Posted on by Emily Krudys
Enough, we cannot be silent anymore. Their pain has become our pain. Their suffering ours. The mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, friends of those who have died because of gun violence are crying out to us. The children, the holy innocents, are crying out to us.
Following the latest high school shooting in Parkland, Florida where seventeen died, many have prayed to God for comfort. “Comfort,” the word that we hear in the laments of Job and on lips of the Psalmist. This word, comfort, comes from two Latin words meaning “with strength.” In Greek it means, to come along side and help. So today, I pray for that kind of comfort.
Lord, help us and give us strength. Gun violence is becoming a norm within our country. Guns, mental illness, fear, divisions, these are problems too big to handle, many are claiming. The United States has a culture of guns, which will never change, many say. Yet, in the first century who could have ever imagined that an itinerate preacher and healer from Nazareth would start a religious movement that would affect the fall of the great Roman Empire; a movement whose reach would expand far greater than the empire that tried to kill it. In the midst of that empire, the early Christians had faith in a way that was more loving, less violent than that civilization had to offer.
In the modern world, nations have transformed to become less violent civilizations. Countries, including Australia, Norway, Japan, and the United Kingdom, have nearly eliminated gun deaths. They have done so by imposing sweeping legislation, mental health evaluations, and community-government cooperative efforts. While the United States can learn from these examples, the critics are right that America’s gun culture, history, and laws, are distinct. These factors hinder the U.S. from simply following Australia’s model of gun-control and regulation.
Yet, in the United States about 70% of people self-identify as Christians, while in Australia it is only 50%. As Christians, we are guided by the great commandment to love one’s neighbor, to love the other, as we love ourselves. And within this great commandment is God’s prohibition against killing another. Yet, within this nation, where Christianity remains the dominant religious voice, these commands have been replaced by a fear of one’s neighbor. That fear has led to an atmosphere and policies of protectionism, where people are openly carrying handguns and stockpiling more powerful armaments, armaments whose sole purposes are to kill.
Many who consider themselves to be Christians justify their armament because they want to protect themselves from the “bad people.” But, after reading Jesus’ treatment of people in the gospels, we should pause a bit before we too quickly begin sorting people into groups of good and bad. Others claim it is their right as a matter of liberty, but when does one person’s liberty impose on another’s. As Christians we are called to live freely, a life by faith, not a life governed by fear.
I agree that we cannot be naïve, nor can we avoid the reality that much of the gun violence is related to mental illness, which is a serious and often untreated problem in this country. Love for our neighbors with mental illness means helping them receive more skilled and less costly access to medical services, as well as passing stricter laws which make guns less accessible. Tough love often requires tough laws.
The cries of our children are calls to arms, but not the arms of handguns and semi-automatic rifles, but the loving arms of Christ Jesus, and to faith in God, whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Amen.
 See Chris Wheller, Business Insider, “These four countries have nearly eliminated gun deaths; here’s what the U.S. can learn” The Independent (website) February 18, 2018, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/gun-deaths-eliminated-america-learn-japan-australia-uk-norway-florida-shooting-latest-news-a8216301.html , visited February 18, 2018.
 See Molly McCluskey, “How Australia Conquered Guns; and Why America Can’t” Citylab (website) February 16, 2018 https://www.citylab.com/life/2018/02/australia-ambassador-on-why-gun-laws-cant-save-america/553655/ , visited February 18, 2018.