“And [God’s] name shall be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 “The Spirit of [God] shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and fear of [God]. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.” Isaiah 11:2-3a. “And the Fruits of the Spirit are . . . .”, Galatians 5:22-23.

The Christian sees the world, understands the world, and acts in the world through the glasses of God-Jesus-Spirit. Advent and Christmas focus the character of our SEEING-UNDERSTANDING-ACTING. On 12 December, ENGAGE hosted an evening FOCUS with Professor Emeritus, Dr. Per Anderson of Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota. Per had been charged by the ELCA Faith and Society to draft a document which was titled: “A Social Message on Gun-Related Violence and Trauma”. The FOCUS was a time for individuals concerned about gun violence prevention to respond to the document. What follows are some of the responses with commentary.

  1. Participants were urged to take the survey on the ELCA website. Responses would be considered for inclusion in the final document.
  2. The social message (SM) lifts up concerns: Gun violence prevention needs to become a public health issue which would lead to a broader societal response rather than a segmented “niche” focus. We asked if defensive gun use was justified? Would our response efforts be more intentional if we spoke of the “trauma of gun violence”? How do we address the clear political divide in addressing gun violence?
  3. Participants were urged to read GUNFIGHT by Ryan Busse. Ryan is a former firearms executive who helped build one of the world’s most iconic gun companies. Now he consults with progressive groups to help “undo the country’s dangerous radicalization”.
  4. We discussed the profit motive motivating the gun industry, and questioned its’ ethics.
  5. A participant brought up a law in Brazil that demands a person prove the need for a gun before a license is granted.
  6. Fear was discussed as a prime motivator for gun purchase and use. Fear often justifies killing and defensive gun use.
  7. We spoke of our militaristic culture. The USA has the strongest military in the world, and this truth infects and influences justification for gun purchase and use.
  8. Several participants commented on the “communal” character of the social message. There seemed to be a sense that by stressing the communal trust in life we can move beyond the individualistic “It’s my right to own a gun” justification. We are in this together and need to be concerned about the whole of the nation. We have a shared responsibility for each other.
  9. Personal responsibility was lifted up. There is responsibility for others as well as oneself. As people of faith, we are free and called to care about others as well as oneself. Unfettered individualism breeds chaos and more gun deaths.
  10. We spoke of GVP messaging. How about using billboards? And ….? We need to use social media outlets like Facebook, X, Instagram, etc.
  11. We talked about the need to influence those in the 25 and under age bracket. These are the change-makers. How can we influence their perspectives for GVP?
  12. GVP (gun violence prevention) is a political issue reflecting a decay in our political institutions. If we are a democracy, how can we use our Constitution as a guide for more gun responsibility? What is the implication for GVP in the Preamble of the Constitution which proclaims: “We the people, . . . insure domestic tranquility . . ., promote the general welfare . . ., provide for the common defense . . ., secure the blessings of liberty . . . “?
  13. Some lifted up the negative effect of “mutual mistrust” between political parties, gun owners and GVP folks. How can we remove some of these divisive bricks?
  14. We asked, “How can we increase the responsibility of gun owners?” The answer is ongoing and lifts up the purpose of the social message.
  15. What does it mean to have an identity? Be a person? Because many people are feeling embattled, they turn to guns for protection of their identity. How does “pride” factor into gun violence?
  16. We affirmed the call and responsibility of faith communities to “broker fair conversations”. Faith communities are in-place gatherings for conversations. Faith ought to be about saving and focusing life towards obedience to God’s call to peace.

The proclamation of Isaiah, coupled with the hope of Advent and the Truth of the Christ in Christmas, and gathering as faith communities to address the above 16 responses, offer a redemptive design for making our homes, communities, faith communities, churches and nation more gun safe. We are created for love: loving God in Christ and loving each other. We are given the grace of God in Christ through the Gifts of the Spirit to “get it done”. In Galatians 5: 16-26, Paul contrasts living by the “law” and by the “Spirit”. The “law” is “enmity, strife, anger, jealousy, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy . . . .” among many others. Conversely, the Fruits of the Spirit are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Paul links the promises of Isaiah with the Truth of God in Christ. The implications of both are transformative in our quest for gun violence prevention.