Between Thursday evening and Sunday on July 4 weekend, 82 people were shot in the city of Chicago. Of those, 14 died. Those numbers—from one American city over the course of a single weekend—represent more gun violence than some developed countries experience in an entire year.
A new report from the CDC showed that guns killed 32,351 people in America in 2011 alone. That’s 88 deaths every single day.
Every 16 minutes for an entire year, someone was killed by a gun.
But this isn’t just about numbers.
This isn’t just about legislation.
This isn’t just about your opinion on gun ownership.
This is about brokenness.
When a country with the resources, wealth, power and influence of the United States becomes increasingly notorious for its gun violence, something is badly broken. If the Church is called to be the Body of Christ, then it’s our job to recognize what’s broken and seek restoration.
The Problem With the Gun Discussion
Part of the problem for Christians is that guns have become a divisive issue, not just in American culture but, heartbreakingly, also in the Church. We live in a culture where churches that give away assault rifles during a service and Christians that seek strict limits on gun sales ultimately practice the same faith.
Both sides of the gun debate use their own biblical justification to validate their opinion on whether or not more should be done to limit access to firearms.
Many Christians are passionate about stopping the proliferation of guns.
Many others are responsible gun owners themselves, and will never use it to perpetrate violence.
The issue has become so divisive that just expressing an opinion about gun ownership is enough to spark a social media fight, fuel accusations of politically radical ideas or even cause division among fellow believers.
Both sides may have legitimate concerns. And in the long run, activism may spark political action or reforms. But for the time being, just debating the issue won’t solve the problem that we’re facing right now.
The Second Amendment and ideas about gun control are contentious, politically loaded issues, often carrying cultural implications. They are socially and legally complex, and there are massive lobbying organizations vested in fighting on either side.
The reality is, the political and legislative stalemate over what to do about guns in this country is unlikely to end soon, but the Church should be able to find common ground even when our political system and polarized culture can not. Because the problem of gun violence is a daily reality.
The one thing that we can unite on as Christians—no matter what your opinion on policy is—is that gun violence in America is an indication of deep spiritual and moral issues that the Church must seek to fix.
Unlooked for Causes. Unlikely Solutions.
If we, as members of the Church who have strong opinions about this issue, would devote the same amount of time to ministering to people in need as we do arguing about gun legislation, we may start actually seeing the change we all want.
A major portion of gun violence in America is the result of suicide. Gang violence or drugs are also involved in a large number of shootings. In some recent high-profile mass shootings, mental illness is believed to have played a role.
No matter our views on gun ownership, every Christian’s role in these issues is clear: We are called to help.
Advocacy and passion for a particular legislative issue aren’t bad things. But when they aren’t balanced with actually praying for those who are hurting, meeting the needs of those who are faced with difficult situations, preaching to those who need truth and fixing the things that are broken, then we have our priorities wrong.
God Is Bigger Than Guns
The challenge is this: Are we willing to seriously commit to spending as much time as we do debating about issues like gun violence as we are to actually helping the people affected by it?
For every hour we spend advocating for our side of the issue, are we willing to spend time volunteering with a suicide prevention organization?
To visit people in prison?
To work with our churches to minister to those affected by drugs or gang violence?
Many in the Church have already dedicated their lives to helping these communities. It’s what we’re called to do.
When it comes to legislation that would limit access to guns or further preserve the current rights to own them, change may or may not be on the horizon. But, if every Christian would commit to looking to the source of gun violence that takes lives every few minutes, the real change may start sooner than we could imagine.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.