Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call

This report, approved by the 219th General Assembly (2010), challenges our society's fatalism and numbness in accepting the highest gun death rates in the world, reviews past church positions and proposes a new "spiritual awakening" approach: a church-related, community-based strategy inspired by “Heeding God’s Call” in Philadelphia, with similar groups in Richmond, Virginia and central New Jersey. The report looks at our culture of violence-acceptance, with its undercurrents of fear and desperation.

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  1. "Hunting and sports related purposes" are not the only legitimate uses for guns. The Bible in many places advocates the use of weapons for self defense or the defense of one's family. A relevant example is the origin of the Feast of Purim, brought about through Queen Esther. "The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies." Biblical history repeatedly shows that people deprived of the right to self defense quickly become oppressed. When God's Kingdom comes, there will be no need for guns or any other weapon, and the lion will lie down with the lamb. Until then, we must live in an imperfect world, where God's people are often victimized. Jesus restored the ear of the Roman soldier when his disciple tried to defend Him, and we should strive to be more Christ-like in ourselves. But we are not granted the authority to demand any other person give up his or her right to self-defense, lest we become advocates for oppression.

    by LD

    July 9, 2014

  2. I would like to state that I have been in the discussion on guns for a while. It disturbs me that people think I should give up the one tool I have that will best allow the defense of my family. God did not intend the Shepard to lay down his crook and let his sheep be slaughtered. The "gun control" debate is political. If you are for gun control and you spend a cent it goes to politicians. Not victims. If you are against and you spend a cent it does the same. We as a church should be logical and understand this is a human issue. It isn't about the gun. There has been brutal violence since Jesus. It is irrelevant what tool exists. We as a church should look to fix the glaring societal downfall we face. Over medication, lack of responsibility, or empathy, and a non existent mental health care system. You will fix nothing by talking guns. You will get somewhere by talking people.

    by JT

    July 1, 2014

  3. Dear Renel Haws: You are correct that there are violent tendencies that will take up whatever weapons are available, and that the report did not see itself spending too much time on the "why," although it does pay some attention to it. Nor does the report absolutize a position on guns as the primary cause of violence, but it pragmatically makes the case that guns make deadly violence easier, which the overall US gun death numbers substantiate, both for suicide and for murder/serious wounding. The "Peace Discernment" process is looking at nonviolence and violence at greater length. You did find a horrific case from Nigeria; I will try to remember those bereaved families as well as our own recent Navy Yard and Chicago families. Yours in Christ, Chris Iosso, for ACSWP

    by Christian Iosso

    September 23, 2013

  4. In the same year the report you have cited and was approved by the 219th General Assembly (in 2010): MACHETE-WIELDING RIOTERS KILL 200 IN NIGERIA The killers showed no mercy: They didn't spare women and children, or even a 4-day-old baby, from their machetes. On Monday, women wailed in the streets as a dump truck carried dozens of bodies past burned-out homes toward a mass grave. It is unfortunate that focusing on the weapon used does not address the reason why people are killing each other.

    by Renel Haws

    September 23, 2013

  5. Pete, You are a brave man to try to make the case you are making. None of the 30,000 or so people killed by guns each year was killed by a fertilizer bomb or a machete, although we may have a machete death or two in the US-- they are used still in violence in other countries. The availability, ease of use, and efficiency in killing of guns makes your comparisons strained, though the church would and did oppose the other forms of violence you mention. Outrage at the Rwanda massacre was major and remains so-- it is part of why Susan Rice just lost her chance to be Secretary of State, her apparent acceptance of normalized relations with Kagame. Presbyterians do remember, as a recent news show suggests. am-organizes-a-network For the General Assembly, the lessons of Rwanda and Kosovo led to the acceptance of humanitarian intervention in the Just Peacemaking policy of 1998. The churches did speak out-- and we can provide citations-- and there is much international church response and internal response in the churches of Rwanda (which were part of the political/ethnic structure of that country). As for Oklahoma bombing, I will let Oklahomans respond if they wish--the memorial there indicates a depth of grief and outrage-- The General Assembly action two months later refers to the work of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and of other Presbyterians on the scene immediately; See Commissioners' Resolution 29 of that year:$f=temp lates$vid=pcdocs:10.1048/Enu More broadly, the policy of the General Assembly on Violence, Religion and Terrorism, though focused on post 9/11 terrorism, does not ignore the existence of domestic terrorism (which would include the large number of death threats against President Obama, for example): But those cases are pretty much beside the point about increasing gun massacres in the US, and the extraordinary high level of gun violence we accept, in contrast to all other developed countries. Chris Iosso

