“A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted because they are no more.” – Jeremiah 31:15
One week after the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Executive Vice President of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference. There, he argued that the right to bear arms is “not bestowed by man but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.” This statement is patently heretical and demonstrates the NRA intends to continue sacrificing children on our culture’s—not God’s—bloodied altar.
This unwavering allegiance to violence is not surprising. For decades, the NRA has framed even the most commonsensical gun regulations as assaults on American liberty—as if owning an AR-15 were what it meant to be free. They’ve spent millions buying politicians craven enough to value campaign contributions over innocent lives. All the while, they’ve lied to the American people, stoking fear while promising guns as salvation. The result has been the rapid proliferation of firearms—which now outnumber people—as the NRA shamelessly profited from the ensuing bloodshed.
Now, as our nation scrambles to respond to yet another preventable tragedy, their proffered solution is to arm our teachers. Only a group so myopically blind to its worship of death could suggest adding guns to our classrooms will make our children safer. Disturbingly, our President has adopted this warped ideology; we now stand upon the precipice of transforming our schools into the O.K. Corral. Enough, this way lies madness! When we’re discussing classrooms as if they were war zones, it’s time for drastic change. Our nation must repent how we’ve fostered unending slaughter, and begin to disarm.
Contrary to Mr. LaPierre’s rhetoric, this ubiquity of weapons is not a holy, ordained right but rather induces divine lament. In Isaiah, the prophet foretells a world in which people, “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” The NRA’s dream of a gun for every person simply does not square with this biblical vision. Between Mr. LaPierre’s word and the Bible’s, it’s clear where we must place our trust. Similarly, the NRA’s claim that safety lies in guns directly contradicts Jesus’ own teaching. In the moment he was arrested to be crucified, Jesus commanded his followers to disavow violent response, promising “all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” This act of subversive, radical love defines who God is—and exposes the NRA’s savage mimicry of faith as blasphemy.
Indeed, those who argue that God calls us to arm ourselves do not know God. God weeps at the culture of carnage we’ve allowed to fester. God mourns with families who’ve lost children, and with children who’ve lost friends and classmates. Our Creator seethes at politicians who allow the lure of blood money to corrupt their own humanity. To be faithful in this moment, we must stand beside our children against the NRA’s deadly propaganda.
For too long, we’ve let the gun lobby’s pernicious agenda set the terms for national debate. This must cease. It’s time to follow new voices, ones that do not profit from violence. Listen to the students of Stoneman Douglas High School; their deep lament and anger indict our past failure to act. Our children are marching in the street, demanding change. Will we march beside them? The answer to this question reveals the God we pray to—whether we worship the God of love and peace, or the NRA’s blood-soaked idol.
Rev. Dr. Serene Jones
President and Johnston Family Professor for Religion & Democracy, Union Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas
Dean and Professor of Theology, Episcopal Divinity School at Union