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Religious leaders call for prayer and tighter gun control after Colorado shooting

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Video Courtesy Associated Press

(RNS) President Obama and his likely GOP challenger Mitt Romney called for prayers and reflection after a deadly shooting at a Colorado movie theater, while liberal religious leaders called for stricter gun control laws.

Police have identified James Holmes, 24, as the man who opened fire at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing at least 12 and wounding 58 others in Aurora, Colo.

President Obama cut short his campaign trip in Florida, instead delivering a brief address in Fort Myers. “There are going to be other days for politics,” Obama said. “This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.”

Obama touched on the fragility of life, his concerns as the father of two young daughters, and urged Americans to “spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us.”

“Our time here is limited and it is precious,” Obama said. “And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives.  Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.”

Romney also curtailed campaign events, delivering brief remarks at what was to be a rally in Bow, N.H.

“This morning Colorado lost youthful voices which would have brightened their homes, enriched their schools and brought joy to their families. Our prayer is that the Comforter might bring the peace to their souls that surpasses their understanding.”

Paraphrasing the Apostle Paul, Romney said, “Blessed be God … who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.”

Religious leaders urged wounded victims and relatives of the deceased to put their faith in a higher power.

(Left) Governor Mitt Romney during a campaign stop in Philadelphia. (Right) Obama greets friends and neighbors as he arrives to vote at his polling place in Kenwood.

(Left) Governor Mitt Romney during a campaign stop in Philadelphia. (Right) Obama greets friends and neighbors as he arrives to vote at his polling place in Kenwood.

“As Catholic bishops, we ‘weep with those who weep,’ said Archbishop Samuel Aquila and Auxiliary Bishop James Conley of Denver, citing, like Romney, the Apostle Paul.

“But in Aurora, which means ‘the dawn, the sun rose this morning,” the bishops continued. “In a city whose name evokes the light, people of hope know that the darkness may be overcome.”

The Catholic bishops also prayed for the perpetrator of the shooting, and for his conversion. “Evil ruled his heart last night,” said Aquila and Conley in a statement. “Only Jesus Christ can overcome the darkness of such evil.”

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team quickly sent chaplains to the scene in Aurora, as they have after mass killings in Tucson, Ariz. in 2011 and at Virginia Tech University in 2007.

“We will be there to offer emotional and spiritual care, and the hope and compassion of Jesus Christ, in the aftermath,” said team director Jack Munday in a statement.

Other religious leaders argued that the U.S. needs tougher gun control laws. Holmes had four guns, including an assault rifle, according to law enforcement authorities.

Kathryn Mary Lohre, president of the National Council of Churches, called on elected officials to “seek policies that will foster greater peace in our communities and throughout this country.”

The NCC, which represents about 10,000 congregations — most from mainline Protestant, historically African-American and Orthodox traditions — passed a resolution on ending gun violence in 2010.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, echoed the NCC’s call, noting that the shooting occurred in the same state as the 1999 Columbine High School attack.

“Although details about this gunman and shooting are still coming to light, this horror reinforces the need to ensure that common-sense gun control laws are in place to help reduce such acts of violence,” Saperstein said.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and culture editor at America magazine, tweeted on Friday morning: “Gun control is a pro-life issue. … Pray for the families of the victims and for an end to the taking of life by senseless violence.”

Later Friday, the popular spiritual author Anne Lamott tweeted, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy. Is no one going to say that these massacres (wouldn’t) happen if the crazy men had to use bats or hammers?”

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, on the other hand, argued that the shooting occurred because Americans have become unmoored from their moral and religious foundations.

“You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of a derelict takes place,” Gohmert said on “Istook Live!”, a broadcast of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

The Texas congressman also suggested that Americans have lost the “protective hand” of God because school prayer is not allowed at public schools. “Where was God? What have we done with God? We don’t want him around,” Gohmert said.

“Rep. Louis Gohmert truly tortures logic when he concludes that this violence had something to do with perceived attacks on majority faith in America,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.

“At a time when families are mourning in the wake of this tragedy, Gohmert used it as an opportunity to push a religious agenda,” Speckhardt said.

The Rev. Welton Gaddy, Interfaith Alliance president, called on Americans to unite “regardless of faith or belief” to comfort the victims and the families.

“As I have said after past incidents, we as a nation need to be done forever with the thought that killing settles anything,” Gaddy said.

About the author

Daniel Burke

Daniel Burke worked for Religion News Service from 2006-2013. He now co-edits CNN's Belief Blog.