    by Chris Iosso

    December 15, 2012

  6. The tragedy today in Newtown CT at Sandy Hook Elementary School causes me to reflect prayerfully, if also in sadness, on what is contained in this resource.

    by Darwin D. Popenoe

    December 14, 2012

  7. The problem is not the gun part, but the idea that our society accepts violence so easily. Guns are one of many tools. I didn't see any widespread outrage over the machete massacre in Rwanda or the genocide in Darfur. The church showed no outrage over the Oklahoma City bombing, fertilizer is still legal. Jesus didn't speak to the weapon at hand, but to the act of violence. We should do the same.

    by Pete

    December 14, 2012

  8. "If the PCUSA can't become a voice against gun violence, then we can't be a voice for God in the world. " Matt 19:28 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." That's how we become a voice for God in the world. Nothing there about the progressive Lefts fetish with gun control and social justice.

    by Darryl Boyd

    September 23, 2011

  9. The sad thing is that there is so much fear in some of our communities that some people look to guns as needed for their safety. How can we change that? Then there are those who say "guns don't kill people; people kill people." We have to address the apparent emotional effect that guns have on people.

    by Darry Carlstone

    January 24, 2011

  10. Christ was an ("the" for me) active pacifist with no flaw. He never murdered (or killed) anyone. I have found no other better way, I am a Christian. May I walk the walk as well as talk the talk! Being in the most afluent and highest standard of living per capita country - the U.S. - in the world (from my personal point of view admittedly) to a large extent made possible through a over developed "military industrial complex" - I am grateful and left awestruck and broken. I cannot claim to be "peaceful" when also being responsible for U.S. military policy and local gun use as a U.S. Citizen and enjoying the "fruits" of this great country. As to "Love the U.S. or leave it" proponents, I wholeheartedly agree but "Love" for me means being a Patriot who stands up for following Christ first - then the country I live in. I praise God for the right to be in a country that allows this even as the country itself is dangerously close to becoming like tyranist states found in the world's past and seen in the world today. It is a cop out to say we are fighting to keep the U.S. safe from tyranny when we are ourselves fostering and even breeding tyranny by militaristic actions. It is my prayer that these words help you to reduce our "military industrial comples" and increase "The Peace Corps Model" and "Americorps" model endeavors in a "free" country that supports education, R&D with a moral fiber, mass and "small" production firms and as individuals we each help people within our influence even to the point of extending our individual resources too thin. Perhaps we will then become "the majority" and our republic will then be more like Christ, after all, ellected officials swear to uphold their constituents views. How can we expect legislators to be "like Christ" in action/deed when "we" are in the minority? I cling to my faith "God's Will will prevail". I feel at peace being a Presbyterian - a denomination that recognizes interdenominational and interfaith religions as "of God". I have seen personally actions from the individual congregations and people to that of the PC(USA) acting for all people irregardless of religion - just as Christ did when he walked on this earth.

    by Cara Bissell

    January 21, 2011

  11. Thanks for this excellent paper. If the PCUSA can't become a voice against gun violence, then we can't be a voice for God in the world.

    by john wimberly

    January 20, 2011

  12. At last we have heard a strong voice from the church on our ongoing tragedy of guin violence. We must mobilize.

    by James E. and Roxana M. Atwood

    January 15, 2011