Opinion

Gun massacres: Why aren’t more churches telling the truth?

Mona Rodriguez holds her 12-year-old son, J Anthony Hernandez, during a candlelight vigil held for the victims of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, on Nov. 5, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

(RNS) — Religion is often mocked for trafficking in delusions. But I believe most religion, and all religion at its best, earnestly seeks to tell the truth about the nature and destiny of man.

Many aspects of this truth-telling speak to Sunday’s (Nov. 5) Texas church massacre: fallenness, sin, uncertainty, our innermost longings for hope or redemption, etc.

Theology, perhaps more than any field of human knowledge, is adept at dealing with paradoxes. Mass shootings raise all manner of contradictory arguments about evil, justice and reconciliation.

So why aren’t more churches or public faith leaders telling the truth about America’s unique scourge of gun violence?

We hear the loudest protests from liberal Protestantism — the fastest-dying segment of American Christianity. Increasingly, the nation’s Catholic bishops are speaking with more urgency.

The Most Rev. Daniel DiNardo, cardinal archbishop of Houston and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said after the Texas massacre: “We must come to the firm determination that there is a fundamental problem in our society. A Culture of Life cannot tolerate, and must prevent, senseless gun violence in all its forms.”

Yet most white evangelicals, who join in a tenuous ecumenism with Roman Catholics in support of a culture of life, sit out the gun-control debate entirely, if they are not voicing support for the arms manufacturers, dealers and lobbyists.

Ironically, white evangelicals were the victims of Sunday’s tragedy.

Texas’ attorney general, Ken Paxton, a conservative evangelical, aptly summed up the party line on guns in his statement after the tragedy: “This is going to happen again. I wish some law could fix all of this. All I can say is in Texas at least we have the opportunity to have conceal carry, so … there’s always the opportunity that a gunman will be taken out before he has the opportunity to kill very many people.”

One wonders how many of Paxton’s co-religionists will be murdered by homegrown domestic terrorists before he is convinced that there is anything we can do as a society besides carry handguns to church on Sundays.

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, who finds common cause with moderates on some issues, has thus far resisted considering gun control a pro-life issue.

In a sermonic commentary for The Washington Post, Moore discussed the Texas massacre in the context of persecution and the enemies of Christ attempting to stamp out his church.

It was beautiful and moving, but totally ignored the question of whether and how Christians should do anything at all to make these tragedies less likely to occur.

Perhaps we will find out that the shooter’s motive was to intimidate Christians in particular. But we may find that it was just a senseless act of violence.

Is there really nothing that can be done?

As long as an entire political party and its interest groups remain wedded to the insane idea that no new restrictions on handguns and assault weapons are necessary or permissible, then nothing will change.

So why can’t faith groups be leaders in moving us beyond our sick addiction to violence and military-grade weapons?

Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

The simple truth is that, while no law can prevent a specific mass shooting, commonsense measures can make them less likely overall.

This is not debatable. Truth-telling churches should proclaim this loudest of all!

Christians take the long view. They believe life is eternal. They of all people do not need to worry about being on the right side of history. But they should want to be on the right side of the truth.

There are things we can do to make these tragedies less commonplace.

How many more schoolchildren, concertgoers, family members and worshippers will be gunned down before we do something?

As long as white evangelicals support the National Rifle Association’s death grip on handgun and assault-weapon laws, the rest of American Christianity will not successfully advocate for change.

That’s the truth.

(The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

About the author

Jacob Lupfer

51 Comments

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  • No, No..I think the plan is to have more people pack heat in the pews…that’s the answer!

    Many probably also think that the Good Samaritan should have stopped, looked, thought a bit, said a prayer for a moment or two…then wandered off on his way, completely satisfied with himself.

  • The people who claim that nothing can be done to prevent these massacres are the very same people who refuse to face the obvious: we are the only country in the civilized world where this happens on a regular basis.

  • One small correction for Mr. Lupfer: theology is not a field of human knowledge. It’s is a field of human opinion based upon the human opinions of other humans. It is only adept at dealing with paradoxes because it does not actually deal with them.