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  • God’a kingdom or heavenly government is the only source of true peace and security and it will put an end to all the wickedness and evil on our planet.

  • We always hear these same cries after events like these, and then “we, the people” allow those we hire to do the work of our governing to do nothing. It is no surprise that people like members of the National Rifle Association are also members of the 1% benefit gang of Wall St. and political corruption. This is a broken record. The same reason corrective action is never taken is because “the people,” the voters, are too lazy and too ignorant about politics and government and continue to hire and rehire the same corrupt politicians to suck billions of dollars out of our taxes every year for doing absolutely nothing. This Congress is most guilty of that, especially the Republicans who lead this debacle of so-called legislative activity.

  • What about before the Colorado shooting, or any other? Instead of playing with elections, pretending to be advocating issues when they’re really advocating for and against particular politicians, violating their non-tax status, churches and religious people ought to prove some decency in religion by standing for issues like gun control. Those same leaders of the right are the biggest defenders of guns, guns, guns. We criminalize pot and almost anyone can easily obtain guns at their nearest Walmart, the largest company in the world, the richest family in the world..

  • Why is religion is getting in to politics pretty soon Jehovah God is going to crush all these goverments and False Religion will be Destroyed next time a Jehovah witness knock on your door Listen to what they have to say

  • JW: Is “Jehovah God” different than all the other gods? History provides no evidence that any gods had anything to do with the dissolution of a single government. People did that all on their own.

    As for “false religion,” that argument has been going on as long as mythology gave birth to religion. No matter how old or sophisticated religions become, they still battle. Crushing opposition is evil unless done in self-defense. So where’s the goodness in the gods or in religions?

  • In an evil world, evil people do evil things. I am thankful that in this nation I’m permitted to keep and bear arms to defend myself, my family and others. As a Lutheran Christian I view this as a way of being faithful to the commandments that tell me I am to help my neighbor to improve and protect his body and life and all that is his. Here is how Luther explains our duties according to the commandment, “You shall not murder” “We should fear and love God that we may not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need [in every need and danger of life and body].” And here is how Luther explains our duty according to the seventh commandment, “You shall not steal.” “We should fear and love God that we may not take our neighbor’s money or property, nor get them by false ware or dealing, but help him to improve and protect his property and business [that his means are preserved and his condition is improved].” From the Small Catechism by Dr. Martin Luther, source.

  • The Swedes are required to own guns and it just so happens their violent crime is one of the lowest worldwide (well, that’s been eroded somewhat due to the 100,000 influx in 3rd world immigrants they accept every year). Making it harder for the law-abiders to defend themselves does little to deter the criminals, bleeding hearts.

  • Prayer is not going to resolve the destruction of life and property that the National Rifle Association is very happy to see continuing while its leaders become wealthy by promoting the right to slaughter and destroy.

    God has nothing to do with it. It’s the affairs of people, those who defend guns, government leaders who take NRA money do do nothing to stop the sick slaughter and destruction, and all the lazy and ignorant people in this country who allow the NRA and their government to continue getting away with this slaughter and destruction.

    It has nothing to do with God or religion, only people and their government!

  • Fran: I’m still waiting to see “God’s kingdom or heavenly government” do something about all this rotten evil caused by humans and allowed to continue by humans.

    It’s criminal negligence of “We, the People” of our own responsibility to take corrective action about such conditions promoted by the NRA and allowed by their do-nothing lackeys in government. We stand by an allow those people to enrich themselves at the cost of others’ lives and the destruction of property.

    God has nothing to do with this madness. It’s all the reckless business of people. You are as guilty as the NRA, our negligent government, and others in this nation when you put it off and wait for God to intervene.

  • Vince: I guess you’re proving that rules of behavior are required. Don’t let your bigotry show by blaming it on any so-called “3rd world.” It’s culture. And it takes time, generations, for rules to impress a culture and be effective. The U.S. has always defied legislating such rules.

    Our right to bear arms was amended to the Constitution at a time when the country was fresh out of the experience of the wicked British government using arms to force “taxation without representation.” Try using all the guns and ammunition you can easily purchase against a government with nuclear weapons.

    Civilian government, right? Wrong! Consider how very much our own government violates our Constitution and laws that have been added to it. Consider the latest travesties of our Supreme Court declaring that money is speech and corporations are people. What hope is there when we accept these violations of the very principles against which we revolted in 1776?