In the wake of a national tragedy, religious leaders want for more gun regulation.
As the Obama administration prepares for a showdown with the NRA and the gun lobby, a broad range of faith leaders are voicing their support for stricter gun control laws. A recent survey published by the National Association of Evangelicals showed that 73 percent of evangelical leaders support an increase in gun regulation.
Core teachings in Scripture as well as the recent tragedies in Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT, have united Christian leaders like never before in supporting common-sense gun control laws.
Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, the organization that conducted the survey said in a statement:
“Evangelicals are pro-life and deeply grieve when any weapons are used to take innocent lives… [We] want our laws to prevent the slaughter of children.”
The results of the survey come right after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement calling for action in response to Sandy Hook tragedy. Several Bishops along with President of the USCCB, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, have expressed their solidarity in calling on lawmakers to adequately address gun regulations.
A brief excerpt from their official statement is as follows:
“We offer particular words regarding the issue of the regulation of fire arms, the standards for the entertainment industry, and our service to those with mental health needs. As religious leaders, we are compelled to call on all Americans, especially elected leaders, to address these issues.
With regard to the regulation of fire arms, first, the intent to protect one’s loved ones is an honorable one, but simply put, guns are too easily accessible. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in their document, ‘The International Arms Trade (2006),’ emphasized the importance of enacting concrete controls on handguns, for example, noting that “limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe on the rights of anyone.”
Bill Lenz, Senior Pastor of Christ the Rock Community Church, a participant in the NAE survey states:
“Most of my experience with guns has been as a hunter in the great Wisconsin outdoors. I do not believe that guns are the heart of the problem, but there should be strong regulations on who can bear arms,” he said. “The easy access to guns has undoubtedly contributed to horrible tragedies. There are multiple ways to address our current problem, and greater gun regulations are one of them.”
The growing consensus among Christians that stricter gun laws are needed to make our communities safer indicates a shift in the way that they view the issue of gun control. In fact, according to a recent USA Today/Gallup Poll, general support for gun control has increased from 43% in October 2011 to 58% in December 2012.
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If many progressives are disappointed that President Obama and most political leaders have not done more to reign in the corruption and greed of Wall Street titans who sparked a global financial crisis, they have an unlikely ally in a theologian who leads a global church of more than a billion souls.
While Pope Benedict XVI is viewed as a staunch conservative for his opposition to same-sex marriage and frequent pronouncements on sexual ethics, his powerful voice on economic justice issues too often gets short shrift. But it’s hard to ignore the pope’s recent blistering critique of what he describes as “unregulated financial capitalism.” Pope Benedict, who has urged world leaders to pay more attention to the “scandal of glaring inequalities” between rich and poor nations, used his recent World Day of Peace message to challenge “the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset” that gives rise to economic models based on “maximum profit and consumption.”
It’s unlikely that Catholic Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan or House Speaker John Boehner, free-market fundamentalists with a soft spot for Ayn Rand-libertarianism, will be passing out copies of the pope’s address in the halls of Congress. You can also bet many lawmakers from both parties, dependent on corporate campaign contributions from the financial services industry, paid scant attention to the Vatican’s call in 2011 for more robust financial regulation and a financial transaction tax.
But as we navigate the shoals of post-fiscal cliff Washington, with Republicans hankering for a fight on the debt ceiling and insisting on deeper spending cuts, political leaders could do worse than reflect on the Catholic justice tradition’s prudent balance between acknowledging a vital role for government while advocating for a market system that is tempered – and made more humane – by reasonable safeguards that serve the common good. In fact, Catholic social teaching on taxes, the role of government, the importance of unions, strong social safety nets and the need for robust regulation of global financial markets offers a progressive blueprint for building a moral economy.
The next time you hear a Catholic politician or a “pro-life” leader who argues for gutting financial regulations and slashing vital programs that protect children and the elderly so the wealthiest few can get more tax breaks, tell them to take it up with the pope.
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Missouri Pastors urge elected officials to remember their moral obligation to defend vital safety-net programs for working poor families in Kansas City Star Op-Ed.
Frustrated with the slowing progress being made in the fiscal negotiations, Rev. Rayfield Burns and Pastor Jennifer Thomas of Missouri Faith Voices and Communities Creating Opportunity reminded lawmakers in an op-ed published today in the Kansas City Star that neglecting their duty to protect struggling Americans and seniors from an immoral “fiscal cliff” deal will leave many families economically vulnerable this holiday season.
With middle-class tax rates set to go up at the end of the year, Pastor Thomas and Rev. Burns are urging elected officials to remember the hundreds of thousands of Missouri children and families that depend on the Earned Income Tax Credit to meet their food and healthcare needs.
“At a time of staggering economic inequality, robust corporate profits, large deficits and historically low taxes on rich people, our leaders need to summon the courage to make powerful special interests pay their fair share. That starts with ending the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans and closing loopholes for big, profitable corporations.”
Both Rev. Burns and Pastor Thomas agree that the nation cannot afford politicians to compromise on their commitments to fund Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. They point out:
“Any fiscal cliff deal that undermines the health or economic security of American families and fails to require rich and powerful special interests to pay their fair share is immoral. Our elected representatives have a grave responsibility to uphold our values of fairness, justice and shared sacrifice.”
Their voices are just two of many in the faith community that are calling on Congress to stand firm; there is too much at stake for them to waver in their commitment to the poor and vulnerable. The futures of low-income families and children as well as the general well-being of seniors and the disabled depend on lawmakers closing the inequality gap and demanding that the top 2% pay their fair share.
