Advent Declaration on Gun Violence
On December 10, 2015, pastors and leaders in the church from throughout the US met to express grief that we need to lead our congregations over and over in worship services of lament for senseless deaths from guns. We recognize that this is a particular cultural issue woven into our American society. A spirit of fear, enmity, racial prejudice, distrust, and violence is tragically normal in our way of life. We believe this is contrary to the gospel, and so we say, "Enough of this. No more." There is something seriously wrong with our way of life if we tolerate violence in our society. We believe God is calling us to stop this accelerating, downward spiral of destruction. There is an urgent need for followers of the Prince of Peace to challenge the easy use of guns in our society.
Therefore, this Advent, we commit ourselves to the following implications of the call of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as we understand it:
- We advocate for greater restraint and stricter controls on the private use of guns. "O Lord, in you we take refuge" (Ps 7:1). "Alas for those who trust in chariots…but do not look to the Holy One of Israel" (Is 31:1). "All who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Mt 26:52). Therefore,
- we renounce the advocacy by Christians for civilians' use of deadly force against people.
- we confess, repent of, and work to surmount the tragedy of daily terrorism inflicted upon victims of discrimination, racism, and prejudice in our society.
- we call for restraint by our police in their use of lethal weapons.
- we call for gun practice ranges to end the use of human shaped targets.
- we call on our governments to implement the comprehensive prohibition of civilian ownership of assault-type guns.
- we commit to exercise pastoral care toward all who have been emotionally harmed by guns as victims, or by their own use of deadly force against others as civilians, police, or military.
- We accept the way of the cross. "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?" (Mt 16:24-26). Therefore,
- we renounce the use of guns for self-defense, not because to do so is practical or because God guarantees our safety, but because we believe it's right and it's the call of Jesus.
- we accept that the way of non-violent resistance to evil involves danger and risk, but also accept that the way of the cross is the path to the joy and peace of the Kingdom.
- we follow the way of the cross because all authority belongs to Jesus, God will never leave or forsake us, and God will reconcile all things in Christ.
- We take up the armor of the Spirit. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord" (Zech 4:6). "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God" (Eph 6:10). Therefore,
- we trust in the truth of God's faithfulness—and stand in prayer against the powers of darkness in our society, homes, and even places of worship that feed fear, hostility, and violence.
- we clothe ourselves in the righteousness of Christ—and refuse to see ourselves as more virtuous or worthy than others who equally share in the image of God.
- we put on the shoes of peace—and walk into places of conflict and fear as ambassadors of the gospel of peace.
- we take up the shield of faith—and defend ourselves by the trustworthiness of God.
- we wear the helmet of salvation—and refuse to entertain thoughts that distract us from Jesus' life of unconditional love.
- we bear the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God—and proclaim to all God's steadfast love.
- We seek the justice that makes for peace. "The fruit of justice will be peace; the result of justice will be quietness and trust forever" (Is 32:17). Therefore,
- we repent of ways our ancestors and we have exploited, abused, or demeaned others—and commit ourselves to make life right as steps toward reparations.
- we engage in actions of focused deterrence—and work with law enforcement and civic organizations to diminish gun violence.
- we reject the notion that reconciling peace comes through violence—and work for all people to experience the relational, educational, and economic opportunities necessary to flourish.
- We pursue love for our enemies. "I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" (Lk 6:27). Therefore,
- we recognize the full weight of this command—Jesus spoke it to people whose nation was occupied by an oppressive, tyrannical foreign power who mocked their faith.
- we refuse to demonize anyone—whether those who inflict violence, or those who, even in the name of Christian faith, advocate for it. We are all children in the image of God.
- we obey Jesus' simple strategies of love: refusing to hate in return, unilaterally forgiving those who harm us, doing good to people who oppose us, and continually praying for God to bless all people, even those who treat us as enemies.
- We are confident that the goodness of God defeats evil and injustice. "So far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord.' So, 'if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap coals on their heads.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom 12:18-21). Therefore,
- we reject the personal use of deadly force.
- relying on God's grace, we commit to lead our faith communities in acts that do good toward enemies, for they are the strongest witness to God's love and defeat of evil, the most compelling contributor to the transformation of our enemies, the best way to de-escalate violence, and the path to build communities of peace where all can flourish as beloved children of God.
If you would like to add your name to this declaration, send in your name and city. See the names of others who have signed the Declaration.