This Is Your Moment to Stand Up Against Gun Violence

Bart Worden, the Executive Director of the American Ethical Union – the national organization coordinating the work of the nation’s Ethical Culture Societies (non-theistic communities dedicated to ethical action) – made the following statement yesterday in the wake of Friday’s shootings:

The tragedy of the killings in Newtown Connecticut on December 14th is unspeakable. What could be more chilling than the intentional killing of innocents? You are shocked and appalled, shaken to your core. Remember this feeling and do not let it go.

Think of your own children sitting in their classrooms, think of your neighbors’ kids waiting at the bus stop, think of the millions of children throughout the country who will be returning to school on Monday. Get inside their heads and their hearts.

Think about the world you want them to see – and think about how painfully far we are from that world at this moment.

If you are against violence and for peace this is your moment. This is your time to come forward, to step up, to sound out and make yourself seen and heard. Do not be dissuaded or deterred, stand tall, stand proud. Shout loud and long. Don’t stop shouting. You will not be alone. You will not be alone if you act right now. You will not be alone if you go, right now, into the street to demand attention, to insist that you be heard. We are with you.

If you are against limiting access to firearms, if you are working to get legislation passed to make it easier to get guns and carry them–this could be your moment. This could be your wake-up call to alert you that you have been on the wrong path, that your efforts have led to tragedy, that it is time to turn it around. Your guns are not protecting you and they certainly are not protecting us. Let’s make it harder, not easier, to get access to lethal force. This is your chance to be a part of the solution. Back off. Stop pestering your elected officials, come join us in the streets–it’s not too late for you.

If you are a hunter or shoot guns for sport, this could be your moment, too. It’s all about priorities. Are your needs to have and use guns so great that the entire country has to mold itself to those needs? Are you willing, in the name of justice, to curtail your own access to firearms to promote the greater good for all? If so, come forward. Speak about your love of country and your desire to be a good citizen and how that desire leads you to agree that it is time to severely limit access to firearms. Come join us and we’ll march shoulder to shoulder.

In the end we all want the same things – opportunity to live a good life and freedom to do so. We have a lot more in common than you might think.

It is time. See you out there.

I was also struck by the following quote from Ethical Culture Founder Felix Adler’s Life and Destiny:

The fact that there is a spiritual power in us, that is to say, a power which testifies to the unity of our life with the life of others, which impels us to regard others as other selves — this fact comes home to us even more forcibly in sorrow than in joy. It is thrown into clearest relief on the background of pain.

I have found myself, in the past three days, powerfully confronted by the reality of our connection to other people, and by the responsibilities that connectedness engenders. Let us strive to never forget that others are indeed other selves.

About James Croft

James Croft is the Leader in Training at the Ethical Culture Society of St. Louis - one of the largest Humanist congregations in the world. He is a graduate of the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and is currently writing his Doctoral dissertation as a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is an in-demand public speaker, an engaging teacher, and a passionate activist for human rights. James was raised on Shakespeare, Sagan and Star Trek, and is a proud, gay Humanist. His upcoming book "The Godless Congregation", co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Greg Epstein, is being published by Simon & Schuster.

  • Kim

    Such a profound statement made by Cesar’s message below that I felt compelled to forward this and share with all. Please take time to read his take on the tragedy that took place in Newtown, CT.

    As an aside: I was angry with the news media that hounded on stronger gun control last night because of the tragic incident in CT and had politicians patting themselves on the back for have a gun collection in Baltimore, MD. They were very proud that they had over 400 guns turned in to a church in exchange for $100 gift cards to a local grocery store. As the camera panned down the line of people that were turning the guns in, it was a respectable group of responsible citizens that were turning the guns in. It was not the gang members and thugs that were in that line. How is it to be that these responsible individuals may not now have weakened their ability to prevent becoming the next victims as they have lessened their ability to protect themselves from evil that might invade their home otherwise? There was not one word mentioned about gaming control or having less gruesome graphics in our tv shows, movies or video games to prevent desensitizing our society to the reality of such actions as gunning a real person down in cold blood.

    We the people of this great nation need to remember as said by Cesar below, the three fundamentals: Trust, Respect, and Love. The guns were not what caused this tragedy. It was the lack of the three fundamentals in the person the did this horrible act that is to carry the blame.

    We echo the sentiments that Cesar presented below that our prayers and sympathy are with the victims of Friday’s tragedy and hope for peace to all this message touches.

    Lessons from Tragedy
    My prayers and sympathy are with the victims of Friday’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Words cannot explain what happened or undo what is done. They can only help us to find some sort of understanding. But we have to ask the right question. We should not be wondering, “Why would somebody do this?” Instead, we should be asking, “How can we stop it from happening again?”

    When I am working with people and their dogs, I remind them of three fundamentals: Trust, Respect, and Love. Without all three, it is impossible to have a balanced relationship with your dog. The same is true of human society. Take any one of those three things away, and the other two won’t work. Society itself becomes unbalanced.

    Trust and respect without love can lead to resentment; trust and love without respect can lead to contempt; respect and love without trust can lead to strife. In order to have all three, we must approach the world — dog or human — with Honesty, Integrity, and Loyalty.

    You’ve probably heard the saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” which is attributed to Gandhi. While this is true, it isn’t exactly what he said. I think his actual words are even more fitting: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”

    It would be wonderful if we could make a wish or wave a magic wand and have the world “fixed” instantly, but things don’t happen that way.
    The change does begin with us, but we have to be persistent and consistent in order for it to become the big wave that changes the world.

    For one thing, we must remember to always treat each other with the dignity that we each deserve. We must allow each other our little human failings, and be tolerant of our little human differences — which are far less than our similarities. We must learn to listen to each other and, more importantly, actually hear each other.

    If we do change ourselves, the tendencies in the world will change. But we have to make that commitment to change, starting within our own circles and letting it move outward. Become trustworthy by being honest; respected by always acting with integrity; loved by showing unwavering loyalty.

    Most importantly, take a moment, today and every day, to tell your family and friends how much you love them, and always take the time to enjoy how precious every moment together with them is.