We live in a nation with more than 300 million guns in circulation. We recoil at shootings in Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech and jointly lament this should not happen, but every week 30 to 35 children and young people die while another 180 are injured. Every week.
It is time to pay attention.
Every faith affirms that life is precious, made in the image of God, yet since the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, more American citizens have lost their lives to gun violence than have been lost in all of America’s wars combined.
For people of faith gun violence is a faith issue. It is reported that almost 60 percent of gun purchases are made for “personal safety.” Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in homicide, injury, accident, assault or suicide than used for protection. Thus putting one’s faith in a gun is a false promise or in the language of faith, an idol. We have a Second Commandment challenge more than a Second Amendment challenge.
Polls report that an overwhelming majority of citizens support strengthening our national background check system but fear and apathy keep those citizens muted. We cannot, as most faiths teach, “love our neighbor” without caring deeply about that which hurts or kills them.
For those striving to follow Jesus, Christians, the dominant faith in the United States, there is the example of Jesus chastising his disciples for taking revenge when Jesus was being arrested saying, “those who live by the sword, will die by the sword.” Christians are challenged by Jesus to choose a non-violent path, to trust that human security rests in God, not in guns.
Thus three congregations in the Chapel Hill community with the N.C. Council of Churches and others will be sponsoring a conference on gun violence, “Beyond Gun Violence,” this weekend, Jan. 27-29.
The Saturday session is at United Church of Chapel Hill, 1321 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, beginning at 9 a.m. The Rev. Matt Crebbin will give the opening keynote address.
There will be workshops on “The Second Commandment, not the Second Amendment” with James Atwood, “Guns and Suicide” with Jodi Flick, UNC School of Social Work Clinical Associate Professor, and “Our Political Landscape” with Rick Glazier, NC Justice Center, and, perhaps, Rep. David Price. There will be conversations with local Chiefs of Police (Chief Chris Blue of Chapel Hill and Chief Walter Horton of Carrboro) and with family members of gun violence victims. Mark Carman, Founder, American Coalition for Responsible Gun Ownership will also be a speaker. There will also be representatives from North Carolinians against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action, Moms Rising and the NC Council of Churches. Online registration is through the N.C. Council of Churches, www.ncchurches.org.
James Atwood, theologian and author of “America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose and Gundamentalism and Where It is Taking America,” will also speak on “America's Fascination with Violence” at St. Paul’s AME, 101 N. Merritt Mill Road on Friday evening at 7 p.m. This is a prequel to the Saturday conference, “Beyond Gun Violence.”
On Sunday morning, the Rev. Matt Crebbin, senior minister at Newtown Congregation Church will preach at United Church of Chapel Hill, 8:45 and 11 a.m. And the Rev. James Atwood, theologian and author of “America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose and Gundamentalism and Where It is Taking America,” will be speaking at University Presbyterian Church, 209 E. Franklin St.
If You Go
“Beyond Gun Violence: A Conference for People of Faith and Conscience about Ending America’s Deadly Epidemic” will be held at United Church of Chapel Hill, 1321 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., on Saturday, Jan 28, beginning at 9 a.m.