What Do Our Words Mean?
The leading cause of death for children and teenagers is guns.
Words are an important part of the life and witness of faith communities and part of the responsibilities of faith leaders. And words from the faith community should have two accountabilities: first, they must be consistent with the Word of God and second, they must lead to action.
So now again, in response to the latest slaughter of children in Uvalde, Texas, and the racially motivated murder of people in a Buffalo grocery store, a broad group of interfaith leaders released a statement lamenting the violence and calling on moral leadership from elected leaders. Please read, reflect, pray, and, most importantly, act.
Our Shared Responsibility: Protecting Children and Communities by Regulating Guns is a statement about children, and our responsibility for and to them as people of faith, which the Word of God makes clear when Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 19:14, KJV)
Now confronted by the horrific mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and each appalling shooting before and since, we name the truth that refusing to enact common-sense gun control has sent a tragic message to this nation’s children: We will not protect them from gun violence. As faith leaders, we grieve and reject that message. We’re called to protect all God’s children.
So many of our children are suffering– those dead and wounded by repeated shootings; those who have lost their friends in those attacks; and all the children who are now afraid the killing will next come to their schools, their families, their friends, and to their own bodies.
We lift up the children by name whom we have failed. We cite eleven year old Miah Cerrillo who testified to Congress about how she smeared her best friend’s blood over her own body, to look and pretend that she was dead, in case the shooter came back to her classroom. During her testimony she tragically shared that “all my friends are dead,” and now she is convinced that she is not safe and fears that this will happen again–and again.
As faith leaders we lament:
What is our shared future, what is our collective now, if millions of children like Miah give up on the hope that adults will protect them from gun violence?
The leading cause of death for children and teenagers, every year now, is guns, with more of our young ones killed annually than all soldiers and police officers combined.
In 2019, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, 3,371 children and teens were killed in the US by guns – enough to fill more than 168 classrooms of 20 children each.
It’s time to be honest: This is political. And one political party is using a false and extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment as an excuse to ignore the slaughter of our children.
One recent poll found that forty-four percent of Republicans now believe that “mass shootings,” of the kind we saw in Uvalde, that took 19 students' lives, are “unfortunately something we have to accept in a free society.”
People of faith will not accept that definition of freedom. We must stand up and speak out against it to protect God’s children.
Even the most conservative legal minds do not accept the opinion that the Second Amendment is “unlimited”, and in our statement we call on elected leaders saying that the possible new Senate “framework” for a bi-partisan bill is a beginning step in the right direction; but not nearly enough to protect our children.
We appeal to the hearts and minds of our lawmakers - respect the will of the majority of the American people and enact responsible gun legislation now.
If lawmakers won’t listen to the moral words of faith leaders, or to clear public opinion in favor of much broader and deeper gun safety laws, many of us in the faith community will mobilize to make sure it impacts the only thing they care most about– their re-election. We will make gun safety a single moral issue on which to vote on in the midterm elections.
After mass shootings in the United Kingdom and Australia, conservative governments passed strict gun safety laws– and mass shootings stopped. And until that happens in America, including banning assault weapons, our children will be subject to slaughter and will know that we don’t care enough about them to protect them. It really is as simple as that. Opposition to assault weapons must be made into a matter of faith–and a critical election issue for people of faith.
It is time to speak out– and most importantly to act.
Tune in tonight from 7-8pm ET to hear faith leaders speaking at the People’s Filibuster for Gun Safety– a 24/7 filibuster going on until Congress enacts common sense gun safety measures to protect communities and families across the country.
Thank you for reading God's Politics with Jim Wallis. This post is public so feel free to share it. And visit the Center on Faith and Justice to hear more about our work.