I’m sick to my stomach as I watch helplessly the common recurrence of mass shootings and with the paralysis of our nation to do anything about it. I feel assaulted and traumatized by the sheer volume of violence I witness on television and mass media. Mass shootings have devolved into America’s favorite pastime.
President Joe Biden made a statement after returning from the Asian summit last Tuesday from the Roosevelt Room of the White House as first lady Jill Biden looked on concerning the mass shooting by an 18-year-old gunman who opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas killing 19 children and two teachers, before being killed by police. It caught my attention when Biden made this remark in his speech:
“I just got off my trip from Asia, meeting with Asian leaders, and I learned of this while I was on the aircraft. And what struck me on that 17-hour flight—what struck me was these kinds of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world. Why? They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency that they happen in America. Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen?”
It is true that no other nation in the world has gun violence like we do here in America. We have a criminally insane number of guns. We have more guns than the entire population in America. There is a saying, “A mountain looks clearer from the plane.” Having lived in Korea, I never saw anyone owning a gun nor rarely ever heard of homicide by gun violence. In Asian countries like Korea, Japan, Singapore and the likes, there is an arduous process of owning a gun and the requirement for renewing a license every year. After their mass shootings, Australia and New Zealand both passed their robust gun safety laws that put our country to shame.
Just days after turning 18 this month, the gunman purchased two “AR platform rifles” and 375 rounds of ammunition. I am appalled at the ease in which any person can walk into a gun store and purchase deadly semi-automatic rifles. Why is it that it’s more difficult to get a driver license than being able to purchase deadly assault weapons? There is an old adage, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
On Tuesday before the Western Conference game in Dallas, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr strongly criticized Republican Senators for holding up the passage of legislation that would tighten background checks on gun sales. “I ask all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence and school shootings and supermarket shootings—I ask you, ‘Are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children and our elderly and our churchgoers?’” Coach Kerr asked. He also made direct reference to a piece of legislation called House Resolution HR-8 (the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021) that has been passed by the House of Representatives but has been sitting in the Senate. “We’re being held hostage by 50 senators in Washington who refuse to even put it to a vote, despite what we, the American people, want,” Kerr said. “They won’t vote on it, because they want to hold on to their own power. It’s pathetic.”
Today I make a critique of Christianity’s complicity with violence. As Christians we profess to follow Jesus who was a peacemaker and a fierce advocate for nonviolence. In Matthew 26:52 Jesus says to Peter who draws a sword against Roman soldiers who have come to arrest Jesus, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, saying, “If you had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42)
Christian evangelicals, particularly white Southern Baptists, mostly have parted ways with sensible gun laws. As Christians, we have a moral obligation to act in the face of what some blithely call the new normal of mass shooting in America. Nor should we fall for the siren call of more guns, the unproven good-guy-with-a-gun myth. Some are simply politically opposed to gun control because they are Republicans. We can begin with a modest goal of requiring universal background checks and the deadliest kind of weapons should be much harder to get. It’s a start and a step in the right direction.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called the sons and daughters of God.”
~ Matthew 5:9
Rev. John Juno Song is the pastor of Watsonville First United Methodist Church. For information, visit watsonville1stumc.org, call 724-4434 or email [email protected] His views are his own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.