Archive for the ‘interfaith’ tag
Viacom International, the media corporation owning MTV networks and numerable communications platform is spearheading an ambitious research endeavor. “The Next Normal” plans to be the largest, sharpest, and most comprehensive survey of Millennials (Gen-Y, predecessors to “Digital Natives) in the world. In April, research conducted by the project reported a comprehensive look at the generational character on religion, spirituality and faith nation by nation.
Some of the most significant findings include South African millennials having the most trust for religious leaders of any nationality, and that Japanese and Saudi Arabian Millennials are the most inflexible in terms of individualism and choice in religious matters.
Most significant of all is that these numbers are powerful and help plot the future of interfaith around the world.
The study shows,
In exploring Millennial attitudes toward religion, faith and spirituality across the globe, we found that overall, this generation believes that everybody should have the right to choose their own religion. But their openness and tolerance are also marked by distrust in organised religion, as well as distinctions between faith and spirituality in some countries.
On average, only 9% of Millennials say they trust their religious leader and only 10% name “religious leader” among the top 5 inspirational people or bodies of people in their lives (compared to 19% for celebrities and 14% for sports stars). In terms of trust in religious leaders (who could be anyone from a local priest, preacher, imam or rabbi to the Pope), South Africa comes out strongest with a score of 29% trust – still a relatively small minority – followed by USA on 24% and Turkey on 17%.
Trust in religious leaders is lowest in France (2%), Japan and Spain (both 3%).
DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATE – JOB OPENING
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR) has a rich history and current efforts in working with communities of spirit and faith to foster harmony and engagement to bring about a just, peaceful and sustainable world. CPWR is looking for a Development Associate.
The small staff and volunteers work together to carry on the initiatives with the help of an engaged board, and the development associate would work with the Executive Director and others. The scope of the work includes researching and developing resource opportunities with foundations, corporations, individuals and religious groups. Work would also include writing proposals, arranging appointments and events, and follow through with donors. The Development Associate works with Board committees, and shares the mission of CPWR with visitors and events.
Desired skills: articulate, with both written and oral communication talent, some experience in fund raising, positive personality, computer and internet skills.
Salary at the early end of comparable jobs. Job available immediately.
CPWR is an equal opportunity employer.
For consideration, send a resume and cover letter to Stephen Avino (Stephen@parliamentofreligions.org)
The Council that convenes the Parliament of the World’s Religions is faced with an enormous one-time financial challenge we must immediately overcome to continue to exist. By April 13, 2013, we can raise the $150,000 needed to go on.
In just two days, generous gifts granted through our fundraising site on CauseVox and direct commitments have totaled more than $35,000.
CPWR Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson says each Board Trustee is meeting equal fundraising goals through personal outreach. By helping us meet this challenge, the Board of Trustees can free the Parliament to carry on the mission of creating peace in the world through interfaith harmony by:
- Convening the next Parliament event
- Widening our connections and keep encouraging local interfaith event
- Celebrating our deep 120 year history
- Honoring our leaders and MOVE FORWARD TO A FUTURE WITH HOPE
“Our problem started when a bomber attacked Madrid just weeks before the 2004 Barcelona Parliament,” says Mary Nelson. To explain further why the Parliament is acting fast, Nelson continues,
A last-minute loan became necessary to carry out the event. But a life changing Barcelona Parliament was held, bringing people together to overcome fear through interfaith action.
Why now? A Spanish court judgment of $276,600 against the Parliament slowly came to the U.S. Courts. On March 21, 2013, the U.S. court upheld the debt against the Parliament. We were advised we had at least three months, but court papers served last week gave us until April 17,2013.
The CPWR Board met and said we dare to do the impossible; the work of the Parliament must go on. To protect the celebration of our 120th Anniversary this year, we had raised $126,600 in our earlier efforts. The need now is $150,000 more.
In a few short days, by internet, direct solicitation, Board efforts, we have an additional $35,000 in hand. And we’ve just started. You can help make the difference.
Reasons to donate are many and personal, but the hundreds stepping in already have shared that the Parliament:
- “…teaches tolerance”
- “…is a vehicle for peace in the world,”
- “…was the highlight of my life.”
PLEASE. BE A HOPE BUILDER TODAY.
Tony Blair Foundation
Melbourne Parliament, 2009
On March 13, 2013, the Conclave of Cardinals of the Catholic Church elected Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina as the 266th Pope, bishop of Rome, and successor to St. Peter. For the first time in history, the newly elected pontiff chose to be called Francis, a name with significant resonance for the poor and for interreligious relations.
In response to questions, Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi, S.J., clarified that the new pope chose this name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis was known as “Il Poverello” (the little poor one) because of his affection and concern for the poor and his simple lifestyle. These have long been hallmarks of the life of Cardinal Bergoglio, who abandoned the elaborate episcopal residence in Buenos Aires for a simpler abode and who used public transportation instead of a chauffeur. He has spoken passionately about the plight of the world’s poor as a scandal that cries to heaven.
