prevented.”

Soon I will be holding discussions concerning this tragedy of our American life and how it intersects with our life of faith.