Given the near silence in the election cycle addressing gun violence prevention, one can wonder which way forward? Where is hope for moving forward? Hope is inextricably linked with forward. We can rest in Paul’s profession in Romans 5, “Hope does not disappoint!” Where does hope abide?
FAITH. Faith is referenced over 500 times in scripture. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith and not by sight.” Similarly, in 2 Corinthians 10:15, we read “. . . but our hope is that as your faith increases . . . .” As Lutherans, we are schooled in the mantra of being “justified by faith” as in Romans 5:1. Remember the Reformation credo, SOLI FIDE! The hymn-writer, Edward Mote, composed the lyrics for a triumphant hymn, opening with the confident, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” The Luther Rose melds Christ, grace and faith. In Christ, we are graced to have faith.
VALUES: The Biblical witness is a deluge of lifegiving values! Nonviolence bookends scripture in the Genesis creation story. Chaos was the universal order prior to God’s creation. Eden exemplified God’s will of nonviolent love, care for each other and the environment. The Ten Commandments codified God’s will for life. The prophets consistently called for justice. The foundational ethic of Jesus is nonviolence. Jesus proclaims the Greatest commandment to “Love God, love the neighbor, and love yourself.” Paul surfaces the Fruits of the Spirit and the Armor of God which are a litany of nonviolence. The final bookend is The Book of Revelation which concludes with the nonviolent vision of a New Jerusalem, New Heaven and a New Earth, when “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” (Revelation 21:4a)
Similarly, our national values as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, are values played forward. In the DI, We read “All men are created equal. That we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Preamble to our Constitution soars with inclusive promise, “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity . . . .” Yes, there were exceptions with women, African-Americans and Native Americans being denied full participation. The compromises engaged to bind our nation were a tragic blotch on our character which has consistently demanded redress. Yet, the national creed is foundational, goading us to fruition, towards a “more perfect union.”
United, Biblical values and foundational national values embrace inclusivity, trumpet equal justice, promote environmental stewardship and opportunity for ALL. And yes, persistently goad us to persist in perfecting our democracy.
ACTION: Faith and Values form the foundation for GVP. In our PERSONAL and FAMILY living, we have choices. The choices are to own guns or not own guns. The choice is that if we choose to own guns, we can remove the ammunition from the weapon and lock them up separately in two different locations. We can choose to take a gun safety course. We can choose to temporarily remove weapons from our home if we are suffering a difficult life patch.
In our PUBLIC life, we can choose to pass laws to promote gun safety while respecting one’s right to own a weapon, acknowledging caveats such as NO weapons for those under mental duress. NO weapons for convicted violent offenders. Banning of assault-type weapons. Insisting on licensing and registration of all weapons, demanding insurance coverage for those who own weapons, requiring Universal Background Checks for all licensed and private gun sales, holding gun manufacturers accountable for creating less than safe weapons, and recognizing that if we are honest, all of these laws WILL NOT PREVENT any responsible adult from purchasing and using a weapon. Indeed, many lives will be saved by adopting these laws.
The unity of FAITH-VALUES-ACTION (FVA) provide HOPE for a more gun safe environment in our homes, communities and nation. Writing to a city divided in beliefs and a mishmash of cultural varities, Paul concludes in I Corinthians 13, “Faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” FORWARD!
Blessings and Peace!
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)