    Here is a paradox that theology cannot deal with.

    Christianity claims it is the One True Faith. Islam claims it is the one True Faith. Both of them have have Holy books that declare that each is the One True Faith. Within each of those One True Faiths, there is a history of bloodshed, war, murder, and terrorism promulgated by parts of that One True Faith that declare that all of the other parts of that ONE True Faith do not have the One True Faith.

    What were you saying, Mr. Lupfer?

  • “Is there really nothing that can be done?” We in Australia did something after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. We have had no such incidents since. Zero. So you’re right – there is plenty that can be done, and American evangelicals must embrace that fact.

  • I hate to be satirical, but it occurred to me today that those of you who hate Christ and Christians (you know who you are), would rejoice at the death of these, your enemies.

  • I would disagree but at some level your response is probably similar in feeling – perhaps not rejoice but of no consequence – for families of other victims of gun crimes be they individual or mass shootings. And for some there is re-victimization. Families of Sandy Hook (and even survivors of Vegas) were harassed by people who believed it was a conspiracy to bring in gun control and never really happened.

    As an aside to another conversation, drug use relative to other companies? The US is in the middle of the pack which includes Australia, Canada, and the UK. And while the odds of being a gun homicide victim is very small, owning guns increases that risk by 4 while guns in the home increase the risk of suicide by 11. But gun homicide is still much higher than in other countries as well as mass shootings. This article looks at mass shooting probabilities on an international comparative basis (Yemen is number two – who would have thought) If you read it, you will further understand my Baal analogy (I think). https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/americas/mass-shootings-us-international.html?emc=edit_ta_20171107&nl=top-stories&nlid=67619887&ref=cta&_r=0

  • Doesn’t work in any country that’s got a 2nd Amendment and a USSC at the same time. Plus mass murderers don’t care about gun laws anyway, as we see in multiple countries (Sarin Gas and Japan, for example, or Fast Trucks and France.)

    Notice that Lupfer’s all complaining but he never actually offers any specific gun-control proposals himself.

  • Still waiting on a specific gun-control solution from you too.

    (These gun-controllers sure have a problem with offering specifics.)

  • You can wait until Jesus comes again.
    You’re not interested in specifics. Why bother? I’ve offered you specifics in the past, so many others have offered you specifics. you’re not interested. Your response is “Yeah. what about Chicago?” You’re not interested in anything but knee -JERK responses which basically say that if a liberal suggests it, it must be evil and wrong.
    Did I say you weren’t interested in specifics?

  • IMHO, the problem is human need for power. The 2nd Amendment, in some minds, gives each individual the ultimate power that belongs to the state–death. Ruling with death gives the ruler every means of coercion available. That’s why, as MLK stated, the oppressor never gives up power over the oppressed. It infiltrates the mind in such subtle ways such that we think that using death can be a good thing in the hands of a good person.

    We want to be the good person. We want to be the deliverer. We don’t want to be the vulnerable or the ruled. A gun gives each person the illusion of being completely self-ruled to the point of choosing life and death of others.

    Principally, for those in the norm of society, we want to be the ones who allow people to live, unless one violates that right through oppressing others in ways we find distasteful–usually, when it doesn’t benefit us. Those who oppress others do not have the restraint we have, so we think, so we must be the ones with ultimate power in order to regulate order on the whole for life. In effect, the gun gives us god-sized power to do what we would like to do. Few want to give it up. The 2nd Amendment, according to some says we don’t have to nor shouldn’t give it up.

    It comes with responsibility, of course, but the underlying belief is the responsibility to exercise the right. Not exercising the right makes us less than responsible as citizens. This is why it is so hard to convince others to allow society at large (legal authorities) to place some regulation on the use of guns.–human need for individual power over one’s own life.

  • “Notice that Lupfer’s all complaining but he never actually offers any specific gun-control proposals himself.”

    Here’s mine and its a zinger. Mandatory liability insurance for firearms. Take gun control out of the hands of government and leave it to the free market and 4th Amendment.

