Christian leaders call on pastors, parents to be 'winds of change' in gun debate

(Photo: Ecumenical News)

Christian leaders over the weekend called on pastors and parents to be the "winds of change" in the debate on gun violence that create a political climate for gun reform legislation to pass.

Christian ministers on Saturday were among a group of faith leaders who participated in a panel discussion at the Washington National Cathedral on how the faith community could play in a role in reducing gun violence. The event was part of observances to mark Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend March 14-17, organized by Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, a group urging Congress to approve tougher gun laws in the country.

"Pastors and parents are the ones who will have to change this because Washington and Congress is way behind the country on this one," said Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners and a leading gun reform advocate in the Christian community.

"You don't change a nation unless you change the wind. Our job is to change the wind to make his [Senator] job easier. People of faith are wind changers."

Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the National Cathedral, who presided over Saturday's call of action and national panel, acknowledged that it would not "not an easy task."

"We're in this for the long hall. It's a vital and national ministry," he added."

Faiths United Against Gun Violence chair James Winkler said his group sent a letter to Congress last month urging them to pass gun reform legislation. He was pleased that the U.S Senate Judiciary Committee is sending several bills on tougher gun laws to the Senate floor and encouraged ministers to keep up the pressure.

"It's the clergy and laity here today...we're the ones who bury those who have their lives needlessly taken from those who slaughter. We insist it's time to take action," said Winkler, who has served as the general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.

The Senate will be taking up bills that would crack down on gun trafficking, ban assaults weapons, restrict the size of gun magazines, and impose a universal backgrounds check on all gun sales. 

Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said gun law reform is necessary due to this sobering statistic: From now and until tomorrow, 86 Americans will die from gun violence, eight of them children.

"That is simply acceptable. It is immoral to try to not to stop that death toll," he said. "We need to make sure none of us are part of that problem. We must also stand up so that others are not shot down."

During one of one of the panel discussions Saturday, Van Hollen reported that the Speaker of the House is waiting to see what comes out of the Senate, and there wasn't much action in terms of gun reform legislation in the House right now.

Bishop of Washington Mariann Edgar Budde, who moderated the interfaith panel discussion between Christian, Muslim and Sikh leaders, said she found this Bible verse to be relevant in the gun debate: "Blessed are the peacemakers."

In his Sunday sermon, Rev. Hall said it is the role of the church to help make a world where " all God's precious children will be safe from violence in all its forms."

"Gun violence will continue to be a religious problem as long as people like you and me are sinners," said Hall. "We need to work together to lessen the occurrence of gun deaths not because people are evil but because we're neither as smart nor invulnerable as we like to think ourselves. We need each other to make our way through life. That's what society, that's what the church, is all about."

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