“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.’” (Matthew 26:52)
Last week, anyone with a television or Web-enabled device could have viewed a double murder by handgun. Two young people, in the prime of their lives, were cut down on live video while doing their jobs for a Roanoke, Virginia, news program.
This latest multiple shooting incident is, like every other, tragic and saddening. If there is anything redeeming in the deaths of Allison Parker and Adam Ward, it’s that the romantic mystique surrounding gun assaults has been lifted. Just about anyone that wants to see what a gun attack really looks like can now do so. It occurred so swiftly that virtually nothing could have prevented it.
This is what makes gun violence different from other means of taking innocent life. Firearms make the act of killing quick and sterile for the perpetrator, while giving the victims little to no options for escape.
Perhaps these killings, seen now by countless people, will garner the attention they deserve. The video is disturbing, as it should be. The underlying reality should be equally disturbing. There is a moral disease rampant in American culture—and it is being fueled by the proliferation of guns and ammunition.
As a missionary minister, I’ve traveled to 41 countries. Not one of them has the almost routine, non-war-related multiple murder sprees that we have in the U.S. They also do not have the liberal access to guns like we do. I love my country, and can’t wait to get back after a trip abroad, but I realize our American culture has a serious flaw.
As a Christian, I know the solution to violence is something other than an eye-for-eye—or a gun for a gun. At times like this, there are many voices that will call for more guns and more shooting, but that’s not a Christian solution.
In one of many stories, it was two Christian leaders—one Catholic and one Evangelical—that ended New York’s plague of public violence in the early 19th century made famous in the 2002 film, Gangs of New York. The film ends inconclusively, but the real story was different. When frustrated political leaders turned to the clergy to ask what could be done, the answer was simple: “Teach people their religion.” A Catholic bishop and a Methodist preacher did just that, and the bloodbath ended.
My fellow pastors, denominational and ministry executives, youth workers, counselors, theologians, Bible teachers, evangelists, along with representatives of other faith communities, must lead the way in bringing peace to the troubled heart of our magnificent country. We must examine afresh what it means for society to be awash in lethal weapons.
To set this right, we will need moral courage, relentless faith, and a willingness to challenge those that pessimistically say the only way to cure violence is with violence. That has not worked in the past, it is not working now, and it will not work in the future.
Everyone wants a safer and healthier country, for us, for our children, and for our grandchildren. Curbing the number and availability of guns and bullets is just one of many ways to achieve that worthy goal.
Church leaders have been silent too long. It is past time to speak, to act, and to lead.
“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:12)
Rev. Rob Schenck is an evangelical minister to top government officials in Washington, D.C. He is president of the National Clergy Council, chairman of the Evangelical Church Alliance, and a Senior Fellow with the Oxford Centre for the Study of Law and Public Policy. Rev. Schenck is the subject of a feature-length documentary on gun violence, The Armor of Light, directed by Abigail Disney, and scheduled for theatrical release on October 30.