Politics, Evangelicals, and Gun Violence

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    This week’s election news regarding the shift in control of the House of Representatives from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party was overshadowed by still more gun violence, first with a mass shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and second with a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California. Following a campus shooting here in South Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, provided a “pastoral letter” about our out-of-control gun violence. Here is an extract from that letter:

    “Through an Episcopal consortium known as Bishops United Against Gun Violence, I came into contact and have become friends with Pastor Rob Schenck, a conservative evangelical and former president of the Evangelical Church Alliance International. This group represents as many as 1,200 evangelical churches. In a documentary movie, The Armor of Light, produced and directed by Abigail Disney and available on Netflix, his spiritual and theological journey on the question of gun violence offers a challenge to all Christians. For me, his most jarring spiritual challenge in the documentary comes as he is addressing a conference of conservative evangelical pastors and leaders. In reference to spiritual authority, he says,

    “I’m concerned about … promoting the idea that the best way to solve the most vexing problems in our society is to be prepared to shoot people dead. That doesn’t sit well with me as a Christian moral vision. And when we champion the Second Amendment over and above the Word of God, then we must be very careful that in respecting the Second Amendment we don’t violate the Second Commandment.”

    The mother of one Pepperdine University student killed in Thousand Oaks was seen on the evening news through angry tears, imploring the nation, “I don’t want your thoughts. I don’t want your prayers. I want gun control.” As we all recover from a bitter election season, we need to come together. One common goal we can share is this: finding a way to put an end to our national tragedy of mass killings by people using personal firearms. As Pastor Schenck challenges his evangelical Christian followers to do, we as a nation must learn to treasure the Second Commandment’s admonition “Thou shalt not kill” more than we treasure the Second Amendment and its “right to bear arms.”

    Bishop Waldo’s letter ended by quoting this from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. “O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

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