I’m pleased to announce a new initiative, coordinated by me and pastor/writer/blogger Katherine Willis Pershey, to provide a consistent Christian voice addressing gun violence and the need for more effective gun laws.
Conversing via Facebook in the days following the Sandy Hook massacre on December 14, 2012, Katherine and I became convinced of the need for a coordinated Christian response that would keep the issue of gun violence on our national agenda; nudge us to think about what Jesus’s life, words, and ministry might say about this particular public health crisis; and provide a simple way to engage with others in dialogue and advocacy.
We have created an informal coalition, called #ItIsEnough, for Christians concerned about gun violence and interested in advocating for stronger gun laws. We invite people to join our coalition. If, after reading the statements of theology, intent, and priorities below, you would like to join our coalition, please take these two simple steps:
1. “Like” the #ItIsEnough Facebook page, which will ensure that you receive our updates and can read and share the contributions of other coalition members.
2. On the 14th of each month, use some form of social media (Twitter, Facebook, a blog, etc.) to raise issues around gun violence and/or advocate for stronger gun laws. You are welcome to focus on any aspect of the problem and proposed solutions. Write a personal story, make an argument, link to an article that you found informative, explain why your Christian faith inspires you to advocate around gun violence, write a letter to your congressperson and invite your friends, followers, and readers to do the same—anything goes as long as it publicizes the terrible toll of gun violence and/or supports more effective gun laws and regulations.
3. Link your effort back to our coalition by using the #ItIsEnough hashtag and/or linking to the #ItIsEnough Facebook page
We believe that a model of personal and communal safety based primarily on self-protection, physical and firepower, and violent response to threats stands in opposition to the values preached and modeled by Jesus Christ.
The phrase #ItIsEnough comes from a story in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 22, in which Jesus, imminently threatened with a tortured execution, cautions his disciples against stockpiling and using weapons to protect him and themselves. When he asks his disciples if they have what they need to go out in the world preaching his message, a disciple mentions that they have two swords (for a dozen people). Jesus responds, “It is enough,” which implies that Jesus recognized a need for armed protection, but saw such protection as both limited and secondary to other ways to achieve personal and communal safety. Jesus, through his words, life, and ministry, showed that people and communities are made safe and whole through mutual dependence, sharing of resources, the offer and receipt of healing, repentance and forgiveness, and acts of care offered to all, including enemies, the poor, the sick, and those reviled by their culture.
#ItIsEnough also sums up the feeling that many of us who have cared about the issue of gun violence for years had upon learning of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012—enough is enough. It’s time to change our culture’s relationship with guns and enact stronger gun laws.
Also in Luke 22, one of Jesus’s disciples attempts to defend him from the Roman guards coming to arrest Jesus by using a sword to cut off a guard’s ear. Jesus replies to this act of armed self-defense by restoring the guard’s ear and warning that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. We see an echo of this idea in U.S. gun statistics, which show that a gun in the home is more likely to be used in a suicide, accidental shooting, or homicide than in self-defense. (Source: The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence)
As the National Council of Churches has said in a statement on gun violence, “We believe it is idolatry to trust in guns to make us secure,” because it is only through reliance on God and following Jesus Christ’s example of nonviolent, sacrificial, caring engagement with the world that we will truly be secure.
Statement of Intent and Priorities
While inspired to action by the mass murder of schoolchildren and educators on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, #ItIsEnough members are concerned about all gun violence, including suicide, homicide, accidental shootings, and gun-related injuries, believing that the God of peace and healing calls us to protect all human lives from the threat of violent death and injury.
#ItIsEnough members support stronger gun laws that hold promise for limiting the risk of violent injury and death via suicide, accident, and homicide, including universal background checks for gun purchases; licensing, registration, and waiting periods to allow comprehensive background checks and cooling-off periods, for all guns sold; banning of semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines; technology to allow law enforcement agencies to trace guns used in crimes; and education around gun safety, responsible gun ownership, and the public health crisis enabled by an inadequately regulated U.S. gun market.
Aware that gun violence and stronger gun laws have not been priorities on our national agenda for a number of years, #ItIsEnough encourages Christians to raise these issues via social media monthly, on the 14th day of each month. We aim to ensure that our leaders and citizens do not forget the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the thousands of other victims of gun violence each year, and continue to work toward stronger gun laws to lessen this toll of injury and death.
If you’re new to the blog, here are a few of my previous posts on gun violence: