In a letter to his diocese, Bishop James Mathes of San Diego voiced opposition to the National Rifle Association’s proposal to put an armed person in every American school. The bishop writes:
It has been one sorrow-filled week since shots rang out in Shady Hook Elementary School leaving twenty children and six adults dead. In that week, the mourning of a community has been omnipresent in our news as a nation tries to find a way to respond.
Our president has called for meaningful action and has tasked the vice president to lead that work. And today, the NRA, through its vice president, has called for an armed policeman in every school. To quote: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Fewer statements underscore the limited thinking and blind devotion to tools made to kill. I wonder what will be the spiritual and psychic cost to a whole generation raised in armed schools. What will happen next? Demented assailants with bullet proof vests followed by a shootout between “bad guys” and “good guys?” Who will fall in the cross fire? Who will be blamed then?
As followers of the Prince of Peace, we must reject calls for escalation and greater weaponry. We are called to a different mind, “the mind of Christ” and to articulate a different vision for the human family:
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more Micah 4:3
In his book, Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street Jim Wallis tells of his experience attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2008, where the media’s relentless question at daily press conferences was “when will this end?” When will the economic turmoil and the instability end? Wallis, when asked this question, responded that we were asking and answering the wrong question. He suggested that we should ask, “How will we be changed by this?” As we ponder what to do in the wake of a national tragedy that has shaken us to the core, we should ask this same question, “How will we be changed by this?”
We should go to our scriptures which call us to disarm rather than re-arm. We should go to our values which move us to seek understanding. We should be a people of forgiveness, which always means giving up something. The families of Shady Hook have given up way too much. Can we give up a culture that promotes and glorifies violence? Can we give up Rambo, Bourne, and such? Can we please give up our guns? Let us beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning-hooks. Let us be changed by this in a way that brings the Peaceable Kingdom closer.
The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego