Will Church Leaders Talk About Out-of-Control Gun Culture?
One would have expected an outpouring of moral commentary from faith leaders across America after the killings and woundings in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Commentary that would have said, "Enough is enough. We're finally going to take on the gun industry, the gun lobby."
And one would have been wrong.
But precious few have spoken about gun control – or, more accurately, the out-of-control gun lobby. The exceptions deserve note.
"If the popular definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – applies in the matter of shooting massacres, then we have reached a dangerous level of cultural madness," said a National Catholic Reporter editorial.
Claiming that the nation had "become, as a society, victim of an unrestrained, out-of-control gun culture," the Reporter said the National Rifle Association was holding "an entire country hostage to its twisted notions of freedom and security."
The editorial said, "The NRA is beyond extreme in its efforts to allow virtually anyone to buy any manner of weapon and ammunition at any time, endangering not only the public but also law enforcement officers who have nationally opposed many of the NRA's initiatives."
If the nation allowed "another gun massacre to go by with nothing more than hand-wringing and empty words," then we are "buying into a culture-wide denial and giving assent to the insanity. We need to talk seriously about gun control."
Another national Catholic publication also weighed in.
"As 'the self-governed,' we Americans should admit that no citizen needs a semiautomatic weapon. Catholics ought to champion gun control because restrictions would promote life, as they do in the case of abortion, the death penalty and euthanasia," read the editorial in America.
"Until society's preference for the unlimited exercise of individual rights over those of the common good is tempered, our nation will remain hostage to the gun lobby. And our politicians will be reduced to offering victims condolences rather than solutions to gun violence," said the America editorial. "Is this the society we want?"
Catholic priest James Martin wrote: "I believe that gun control is a religious issue. It is as much of a 'life issue' or a 'pro-life issue,' as some religious people say, as is abortion, euthanasia or the death penalty (all of which I am against)...There is a 'consistent ethic of life' that views all these issues as linked, because they are."
Saying that praying for the victims was not enough, Martin wrote: "These shootings would not have happened if the shooter did not have such easy access to firearms and ammunition. So religious people need to be invited to meditate on the connection between the more traditional 'life issues' and the overdue need for stricter gun control."
Two United Methodist leaders issued a statement calling on Congress to challenge the gun lobby.
"Equal to our sadness at this tragic loss of life is our disappointment at Congress' inability to place public safety above the interests of the National Rifle Assn. Our society can no longer afford to allow the power of the gun lobby in its efforts to ensure ownership without responsibility to keep Congress mute on this pressing public-safety issue," said Jim Winkler, chief executive, General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church, and Bill Mefford, UMGBCS' director of Civil & Human Rights.
They said that reinstating the military assault rifle ban would be a common-sense approach.
"There will be more Columbine, Virginia Tech and Aurora nightmares. The same tapes will get played over and over, and we'll have the sense of déjà vu all over again," lamented Richard Kauffman, book editor for The Christian Century.
He blogged, "Could we have a civil conversation about our differences on guns and the deleterious effect of guns in our society? Any chance that churches could start that conversation?"
One hopes – and waits – for an affirmative answer to Kauffman's question.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.