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In the wake of the horrific violence unleashed last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School, religious leaders across the country have tried to provide spiritual healing and grappled with profound theological questions about the nature of evil. As the dead are buried and we mourn the loss of heroic teachers and innocent children, the work of faith communities is just beginning. Now is the time for pastors, rabbis and imams in every community to speak up boldly for saner gun control laws.
Pro-life Christians who are a major political force in this country should be leading this movement. If the sanctity of human life in the womb galvanizes evangelical Christians and Catholics to march on Washington, create sophisticated lobbying campaigns and hold members of Congress accountable, there is no excuse for pro-life timidity on this issue.
Sadly, if not unexpectedly, the loudest Christian voices have been from the usual chorus of culture warriors who are again blaming Democrats, President Obama and “godless” public schools for the tragedy. Mike Huckabee, pastor-in-chief at Fox News, thinks if we had a more God-fearing nation this tragedy could have been avoided. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, best known for his homophobic screeds, roared that “we’ve kicked God out of our public school system.” Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, an evangelical who apparently believes the Prince of Peace would want us all packin’ heat, recently called for arming teachings and school administrators at a Tea Party event.
The National Association of Evangelicals, a pro-life lobbying force, has sent out press releases this week about how evangelicals are portrayed in the media and the attitudes of younger evangelicals toward abortion reduction, but nothing about the moral scandal of gun violence that kills more than 30,000 people a year. The Southern Baptist Convention has been mum. Back in 2002, Richard Land, the chief public policy spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, decried what he called a “long-term assault on your Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.”
This moral cowardice and Christian capitulation to NRA propaganda should turn our stomach.
Catholic bishops, who will help mobilize many thousands of pro-life activists next month for the annual March for Life in Washington, could also put more lobbying muscle behind gun control efforts considering the church’s past statements. As Carol Glatz reports for Catholic News Service:
The Catholic Church’s position on gun control is not easy to find; there are dozens of speeches and talks and a few documents that call for much tighter regulation of the global arms trade, but what about private gun ownership? The answer is resoundingly clear: Firearms in the hands of civilians should be strictly limited and eventually completely eliminated. But you won’t find that statement in a headline or a document subheading. It’s almost hidden in a footnote in a document on crime by the U.S. bishops’ conference and it’s mentioned in passing in dozens of official Vatican texts on the global arms trade. The most direct statement comes in the bishops’ “Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice” from November 2000.
“As bishops, we support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and make them safer — especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children or anyone other than the owner — and we reiterate our call for sensible regulation of handguns.” That’s followed by a footnote that states: “However, we believe that in the long run and with few exceptions — i.e. police officers, military use — handguns should be eliminated from our society.” That in turn reiterates a line in the bishops’ 1990 pastoral statement on substance abuse, which called “for effective and courageous action to control handguns, leading to their eventual elimination from our society.”
Catholics in the pews are ripe for mobilization. Among U.S. religious groups, Catholics are the most likely to support gun control. More than 6 in 10 of Catholics — 62 percent — favor stricter firearms laws, compared to fewer than half of white evangelicals (35 percent) and white mainline Protestants (42 percent), according to a 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll.
There is no easy fix for the epidemic of gun violence. Inadequate mental health services, rampant materialism, the glorification of violence and the spiritual alienation of young men and women who are disconnected from community all play a role. We live in a toxic culture. Laws can’t be the only answer for a crisis that is more deeply rooted. But the complexity of this urgent challenge can’t be an excuse for inaction or deferring to an unacceptable status quo.
The religious right will continue to blame the gays, contraception and abortion for the collapse of civilization. But there are far more empty churches in Europe and Canada than in our highly religious society, and mass shootings like the ones in Littleton, Aurora and Newton are a rarity because of reasonable gun laws and a culture that does not mythologize guns. If pro-life Christian leaders need some inspiration they should look to Rev. Gary Hall, the dean of the National Cathedral in Washington, who on the first Sunday after the school shooting in Connecticut said the best way to mourn the Sandy Hook tragedy is “to mobilize the faith community for gun control.”
“The gun lobby,” said Hall, “is no match for the cross lobby.”
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Catholics United brought Santa Claus to Capitol Hill on Wednesday urging lawmakers to stand up for struggling families this holiday season.
Santa’s visit came amid the Republican leadership’s ongoing fought to protect Bush-era tax breaks for the richest 2% at the expense of creating jobs and protecting effective programs that reduce poverty, keep kids and families healthy and provide a secure retirement to seniors.
In a press release sent yesterday,
James Salt, Executive Director of Catholics United stated: “I echo Santa’s call for all Americans to contact their members of Congress and implore them to stand up for the poor and vulnerable. Pass tax relief for millions of Americans, spare the poorest from draconian cuts and end this fiscal showdown.”
Fortunately for millions of Americans, Santa Claus is holding lawmakers accountable. According to a statement Santa made to Fox News Blog Gretawire,
“This is the busiest time of the year for me, but thankfully my staff up at the North Pole are as concerned as I am about the fate of so many children and families and what will happen to them due to this childish squabbling here in Congress if it doesn’t end…Pass the tax cut for 98% of American families now…and avoid the terrible budget cuts that will harm so many children and their families across this nation.”
Hopefully, Father Christmas’ words of wisdom will convince Congress to support increases in new revenue over cutting essential programs that ensure the economic security of 98% of Americans.
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