Feb 22, 2018
Where is the Lutheran Church in the current gun debate? Many people have strong opinions about how our church should be involved. First, the church takes very seriously the positive effects of prayer. Christians are to constantly pray for their nation and society, and especially for those who are victims of violence and tragedy. We are even encouraged to pray for the perpetrators. Particularly this week, Redeemer joins all people of faith in praying for those affected by the school shooting in Parkland, FL.
Beyond that, what are we to do? Here is a review of a “Social Message” that addresses gun violence in America in a limited way, as part of a larger problem of community violence in our society. In the attempt to help people be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in the world, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which Redeemer is a member of, occasionally produces “Social Statements” and “Social Messages” on important social issues in our country. (Full access to all social statements and messages by the ELCA can be accessed at https://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society)
The ELCA adopted a “Social Message” on Community Violence in 1994. Although 24 years old now, it is still relevant. It expresses basic principles that guide faithful deliberation on social action that would be inspired by our faith position as Lutheran Christians.
The message encourages reflection on many issues that contribute to community violence, including guns. The message supports action to “stem the proliferation of guns in our streets, schools, and homes." This effort is to be part of a range of actions to counter the prevalence of community violence. The document cites the biblical vision of God’s future (eg. in Isaiah 25:6) which is free from any violence as the common goal of all our efforts, advocacy, and prayer. This future will be "an age to come in which people are free from violence, justice is done, and the common good is realized.” (page 5) We believe Christians are called to live and act as if this vision were achievable, even as we admit that it won’t be truly fulfilled by us, but by God in God’s own time.
This message is given as a guide for Lutheran Christians, and is not to be seen as a set of rules to be blindly followed. The ELCA acknowledges that there are various positions on how best to strive for the reduction of violence in our culture. But we can say from the message that the consensus of the church as a deliberating body “tends" toward greater gun control for the common good. How that is achieved is for the political sphere to grapple with. Christians are called to participate in that messy process in good faith, and to behave in debate and deliberation as Christ himself would, with respect for the dignity of all participants.
The following comes from the bottom of page 4 of the message:
"As we move toward a more comprehensive address of community violence, we join with other religious communities in anti-violence initiatives that:
✦ offer vital spiritual and moral resources for replacing fear and violence with hope and reconciliation in our homes, communities, and nation;
✦ stem the proliferation of guns in our streets, schools, and homes;
✦ counter the “culture of violence” that pervades our national culture and media;
✦ build strong anti-violence coalitions in our neighborhoods and communities;
✦ develop peer mediation skills in the schools; and
✦ protect our youth from the epidemic of violence through equitable law enforcement, and the promotion of education, social programs, anti-drug programs, and real job opportunities.” (Download the full 6-page document at https://www.elca.org/…/F…/Social-Messages/Community-Violence)