Here's something your congregation can do: Pray and act!
Like so many of you in church on Sunday, we spent much of our worship praying for comfort and peace for the families devastated by the gun shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. We prayed and we cried as we read the names of the victims, but we also did something more: We decided we had had enough.
Now, my congregation, like many of yours, is not of one mind when it comes to access to guns; we have disagreements. Yet, after this tragedy, we know that regardless of where we stand on access to guns, all of us know there are simple things that Congress can do — must do — to prevent gun violence and more senseless tragedies.
My congregation asked me to put together a letter, which is included here, that we will send to President Obama asking that meaningful action be taken. My pastor has pledged to keep the letter in the church foyer every week, will ask people to sign it, and then we will send it in until Congress takes action — no matter how long it takes. And this is what it will take.
My question to you, as we celebrate the gift of life that we have in Jesus this Christmas: Will you and your congregation do the same? Please let me know if your congregation does this too, so we can work together to ensure fewer gun violence tragedies in the future.
The letter follows:
Dear Mr. President,
I write to you joining you and the rest of the country in grieving for yet another gun shooting, this time at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Tragically, 27 people were shot and killed, with 20 of those being children. I know we as a nation mourn this tragic loss of life and we pray for comfort and healing for the families devastated by this senseless violence.
I deeply appreciate the statement you made immediately following this tragedy when you said: "As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it's an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."
I hope as you begin your second term that preventing senseless gun violence will be a high priority for you and for Congress. Your leadership is crucial in addressing this issue. As a follower of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, I want to live in a society that gives less easy access to weapons, especially those such as assault weapons that can cause widespread death and destruction. What's more, those who might be inclined to violent actions should not have access to guns at all.
Therefore, I ask you to focus on two things:
1. Make gun ownership a more responsible process with universal background checks no matter where the gun is purchased.
2. Reinstate a vigorous ban on assault weapons.
We must make services that determine and treat mental illness more accessible to all who need them. Mental illness must no longer be hidden, but should be something openly discussed so that those who suffer receive the help they need.
We as a nation have been through this kind of tragedy too often. It is time for this senseless gun violence to be addressed and for sensible solutions to be implemented. I strongly urge you to resist individuals, groups or forces that want to sweep this conversation under the rug and do nothing to prevent this kind of tragedy again. To honor the life of those who were killed in Newtown we must take meaningful action! We must protect peoples' lives! We must stop gun violence!
I hope you will join with my congregation, Culmore United Methodist Church in Virginia and do the following:
1. Write your letter and invite others in your congregation to sign it each week.
2. Mail it to President Obama (and this will change to your Representative and Senators when legislation is sent to Congress) at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500.
Our children are too important for us to do nothing or to allow others to sweep this away. We must do something to make gun ownership a more responsible process and prevent any kind of access to assault weapons at all.
Join with me and with my congregation and let's determine that we will not stop until these tragedies no longer occur. Print the letter and send it to President Obama.