“Pray for Kalamazoo,” we read on Facebook and Twitter. Prayer is vitally important, but is there more we can do?
As United Methodist Christians, we mourn with the families of those who were wounded and killed in the series of shootings in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Saturday, February 20. We pray for the gunman and his family and wonder if anything could have been done to avert these heinous acts.
But should we do more? Can we do more to keep something similar from happening in the future?
While we may not agree on a solution, many of us agree there is a problem. What can we do?
The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church contains our official positions on many issues, including gun violence. The statement, originally adopted in 2000 and revised and readopted in 2008, calls upon The United Methodist Church—which means you, me, and every member of our denomination—to do eleven things. (Read the resolution in its entirety here.)
1. Convene workshops
The Book of Resolutions calls us to bring together “clergy and mental health care professionals … to discuss ways by which The United Methodist Church should respond to this growing tragedy.” In order to be part of the solution, we need to research and understand the specific problems in our community. We need to work together to find creative solutions to stem the tide of violence.
2. & 3. Educate the community
We are called upon to teach “gun safety, violence prevention, adult responsibility around gun violence prevention, and the public health impact of gun violence.” We are to equip parents, members, and all in our community with steps they can take to make their homes safe, to lock and store their guns, and to deal with the dangers they may encounter.
We are also called to “identify community-based, state, and national organizations working on the issue of gun violence and seek their assistance to design education and prevention workshops around the issue of gun violence and its effect on children and youth.” In addition to creating helpful resources, this work facilitates cooperation among key players in the conversation.
4. 5. & 6. Advocate for regulation
Next, we are called to “develop advocacy groups within local congregations to advocate for the eventual reduction of the availability of guns in society.” While we may disagree about what those laws might be, we can agree to work to remove guns from the hands of those who have them illegally, and those who would use them to harm others.
The resolution further calls us to support federal legislation in the U.S. and to call upon other governments throughout the world to regulate the sale and possession of guns and ammunition.
7. and 8. Discourage promotion of gun usage
Sometimes gun usage is glorified in print media, movies, television, video games, and elsewhere. We are to call upon “the entertainment industry, to refrain from promoting gun usage to children” and to “discourage the graphic depiction and glorification of violence” in all media.
9. Assist victims
The Book of Resolutions then calls United Methodists to “call upon the federal and state governments to provide significant assistance to victims of gun violence and their families.” In addition to our thoughts and prayers, we want to provide physical, lasting relief to people who are grieving.
10. Name the sin and point to hope
Annual conferences of The United Methodist Church are to “make visible public witness to the sin of gun violence and to the hope of community healing.” As Christians, we are people of the resurrection. We know that systems, no matter how lost they appear, can be redeemed when we are willing to repent of our sin and submit to the healing power of Jesus Christ.
11. Provide weapon-free zones
The final statement in the resolution on gun violence states, “reflecting the traditional role of The United Methodist Church that has been one of safety and sanctuary, every United Methodist Church is officially declared a weapon-free zone.”
Our prayers should lead us to action.
We read in 2 Thessalonians 1:11, “We are constantly praying for you for this: that our God will make you worthy of his calling and accomplish every good desire and faithful work by his power” (CEB). We too pray for God to give us the wisdom and strength needed to fulfill the desires he has put within us for a world that is free from the violence of mass killings.
As United Methodists, this means getting involved in issues of gun violence, working to prevent events like those in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Saturday night, February 20.
by JOE IOVINO, United Methodist News Service