Tomorrow marks the one week anniversary of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. and clergy members plan to mark it at the Washington National Cathedral. Religious leaders from all faiths will start a campaign of support for gun control in front of the Cathedral, timed to coincide with the moment the gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook elementary. The Cathedral’s bell will toll 28 times, once for each victim: 20 children, 6 teachers, the shooter’s mother and the gunman himself.
The clergy have vowed to exhort their congregants to push for gun control laws and to support politicians who are willing to stick their necks out on this issue and challenge the gun lobby. The group says that the time has come for more than prayer and counseling and comforting the victims of these horrible shootings.
The congregation of the National Cathedral was moved to applause last Sunday as the dean of the Cathedral, the Very Rev. Gary Hall, delivered an impassioned sermon. “Everyone in this city seems to be in terror of the gun lobby. But I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby,” he said, creating a rallying cry for the new movement. The Rev. Hall added in an interview that he and his colleague, Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, have come up with specific remedies for parishioners – and others – to support: bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, tightening rules for sales at gun shows and re-examining care for the mentally ill.
[To watch the video of the sermon, click here.]
This isn’t new territory for the clergy, since they have been giving eulogies for victims of gun violence for a long time. The past thirty years have seen increased involvement as religious leaders have tried to create a grassroots drive against gun violence. But their self-professed “weak efforts” have been unable to prevail over the powerful gun lobby. However, many clergy have seen a stirring since last Friday and feel this could be “a watershed moment” for this issue. Jim Winkler of the United Methodist Church’s public policy arm sent an “action alert” out to bishops and church leaders last week and was surprised to receive letters thanking him profusely for doing so.
“I could tell there was this real need, real hunger, at least in my denomination, for there to be some response that is not only prayers and expressions of sadness, but also a call to action,” Mr. Winkler said. (Source)
Religious groups that sent out similar calls for action this past week include Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the PICO National Network, an advocacy group, and many Jewish organizations. But most evangelical groups are resistant to such actions, not wanting to “break ranks” with the anti-gun control Republican party – only 37% of white evangelical Christians supported the idea of gun control in a poll taken this past week.
The president of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Rev. Leith Anderson, said that his group had never taken a position on gun control before but now they may “take a harder look.” He pointed out that a rarely read part of the Christmas story is King Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, saying:
“Mary and Joseph fled. It’s a part of the story, and they took decisive action. This is now a part of our story and we need to take decisive action.” (Source)
If you live in the Washington D.C. area and would like to attend the event, check with the National Cathedral at (202) 537-6200 or email them at [email protected]