Several years ago, when my then 27-year-old son was preparing to sail a 42-foot sailboat around the world, concerned friends and family members asked the inevitable question: will he keep a gun onboard? It’s not uncommon for ocean-crossing sailors to carry guns as a defense against pirates, but there’s an ongoing debate. Some people consider it unthinkable to head for the high seas without a gun; others say the pirates will always have bigger guns, so it’s safest for small-time boaters to just raise their hands in surrender. My son and his sailing companion intentionally charted a course that bypassed the most pirate-infested waters and chose not to take a gun, as I hoped they would.
Yes, I was very concerned for my son’s safety. But I hate guns. Even my grandsons know that when they’re at my house, the pretend guns they fashion from tree branches and broom handles can only shoot hugs and kisses. Or peace and love. Yeah, I know, I’m extreme. But I hate guns. I didn’t used to. Once I actually shot skeet off the back of a boat in the middle of Lake Michigan, and I was pretty good. But during the last two decades I’ve spent a lot of time in war zones: Bosnia, Croatia, Rwanda, Congo, the Middle East. And now I hate guns. Maybe I’m irrational; or maybe I’ve just seen too much pain and death.
There are people I know and love who keep guns in their homes for self-defense. Some of them are extremely opposed to any of the gun controls currently being proposed. They are good people. Loving people. God-fearing people. They will probably wish I weren’t writing this blog. Undoubtedly, some people from the very diverse congregation at my church will also wish I weren’t writing this. After all, a survey released just last week reveals that 57 percent of white evangelicals live in homes where someone owns a gun. (Clearly they don’t hate guns the way I do.) Even after 20 first graders died at the hands of a madman with an assault rifle, 59 percent of white evangelicals continue to oppose tighter restrictions on gun laws.
I know some people are really concerned about Second Amendment rights and about the slippery slope of government control. I know guns don’t kill people; it takes a person to pull that deadly trigger. I know Chicago’s tough gun laws haven’t prevented violent people from sneaking guns into Chicago and killing 40 people in the last month alone. I know that, ultimately, only a spiritual transformation, not stricter laws, can root out the evil violence in the human heart.
But still. Still. I think stricter gun control makes sense. I think Congress must do something to better protect our children. That’s why I’m grateful to the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism for initiating an Interfaith Call-in Day to Prevent Gun Violence. The call-in day is next Monday, February 4. Go to www.faithscalling.org to find out how you can let your Senators and Representatives know your thoughts on gun control.
Those who have signed on to this initiative, including myself, recognize that people of strong faith and good will have differing perspectives on gun control. We invite you to learn about the issues at www.faithscalling.org and call on Monday, February 4, in support of those policies that you can authentically embrace.
I’ve learned today that the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is encouraging Southern Baptists to share their views on gun violence prevention with Congress on February 4, as well. So Monday could be a busy day on the phone lines and an important day for the prevention of gun violence. Together, let’s lift our voices!