Yesterday, I attended an inter-faith gathering of Jews, Muslims, Roman Catholics, Methodists and Lutherans, whose purpose was to fine-tune a gun safety/gun violence prevention (GS/GVP) model for statewide inter-faith use. It was sponsored by Protect Minnesota and its Inter-Faith Alliance for Gun Safety Committee. To say it was inspirational is only a starting point! Although we did not finalize a design, my personal sense of a way forward is thus:
1. Everyone share their gun stories, both gun owners and non-gun owners. Invite ALL to share the platform.
2. Share up-to-date statistics. Not too much. Just enough to provide a fact/reality base-line. In 2020, there were 500 gun deaths in Minnesota, of which 441 were males, 340 were suicides (of which 299 were males and 282 were rural), 154 homicides, 34 youth deaths, and 108 deaths among Minnesotans ages 20-29 (largest % by age). All out of a total of 500 gun deaths.
3. Invite ALL to share what they believe are ultimate GS/GVP values that ought to influence action. Some values were: repairing the world, respect for life, compassion, peace, meaning of freedom, nonviolence, protecting each other, creative individual and community safety, cultivating humility, messaging, freedom from fear, comfort in the community, protecting the children, love, collective action.
4. Sharing of diverse faith perspectives. Some Jewish perspectives were: Sayings of our fathers, “It is not your obligation to finish the work, but to continue the work”, “It is permissable to come up short”, “Work step by step. Keep working.” Some Roman Catholic Social Teachings were: Life and dignity of the person, people are meant to serve each other, Genesis-Exodus-Paul, call to family, any act that harms another is wrong, act for justice, build relationships, concerns about depression and active shooter situations, welcoming people with different views, activism. And some Muslim perspectives: Gather and use knowledge, pray for each other, life and dignity of all, “If you save one life, you save the world.” Gun violence of any kind disregards the sanctity of human life and is wrong. We have a duty to serve the poor. Assault weapons make hate more deadly, and most hate crimes are against people of color, religious minorities and LGBTQ people. “Who is that, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “One whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil.”
This was great work! All were fully engaged! And more needs to be designed. My suggestions are: 1) Talk about the Declaration of Independence and the words “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for ALL people. Talk about the Preamble of the Constitution which contains the sentinel words “We the people”, “common good” and “promote the general welfare”. Yes, talk about the Second Amendment, but note the caveats. Do not let the amendment be the final word; 2) Discuss specific actions which can be taken: personal and political. A personal action can include adoption of the BeSMART in-home gun safety design. Political action ought to include promoting Universal Background Checks and Red Flag Laws; 3) Spend time in prayer and meditation. Listen to God and allow the Spirit to guide and empower.
Our gathering surfaced Paul’s witness recorded in Colossians 1: 15-20: “He [Christ] is in the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in [God] all things in heaven and on earth were created . . . through [Christ] and for [Christ] . . . . and in [Christ] all things hold together . . . . and through [Christ] God was pleased to reconcile to [God] all things . . . by making peace through the blood of his cross.” We were united for GS/GVP. We will meet again to finalize our ways forward. The meeting was filled with life and hope! Common ground and ALL-ness provided INTER-FAITH INSPIRATION!
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)