As bells toll, clergy push Congress on gun control

WASHINGTON — As bells tolled across the country on Friday (Dec. 21) in memory of lives lost in Newtown, Conn., … Continued

WASHINGTON — As bells tolled across the country on Friday (Dec. 21) in memory of lives lost in Newtown, Conn., religious leaders gathered outside the Washington National Cathedral to push congregants and Congress to prevent further gun violence.

“Is the need for sensible gun control a religious issue?” asked Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “Indeed it is, for our worship of guns is a form of idolatry.”

Saperstein was among 20 faith leaders who gathered outside the Washington landmark Friday to mark the one-week anniversary of the mass killing at the Newtown elementary school. They paused as the cathedral’s funeral bell tolled 28 times in memory of the 26 children and adults from Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as the gunman and gunman’s mother, who also died.

Washington Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde said prayer alone was not a sufficient response to the massacre.

“Now is also a time for us to show up in ways that will prevent such deaths in the future,” she said. “If we only pray and offer comfort now, and do not act, we are complicit in perpetuating the conditions that allow these crimes to occur.”

The National Council of Churches has declared Jan. 6 “Gun Violence Prevention Sunday,” and is providing its members with a tool kit of resources, said the Rev. Michael Livingston, former NCC president.

From mosques to Sikh temples, clergy are being encouraged to support gun control in their pulpits, send their sermons to newspapers and Congress and start interfaith community discussions to reduce bullying and address mental illness.

In Connecticut, the shooting deaths have prompted several calls from clergy for parishioners to turn in their guns.

“I asked them to look at their lives, to purge themselves of the symbols of violence, not only guns but violent video games,” said the Rev. Sharon K. Gracen with Trinity Episcopal Church in Branford, Conn. “I asked them,’If you are a gun lover, is there anything that you love more? What would it take for you to give it up?’”

Evangelical and Jewish leaders are supporting initiatives by mayors to reduce illegal gun ownership. The Progressive National Baptist Convention will consider gun buy-back programs, said its president, the Rev. Carroll Baltimore.

In addition to calls for changes in laws — banning assault weapons, restricting ammunition sales and conducting stricter background checks — some are also calling for changes of heart.

“We need a conversion,” said the Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. “American evangelicals need to be born again on this issue.”

On Friday, leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a “call for action” on gun violence, telling lawmakers that “guns are too easily accessible” and calling for parents and producers of violent entertainment to acknowledge its negative effects.

Speaking outside the cathedral, retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said the unified response of faith officials reflects a national sense that “we can’t take it anymore” after previous massacres in Colorado, Wisconsin and Arizona.

“I think the religious leaders of our country have often said after these things we’ve got to do something, but now there have been too many of them,” he said. “We have reached a moment that we cannot wait anymore.”

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

Comments are closed.

Read More Articles

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_37148347
What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.