I know we do not agree on some matters of ethics and worldly conduct. We do not all share the same views on human development and the nature of the universe. And our churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship have varying approaches when participating in public discussions of political matters.
But, my brothers and sisters in faith, a crisis stands before us that our nation’s leaders seem powerless to resolve. The time has come for us to speak out and take the lead in the public conversation before more innocent blood spills on the ground, before we mourn another senseless tragedy of pain and death. As leaders of the faith community, we must stand united against the idolatry of guns in this country. We must speak with one voice and call for common sense laws controlling the sale of guns and the types of weapons available for ownership.
“Thus He will judge among the many peoples, and arbitrate for the multitude of nations, however distant; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks…they shall never again know war.” (Isaiah 2:4)
In recent years, many people have left our churches. Young adults in particular choose increasingly to seek spiritual inspiration outside our congregations. This trend stems from one simple fact: our message is no longer relevant in the modern age. Children slaughtered in schools; women shot in their homes by those who swore to love and protect them; and people seeking leisure in theaters facing a barrage of bullets. Our prayers for the victims are no longer enough. Our community needs to hear our voices raised in alarm demanding that decision-makers take a stand.
“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.’” (Matthew 26:52)
Two years ago, Michigan lawmakers considered a bill making it legal for anyone with a concealed weapon permit to carry guns into pistol-free zones: houses of worship, schools, day care centers, hospitals, college dormitories, and other public spaces. We testified in Lansing and defeated that misguided legislation. Now those same legislators are back calling for the same proliferation of weapons into our sacred spaces and into the other sanctuaries of our most vulnerable people (SB 442). We must rise up again, louder and in more numbers than before. We must crush such senseless bills forever or risk turning over our holiest places to the deification of guns.
“God guides whomever follows His good pleasure along the pathways of peace. And thereby, He brings them out from the veils of darkness into the light.” (Surah 5:16)
Each of our faith traditions classify or embody Evil in our respective theologies. Each of our religions condemn killing, especially the kind of murder we see all too often in mass shootings. Whatever your teachings, our current gun policies could not be more effective in facilitating these evil acts. Anyone can purchase pistols, or even semi-automatic rifles without a single background check. Anyone can purchase as much ammunition as they please without any oversight or control. No test of competency is required to purchase or use a gun, nor does any organized system of gun registration exist. If Satan walked the Earth, he could not design a more perfect environment for mayhem, grief, and death.
“All breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain or treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away. This is the pure unchangeable law.” Jain Sūtrakṛtāṅga
Our fight lies not with hunters, collectors, or those who promote training and responsible gun ownership. Who is our enemy? The fear and paranoia that grips so many now when it comes to gun ownership; the modern fetish for military-style weapons and armor-piercing bullets; and the lawless actions and violent rhetoric of anti-government militias and hate groups that spread lies and mistrust. Our enemies lurk like slavering beasts waiting to dismember and devour our flocks. We can watch over our people passively and cry wolf after the next attack, or we can demand better protections from future threats.
“A man is not an Ariya, an elect nobleman, when he injures living creatures. He is the true Ariya, an elect nobleman, who practices ahimsa, non-violence.” The Dhammapada 19:15
We must end our public silence that currently helps condemn thousands to die every year from gun violence. We must unite to prevent fear from continuing to trample reason and common sense. And we must set aside our doctrinal differences so that faith, hope, and love can replace weapons of mass killing on our sacred altars. Whatever name you use for the ultimate awe and mystery of all existence, guns are inconsistent with its beauty and wonder.
“This is a violent system…I don’t believe it can be defeated by violence…The system can be dismantled if we mobilize our radical imagination; if we create an alternate so inspiring and compelling that the masses of people who yearn for freedom and abundance will join us.” Starhawk
My brothers and sisters, we are not merely faith leaders. We are prophets and visionaries. We are healers and oracles. We are Abraham and Moses, Jesus and Mohammad, Gautama Buddha and Krishna, Brighid and Nanaboozhoo. If we speak as one against the senseless proliferation of killing weapons in this country, people will return to our churches. If we stand together, people will join us on this quest to make this a nation founded on the principles of love and caring for our neighbors, and not on the principle of “might makes right.” If we invoke our radical imaginations, then people will be drawn to our compelling message of inspiration.
As foretold by the prophet Hosea, that day will come when the bow, sword, and war will be banished from the land and we will dwell in safety. Let us join to make that golden age a reality.