Despite such terminology as “fiscal cliff” and “debt ceiling,” the great debate taking place in Washington now has relatively little to do with financial issues. It is all about ideology. It is all about economic winners and losers in American society. It is all about the power of Big Money. It is all about the soul of America.
In America today, we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth, and more inequality than at any time period since 1928. The top 1 percent owns 42 percent of the financial wealth of the nation, while, incredibly, the bottom 60 percent own only 2.3 percent. One family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. In terms of income distribution in 2010, the last study done on this issue, the top 1 percent earned 93 percent of all new income while the bottom 99 percent shared the remaining 7 percent.
The White House is considering proposals to reduce gun violence that go far beyond “simply reinstating an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition,” according to the Washington Post. People of faith should back these efforts and work with President Obama to make our neighborhoods, schools, malls, streets and houses of worship safer.
The proposals under consideration by a task force led by Vice President Biden would, according to the paper, “require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors.” These are all positive steps.
People of faith have long been advocates for sensible gun control measures that prevent violence and protect individual liberties. The National Council of Churches adopted a resolution in 2010 re-affirming the church’s long standing view on gun control, while acknowledging that not all Christians are of the same mind of this difficult issue that has pitted concepts of personal freedom against public safety.
The resolution noted, in part:
It is difficult to imagine that the One whose own Passion models the redemptive power of non-violence would look favorably on the violence of contemporary U.S. society. Present-day violence is made far worse than it otherwise would be by the prevalence of weapons on our streets.
And that many Christians believe it to be “idolatry to trust in guns to make us secure, since that usually leads to mutual escalation while distracting us from the One whose love alone gives us security.”
Christians are not alone in calling for measures to protect our society. The Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism has issued an action alert, which states:
The recent tragedy in Newtown, CT is a tragic reminder that over 30,000 Americans die each year as a result of gun violence. The number and severity of violent shootings in recent years can only be described as an epidemic. We are inspired by a Jewish tradition that emphasizes the sanctity of human life, and commands us to turn weapons of destruction into tools for the greater good of society. It is imperative that President Obama and Congress take action to advance sensible gun control laws, including taking assault weapons off of our streets and improving our system of background checks.
No longer can we do nothing or simply do what seems possible.
The national officers of the United Church of Christ were correct when they said after Sandy Hook:
As we grieve we are aware that this kind of tragedy happens over and over again in this country where for some the gun has become God. We must renew our efforts to control guns and thereby prevent violent tragedies such as this. We must learn how to place our trust in God, not in arms. We must turn swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.
We need boldness from our leaders now. Too many Americans die each day, and so many of them are children. The evidence of our times must be changed, as William Sloane Coffin once argued, so that our reality changes. Even the most modest reform proposals will face push back from the NRA and their allies on Capitol Hill. Yet this is a campaign that can be won. In the end, I believe that the NRA will find out that the Rev. Canon Gary R. Hall, Dean of the National Cathedral, was correct when he said: “I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.”Rev. Chuck Currie