    “Plus mass murderers don’t care about gun laws anyway, as we see in
    multiple countries (Sarin Gas and Japan, for example, or Fast Trucks and
    France.)”

    All of which killed less people combined than the Las Vegas shooter.

  • Mandatory liability insurance for firearms. If you are interested I can elaborate from there.

    Best thing is it short circuits gun hoarding arguments, creates real incentives to responsible ownership, protects 2nd Amendment rights, puts a major dent in the “Iron Pipeline”, and involves a product ENDORSED BY THE NRA.

  • Not a bad analysis. But it ignores that the need to feel extra powerful often stems from the fears of being inadequate.

  • Wrong in China there were three mass killings in China with a knife, total dead, over 60. A man with a sword in that crowd could have killed HUNDREDS. Most people would have run instead of confronting him. A man with a truck also would have killed hundreds. Finally you don’t mention the worst mass shooting in the 20th Century. 30,000 dead. It was Tianamen square. In this case an armed government slaughtered protesters that were not armed. Someday, the Australian government is going to have a confrontation with the people, and since the people are not armed, they are going to kill a lot of people. Guns Help prevent the worst mass shooting of them all. An out of control government terrorizing its population.

  • Nobody mentions the worst mass shooting in the 20th Century. 30,000 dead. It was
    Tianamen square. In this case an armed government slaughtered
    protesters that were not armed.

    Nobody mentions that 6 million Jews went to their death because the government HAD ALL THE GUNS, and the Jews were not even allowed to own knives.
    The same in the USSR. How was Stalin able to Murder 10 million Khalaki?

    The reason this will not happen in this country is that the American people will fire back. Yes, even if confronted with machine guns, tanks, and Apache helicopters. The government REALIZES, the when push comes to shove, they can’t win when WE THE PEOPLE ARE ARMED.
    And Australia brags they don’t have mass shootings. Well someday, the Australian government is
    going to have a confrontation with the people, and since the people are
    not armed, they are going to kill a lot of Australians. Guns Help prevent the
    worst mass shooting of them all. An out of control government
    terrorizing its population.

    As Franklin said, you can have Freedom, or you can have Safety, but you can’t have both.

  • A very good point. Why not listen to helpful opinions such as this one? It is based on proven facts. I’m not American but I’m a Christian. And I’m wondering why would people whose hiding place is their God put more confidence in guns? AND GUNS TO THE HOUSE OF GOD? Sounds a lot like self-inflicted persecution. CHRISTIANS CARRY THEIR BIBLE to church, not guns. And they should be the first to support their government’s efforts to legislate against guns and arms proliferation. Time to move away from the binary and hostile them versus us, left versus right, liberal versus conservative mindset. Americans as one people should set aside their polarised arguments and it might serve them well to remember that anger and hatred have the capacity to destroy indiscriminately, irrespective of racial, gender & religious affiliations.

  • Mass shootings involve 4 or more victims. Only 2 died at the Monis siege and only 1 was shot by him, the other by police.

  • And this happens how often? To that magnitude? That is some real Irwin Mainway level mendacious exaggeration to claim any of it is on par with the alarming frequency and lethality of mass shootings. Tiannamen square is nobody’s definition of a mass shooting incident. Neither is Babi Yar or Malmedy.

    Get back to me when you stop trolling. I can’t take you seriously.

    That being said, mandatory liability insurance. Privatize gun regulation and take the issue out of the hands of big brother government.

    Btw people hoarding guns to protect themselves from the “big bad government” are extremist turds.they are declaring, they want to murder cops and be terrorists. Scr3w them and scr3w the NRA for pandering to such irresponsible nuts.

  • Given that there are 5 or 6 specific gun control policies that a majority of both parties agree on, that would be a start. Or Trump signing an Executive Order banning bump stocks as recommended in lieu of legislation post Vegas shooting.

  • Certainly Germany now has very restrictive gun legislation – its genesis was post WW2 – even police were not allowed to carry guns initially. Both registration and licensing are stringent. Saying the Holocaust happened because Jews were not allowed to own knives is a far, far stretch as an analogy against gun control that doesn’t hold water.

