Above all, let us remember this: Sensible gun-control is a religious issue.
The indiscriminate distribution of guns is an offense against God and humanity.
Controlling guns is not only a political matter; it is a solemn religious obligation. Our gun-flooded society has turned weapons into idols, and the worship of idols must be recognized for what it is: blasphemy. And the only appropriate religious response to blasphemy is sustained moral outrage and focused moral action.
There is not a single word in the sacred Scriptures of the Christian, Jewish or Islamic traditions that either opposes commonsensical gun control or supports the idea of some God-given right to automatic weapons that fire 100 shots in a single minute.
Yes, our constitution gives us certain guarantees when it comes to gun ownership. But there is nothing in the constitution that says we are entitled to own weapons with a magazine of more than eight to 10 bullets. There is nothing that obligates us to go along with what the NRA has long advocated: the right of almost any terrorist suspect, deranged person, wife-beater and crook to buy almost any weapon at almost any time, no questions asked.
When these terrible tragedies occur, our nation looks to its religious leaders and its places of worship to provide comfort to the victims and solace to a stricken nation. And it is important that we should do so; we have the capacity to mobilize communities of the faithful, to provide love and caring to those in distress, and to hold our fellow Americans together when anguish and fear are driving us apart.
But at this moment, more is needed of the religious community. As men and women of God, we need to take the moral offensive and demand that something be done.
My plea to every pastor, priest, rabbi and imam in America: This is not the time for the usual platitudes. And yes, we need programs for troubled teens and fewer bloodthirsty movies and hideous video games. But we also need to take on the gun nuts, a single-issue minority too often motivated by intolerance and filled with hate.
When it comes to guns, Americans have learned to be cynical. They have learned that no matter how great the outrage, the entrenched gun interests are always triumphant. But as religious leaders, we know what this leads to. We know that when good people back down again and again; when the gun worshipers are rewarded with ever-more radical pro-gun legislation; when the corpses of the dead, lying bloody before us, are ignored; and when the zealotry and folly of the pro-gun lobby are not confronted by the forces of sanity, the result is fatalism and despair, undermining faith in government and faith in God.
I understand that gun control is not a simple matter; that compromise will be necessary; and that honest, well-intentioned people will differ on exactly what measures are required. But we must make a start. Surely this is the moment to create a coalition of sensible citizens, willing to come forward and say no to the deadly toll that guns are taking on the lives of our children. Surely this is the time to reach out to politicians, of all persuasions and all parties, and ask them to put the welfare of our children and the safety of our citizens ahead of petty, partisan concerns. And surely religious leaders and institutions -- obligated to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God -- should lead the way.
If this massacre of innocents in Newtown will not rouse the nation's conscience, then nothing will. Therefore, this is the moment to mobilize the idealism, energy and anger of the American people.
And a word to President Obama: Nothing will happen without the national leadership that only you can provide. You have been a voice for hope and change, but if truth be told, in this area you have been mostly silent. I believe -- although I can't be sure -- that Americans are ready for a leader with the sense and the guts to tackle the abuses of our gun culture. We need to hear from you a voice of moral clarity and a practical plan that you will be prepared to fight for. Your tears about the murdered children were genuine, but they were not enough. No excuses and no dawdling. If Americans are to stop the slaughter and find their higher selves, religious leaders have a critical role to play -- but they can only do so much. The President of the United States must lead the way.