In the wake of Newtown, what should Christians do?

In the aftermath of a massacre such as the one that occurred Friday in Newtown, is it helpful for Christians to do anything other than pray and offer comfort to those who have been affected by the violence?

I ask this question because there are credible Christians leaders saying that now is the time to deal with the root causes of gun-related violence and violence committed by people who may be mentally unbalanced, while other Christian leaders are saying that it is wrong to bring up these issues in the immediate aftermath of such a deeply disturbing event.

I might incline toward the second view if this were the first shooting of this kind, but at this point, the mass public shooting is a well-established trope in American life. Repeated exposure tends to move one from grief to outrage more quickly. One has an increasing sense that one is responsible for what one sees. For me, then, calls to prayer seem incomplete when not accompanied--or followed in short order--by calls to other sorts of action. That s may say more about me than it does about the situation, but there it is.

I am wondering what others think. Is this a time that should be strictly devoted to mourning, prayer and giving comfort, or is it also permissible to acknowledge the political dimension of these shootings, and to urge action against the root causes?

Comments (8)

The latter, Jim. There's no time like the present, and I said as much in my sermon today.

Why is this even a question?

Adam Lanza could never have killed so many children were it not for his access to assault weapons. This is an evil that cries out for remedy.

If faith leaders do not speak out now, when will they? How many dead 6-year-olds will it take to make us come to our senses?!

Timely calls to get assault weapons off the streets. Why no calls to get the drones out of the sky when they've murdered 176 children in Pakistan recently? We do not blow up homes and apartment houses in the USA (or Europe) to kill suspected malefactors; somehow it's okay when the targeted persons are brown, Muslim, distant, and unknown. (Their crime often isn't attacking the US, but opposing US policies and actions in their own countries.) Where are the newspaper stories naming our victims, showing their faces, mourning their lives? No excuses for the kid with the rifle in Newtown; what excuse for the perpetrators of the Kill List in DC?

Murdoch, you've just engaged in the "X? But What About Y?!" rhetorical device.

Their collective effect tends to ensure that neither X *nor* Y get acted upon.

JC Fisher

The Presiding Bishop herself unwittingly made the connection to the hiding of the bloody side of war from Americans when she said, "Given what happened in Connecticut on Friday, is there a place for a precise, even surgical, strike against gun violence?" The notion of the so-called surgical strike became popular in the media coverage of the Gulf War. The idea that violence can be justified or at least presented as clean desensitizes people. Violence is never pretty and should be condemned whoever does it. One must never feel good about resorting to violence--even as self-defense.

Gary Paul Gilbert

And perhaps another question: what are we going to do with the violent mentally ill other than put them in jail? Huff Post had an essay from the mother of a future killer. She knows it--he's attacked her already and promises death anytime he doesn't get what he wants. He has a high IQ and is manipulative. Her family lives in fear, but the authorities have told her that all she can do is hope he gets locked in jail for a lesser crime before the worst happens,which I've heard from other people with mentally ill family memebers. Apparently she lives in an area without a state sanitarium,etc.,but that isn't that uncommon anymore. Dealing with guns is one part of it, but if Lanza'd killed 10 with a knife it would still be a tragedy.

Chris Harwood

JC Fisher: There is mass murder going on all around us. To ignore all the Ys shooting up the street to focus on the X in your living room is natural, but also obtuse and, depending on what you might reasonably be expected to know, hypocritical. Few of us bear direct responsibility for Newtown; all US citizens are complicit in the deaths of countless Arabs abroad.

Perhaps you can accomplish something by focusing on X -- I hope so. Y is a bigger issue. Both have been untouchable because of the profits of the industries that promote them.

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