  • Thanks. I agree with “the need to feel extra powerful often stems from the fears of being inadequate.” In my mind that is what I am spelling out The human need for power is fear of death. No power equals death. But, if you didn’t see it in the writing then I probably need to make it more explicit.

    A mental exercise I have used for groups of addicts is telling the story of the man who encounters a bear. As he struggles in the clutches of the bear he feels his life draining away. In his weakness his hand falls on a rock. He picks up the rock and begins hitting the bear. The bear lets go and the man’s life is saved.

    The man was powerless until he reached for the rock. It was the rock that gave him the power. When we reach for something outside of ourselves we are admitting our powerlessness. Powerlessness is the natural human state. The need for power, and more power, is inherent in living. But we live in denial of that need and assume that any power we use comes from within us. Powerlessness equals inadequacy.

  • Charles Whitman was.

    I have yet to see an intelligent or honest poster as of late who used the term “Leftist”

  • So you are saying people like you need guns so they murder cops and act like terrorists.

    Rule of law and democracy being less important than projecting threats.

    Moreover many dictatorships are awash with armed citizenry. Not all of them oppose the government. In many times, as in Occupied Europe, USSR, China, El Salvador and Iraq, they become improvised death squads for the government. The “well regulated militia” of our second amendment.

  • Re: last paragraph, believe that would legally be considered treason as set out in the Constitution and asserted in court rulings – an irony in that it is the second used to justify unfettered gun use.

  • People fail to understand that a “well regulated militia” is meant to act in service of the government. Something to be invoked to quell unrest, not overthrow the government. In modern practice it would be more akin to “Death squads”, “Brownshirts”, or “The Committee for Public Safety”

  • I accept your admonition because I know your heart and spirit despite our theological differences; but there are others here that I can honestly confess I am not so certain about.

  • I thought I did understand your Baal analogy, and regard it as having a certain merit, but I will check the posted link you provided. (Update) After reading the balance of the article, I will not argue the numbers; but I will quibble with one point made in the article, that “the guns themselves cause the violence.” This is a logical fallacy. Guns as inanimate objects cannot “act” without being acted upon by another force with or without intent. An earthquake, or any other sudden jar, may cause a gun to fall from a given position and cause it to discharge and potentially strike someone; admittedly a rare and unlikely event. Otherwise guns are subject to the active will of a human agent. As the article points out the proliferation of guns presents the opportunity, and increases exponentially with the greater number. It may be said that guns are the proximate cause, but in actuality the cause lies in the human choice to use a gun, therefore the problem lies within us and needs to be addressed at that deeper level, because at the very foundation of things, barring guns will not alter the broken nature of humanity, something much more profound must take place.

  • Well, we have a squad of church members who are our “security ministry.” Naturally, it’s a secret to the rest of us who they are. Would I rather be shot by one of them by mistake or by a criminal by intent?

  • As long as the gun industry owns the conversation and the policy, there will be massacres everywhere. In America, the churches with the strongest voice in public policy are the ones who squirm when there is talk about new gun regulations. The most dominant form of American Christianity has succumbed to nationalism, wealth, and the flag. They accepted Satan’s offer to Jesus: Political power.

  • Assault rifles are very hard to get legally in this country, virtually impossible for a law abiding citizen to get. What more do you want? The NRA is not our enemy. They are only the enemy to those in the US who do not like the Constitution, such as Marxists and Communists. We have common sense gun laws now. They need to be enforced, we do not need more laws. Such as, with this Texas shooter, the Air Force dropped the ball on reporting and, if they’d done as they were supposed to, he wouldn’t have been able to have a legal weapon. Bible believing Christians understand that people are evil and want the opportunity to be able to defend themselves against those evildoers. Jesus is okay with that, hence, Him telling the disciples to sell their coat to buy a sword to protect themselves while they go out. “Luke 22:36 NASV And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.” We don’t want the bad guys to be the only ones who have access to guns because then good people are defenseless.

  • All of those depend on the state you live in. Many of those things are already done in many states. So some of them are already laws and some of them are unconstitutional.

