Faith Speaks Out on Gun Violence

By Jim Simpson

Friday, June 14

Members of the Grace Cathedral community and other faith groups met at the Cathedral on June 10 for a panel discussion moderated by The Rev. Canon Dr. Ellen Clark-King about how the values and beliefs of different traditions influence their stance toward gun violence. Speakers included San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani, Rabbi Jason Rodich of Congregation Emanu-El, Rev. Elaine Donlin, Sensei of the Buddhist Church of San Francisco, and Father George Williams, SJ, Catholic Chaplain of San Quentin State Prison.

Supervisor Stefani spoke movingly about the role of churches in countering despair — the pain and sorrow of victims and families and the weariness many people feel at the magnitude of the problem and obstacles to change. Rev. Donlin related the Buddhist teaching of interdependence to the causes of violence and the need for a multidimensional response. Rabbi Rodich compared gun violence to enslavement and the activism of Jewish communities in this area to walking the road to freedom. Father Williams explained that the Catholic tradition calls for reconciliation and also for an unequivocal declaration that gun violence is evil.

The meeting participants assembled into small groups to share how they understand and respond to gun violence through a personal spiritual lens. The people at the table where I sat were especially hopeful that all religions would speak out with one voice to “denormalize” gun violence and firearm idolatry. We talked about religious participation as an antidote to the social isolation that breeds violence; the false equivalence of second amendment dogmatism with advocacy for violence prevention; and a growing confidence that faith traditions like those represented on the panel can be effective in influencing legislation and regulation without being seen as partisan or sacrificing their responsibility to listen, respect, and serve all who come to them.

On a practical note, there were handouts from the Brady United Against Gun Violence Campaign about proposed legislation being considered by Congress and the California legislature. You can find out more about the bills and how to contact your representatives at the Brady campaign website. Right now the Episcopal Church is encouraging people to support the Gun Violence Prevention Research Act of 2019 (S.184/H.R.674). More information here.

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