Francis of Assisi also has a special significance for interreligious relations because he visited Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil at Damietta in Egypt during the Fifth Crusade, seeking peace in a time of conflict. It was to Francis’s hometown of Assisi that Pope John Paul II invited the leaders of the world’s religious traditions to come to pray for World Peace in October, 1986, an unprecedented gathering. Those familiar with Cardinal Bergoglio’s heritage as a member of the Society of Jesus noted that Francis was also the name of Francis Xavier, one of the first generation of Jesuits who brought the gospel to India, where he ministered to poor fisherfolk in the south and who later went to Japan and who died off the coast of China, hoping to visit that land as well.
Pope Francis has had deep experience in interreligious relations in Argentina. He co-authored a book with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra (On Heaven and Earth, Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2011; e-book: Random House Mondadori, 2011). Regarding interreligious discussions, then-Cardinal Bergoglio wrote: “Dialogue is born from an attitude of respect for the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It assumes that there is room in the heart for the person’s point of view, opinion, and proposal. To dialogue entails a cordial reception, not a prior condemnation. In order to dialogue it is necessary to know how to lower the defenses, open the doors of the house, and offer human warmth” (my translation).
The book is itself a model of interreligious dialogue. In the Foreword, Rabbi Skorka notes the risk that they were taking in sharing their personal exchanges with the public: “To transform the dialogue into a conversation with many, to bare our souls, accepting all the risks that this implies, but profoundly convinced that this is the only path of knowing the human, which is capable of bringing us closer to God.” At a later point in the dialogue, the rabbi comments: “If we arrive at an attitude of genuine humility, we will be able to change the reality of the world. When the prophet Micah wanted to give a definition of what it means to be religious, he said: ‘Do justice, love piety, and walk humbly with your God.’”
In response, Cardinal Bergoglio replied: “I am totally in agreement on the question of humility. It pleases me also to use the word ‘meekness,’ which does not mean weakness. A religious leader can be very strong, very firm without exercising aggression. Jesus says that the one who leads must be one who serves. For me, this idea is valid for the religious person of whatever religious confession. Service confers the real power of religious leadership” (my translation).
Pope Francis promises to be a forceful spokesperson for the poor, an eager and attentive partner in interreligious conversations, and a leader who reaches out to the entire world.
By Andras Corban-Arthen
CPWR Board Trustee Emeritus
In mid-February, a delegation from the CPWR returned to Guadalajara, México for further conversations with our partners from the Carpe Diem Foundation there, as well as with government officials and business leaders, to further explore the possibility of holding the next Parliament of the World’s Religions in that city. As part of this visit, the spring meeting of the Council’s board of trustees was held in Guadalajara, so that the trustees would have the opportunity to experience the city first-hand.
The CPWR delegation enjoyed a very educational tour of Guadalajara’s historical district, featuring bustling streets, charming plazas and gorgeous 16th century colonial buildings. The tour included visits to the Hospicio Cabañas, an early-19th-century orphanage sprawling over two full city blocks, which has recently been completely renovated; and the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan, the second most important shrine to the Virgin Mary in México (every 12th of October, over 2 million people take to the streets to accompany the image of the virgin, on foot, for an 8 km. pilgrimage from her temporary residence in the Cathedral downtown to her permanent home in the Basilica).
The trustees also listened to a very interesting presentation by the Secretary of Public Security of the state of Jalisco, who put in perspective some of the U.S. media’s sensationalized accounts regarding drug-cartel related violence in México, and offered us some welcome reassurances about Guadalajara’s safety.
The visit concluded with a celebratory get-together at Carpe Diem’s colorful headquarters, where the trustees had a chance to meet with representatives of many different spiritual communities from Guadalajara.
Immigrants to the United States are often targets of anti-religious bias due to the hostile nature of the immigration debate in our country. A caravan scheduled April 29 – May 31, 2013 by The CHIP foundation, an (International Humanitarian Coalition for Immigration) in East San Diego, CA will utilize faith and spirituality across traditions to reach a higher moral ground in public discourse on immigration.
We seek to change the public discourse on immigration based on a higher moral ground rooted in faith and spirituality for the benefit of everyone. Empower, support and enable people’s voices to be heard out strongly. Encourage all Community, to address the social causes of immigration and violence that go hand to hand and locally ask to stop illegal gun flow to Mexico and tougher gun control measures, and further more we need to include in Immigration reform that stop all deportations to war zone Over the border Cities In México. We demand immediate remedy to the violence that is being perpetrated and Atrocities committed against immigrants in Mexico and along the US & Mexico border.