  • I guess you can twist it that way, if you want. In actuality, nationalism comes from the Bible. “Acts 17:26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the BOUNDARIES of their habitation,…” (Caps mine, of course,) There are other verses too. Nationalism is Godly, globalism is not. Globalism is likened to the Tower of Babel. God has never wanted all of us to come together as one big group and work together. Read about the Tower of Babel and see what happens when people are working together as a group. Wealth? We’re not for wealth but do recognize that what we make we get to keep. See Commandments 8 and 10. The Bible also says, “2 Thess 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” The flag? Contrary to the lies of the Left, this country was based on Christian principles. This country was an experiment, one we are about to fail. We have been the free-est, most prosperous country ever. That is something to be proud of, hence, honoring our flag. We are grateful for the wonderful (albeit not perfect–that is only possible on the New Earth) country God has given to us.

  • What dictatorships are awash with armed citizenry? That has never been the case in history. We see it right now with Venezuelian citizens having been disarmed and soldiers shooting at citizens standing in their doorways as the soldiers walk down the streets.

  • Well, in America we do have a Constitution that gives us our God given rights, and one of those rights is the right to self-defense.

  • Funny, people who like guns actually like Police and aren’t terrorists. They are typically very responsible citizens with conceal carry permits.

  • No, you are wrong. The Founding Fathers had seen what the power of the government did. They were put in jail for speaking Biblical truths. They did not want to empower the government but the citizens. Read the Federalist Papers to learn exactly what they were thinking. Quit listening to the Liberal College Professors who twist history to be what they want it to be.

  • They became “government” you domestic terror loving fool. The Bible has no reference in our constitution.

    The second amendment was written to empower government with the aid of armed citizens. A well regulated militia in service of it. It’s written right there in black and white.

    “Read the Federalist Papers to learn exactly what they were thinking”

    True, but it’s clear you haven’t.

    “Quit listening to the Liberal College Professors who twist history to be what they want it to be.”

    They appear to be far better informed and capable of defending their points of view than home schooled cretins, who can only cite to one book they read cover to cover, but didn’t understand.

    I have yet to find conservatives who were well informed or honest in such subjects.

  • Yet they openly advocate arming themselves to kill police and commit domestic terrorism. They also support the illegal gun trade which puts police at risk to further those ends. Generally “good guys with guns” are far more likely to kill or injure someone through negligence and carelessness then anything socially redeeming.

    Responsible people aren’t arming themselves to protect from “government”. Police hating wannabe domestic terrorists are.

    They are hypocrites who profess a love of law and order, but despise it in private.

  • When one says “you need your guns to protect yourself from the government”, who do you think try intend to be shooting at here? How do you think they are planning to conduct themselves?

  • There is a big difference between “killing police and committing domestic terrorism” (which is what is going on now with BLM) and defending yourself if the government is after you. People living in the days of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Mao weren’t terrorists or killing police. They’d been disarmed and then rounded up just for disagreeing with their governments or because the government wanted their property, etc. Follows is a good article because it details out numerous reasons of why people were killed by their governments. http://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/04/world/major-soviet-paper-says-20-million-died-as-victims-of-stalin.html Conservatives have never wanted to kill police or commit domestic terrorism. They just want to be able to defend themselves.

  • “and defending yourself if the government is after you”

    Who do you think you would be shooting if you are doing so? Law enforcement officers. You are supporting a desire to be a domestic terrorist.

    Rule of law isn’t good enough for you nor a democratic society which rules by something other than might makes right. You want to prepare yourself to shoot cops while pretending to support them.

    Mao, Pol Pot and Hitler relied on armed citizens to carry out atrocities. To collaborate with them. They did not disarm the population as you claimed. They used death squads whipped up from the masses. Armed populations did not deter or impede any of them.

    If you are arming yourself against the government you are supporting a desire to be a domestic terrorist. A desire to murder law enforcement to redress your grievances. You can wrap test up with as much BS rhetoric as you want. But at the end of the day, you are practicing to kill cops and attack our civil institutions. Like any other terrorist.

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