This week I read a story in the Chicago Tribune about Shirley Chambers, a woman who recently lost her fourth and final child to gun violence on the streets of Chicago. In remembering Ronnie, who was shot last weekend, she said, "I was praying so hard that he would be safe." I imagine this is a sentiment shared by the parents and loved ones of all victims of gun violence.
While the mass shootings in Newtown, Oak Creek and Aurora provoked national moral outrage, gun violence is a daily reality on city streets and in private homes, oftentimes garnering little or no public outcry. Racism, classism and xenophobia are certainly factors. But so also is the basic fact that we have become anesthetized. We readily accept gun violence as part of the world in which we live -- whether sanctioned through war or simulated for our entertainment. Over the past year, we have witnessed a culture of gun violence that knows no limits, and it is high time that we engage one another in dialogue and decision making about appropriate measures for preventing gun violence.
Yet in recent weeks as the debate on gun control has heated up, we've seen how difficult it is to agree on how to frame the problem, not to mention how to approach the solution. Among religious people in America, like any other demographic, there are a range of views on the issue. But we can certainly agree on one thing: gun violence must be prevented. This isn't a threat to the Second Amendment, on the one extreme, or a call to arms, on the other. It is the pursuit of the common good. People of faith have an opportunity to model civil public discourse on the issue, and an obligation to impact the decisions our elected leaders will make.
Next Monday, Feb. 4, the National Council of Churches will join partners in an interfaith call-in day to Congress (go to www.faithscalling.org and www.nccccusa.org for more info). Our conviction is that together as people of faith we can leverage our convictions for the safety of all of God's children. As churches in the U.S., we are part of the chorus of moral voices that are speaking out, with all of our varying perspectives and positions. We can live with that tension, knowing full well that for too many this is a matter of life and death.
Yesterday the NCC received an email from David Baird, President of the Christian Conference of Connecticut (CT's Council of Churches). He was about to head into a public hearing on gun control in the state, and was under pressure from the congressional delegation to respond to the question, "Where are the faith leaders, the people of faith?"
Pick up the phone on Monday and let our elected leaders know that we're right here, speaking up and speaking out to prevent gun violence.