The ¨Interfaith Caravan of Hope for Immigration Reform Beyond Borders” is reaching out to people from faith-based organizations Bring diverse communities together on Common issues vilence and Immigration. This action seeks to offer organized religion the opportunity to take astronger and more unified stance in the struggle for immigrant rights an violence our families are facing together beyon Our bordders . More than 20 million illegal guns entering Mexico from the United States (80 % of military-style weapons of which fall into the hands of Mexico’s drug trafficking organizations), deportation of a record 1.5 million migrants, the 22,000 kidnapped and additional 70,000 migrants who have disappeared, and the more than 50,000 violent deaths due to this war on drugs, have created a humanitarian crisis the proportions of which we have never before seen in Mexico, Mexican Revolution included.
We are supporting Father Alejandro Solalinde and Heyman Vasques and many other priests, pastors, and also mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers of the Central Americans who have been kidnapped, sexually assaulted, mutilated or even murdered who have been the unwitting victims of a bi-national immigration enforcement system, created by the United States and Mexico.
Immigration enforcement deportation of a record 1.5 million migrants.
The United States now has the opportunity to recognize that the crisis of forced migration extends well beyond its own borders, and is largely responsible for setting an international agenda that has severely neglected the needs of millions in its effort to expand its economic influence in Latin America. That expanded influence has come at a great cost to millions in Central America and Mexico, who are left with no other option but to migrate to the United States, and in so doing, are forced to travel through Mexico, a country that has become a haven for criminal activity perpetrated against migrants, where there is no accountability and corruption is rampant.
The ¨Interfaith Caravan of Hope for Immigration Reform Beyond Borders” is a partnership of faith-based and other allied organizations in the US and Mexico that are joining and supporting Father Alejandro Solalinde and the Caravan of Hope in its Journey through the United States this April 29 to May 31st.
On this Caravan, we want to put a face to this issue and show how the daily violence has impacted families across the region. We urge that President Obama immediately put an end to deportations, pass comprehensive immigration reform, and stop the flow of arms to Mexico in order to end the humanitarian crisis and bloodshed our families witness daily.
The immigration problem extends beyond the United States border, and does not begin on the US southern border with Mexico. The deportation of 1.5 million migrants and the 20 million illegal guns entering Mexico, with 80% of them going directly into the hands of the cartels, will never make the US secure. By contrast, instability grows without addressing the problem from a bi-national, shared responsibility framework to address the humanitarian disaster growing by the day just across the border.
Upcoming Chicago Events: An Evening with Imam Feisal, Interreligious New Year Celebration, and Interfaith Prayers
The United Nations’ Interfaith Harmony Week begins February 1 and will continue through February 7. Recognizing the critical need for inter-religious dialogue, events will be held worldwide to observe this special time of year. We encourage all to attend an Interfaith event. Some of the following events held here in Chicago are free and open to all.
CPWR Sacred Space Ambassador, Suzanne Morgan, and Carisse Ramos developed the Interreligious New Year Program being hosted by the Midwest Buddhist Temple in Chicago on Friday, February 1, 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m, Midwest Buddhist Temple, 435. W Menomonee St., Chicago. The program features:
- Year-End Introduction by Rev. Ron Miyamura
- Buddhist Ringing of the Bell
- Sharing New Year Practices from Diverse Traditions
- *Presenters followed by participants New Year Flower Release
- Toshi Koshi Soba Noodles and refreshments
*Buddhist, Candoble, Greek Orthodox, Indigenous, Islam, Jain, Judaism, Roman Catholic, Unitarian, Zoroastriansim\
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religion join the Asian-American Coalition of Chicago to present a gathering with representatives of different Metropolitan Chicago area faith communities to lead prayers for Peace, Prosperity and Harmonious Co-existence. Finding ways to transcend religious divides and foster mutual understanding and respect between people will continue through this service on February 23.You are invited Saturday, February 23, 2013, 4:00 p.m – 5:30 p.m., Hyatt Regency O’Hare (Grand Ball Room – Section F-G-H), 9300 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue, Rosemont, IL 60018 (Parking at Hyatt Regency O’Hare Hotel Parking lot is complimentary)For More Information, please contact: Rajinder Singh Mago 630-440-7730, Dr. Mary Nelson 312-629-2990, or Dr. Nguyen-Trung Hieu 773-307-5035
Last week’s presidential events gave religion a headlining spot in post-inauguration coverage. Intertwining faith and politics made God a trending topic, and the role of faith in the U.S. government sparked new discussions. Obama stuck closely to his and the nation’s traditions, but chose words and faith leaders to voice first-time topics in U.S. presidential inauguration ceremonies.
Obama said, “…that is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.”
Inaugural speech makers invoked religious reference through conventional and unprecedented terms:
- The Inaugural Benediction delivered by Episcopal Rev. Luis Leon was the first inaugural prayer specifically inclusive to gay members of America’s society in discussing all who are created in the image of God.
- Consistent with his first inaugural address, Obama spoke of “God” in five instances during his second term inauguration address on January 21st, 2013. Though “God” is a contested subject in political discourse, there exist strong ties between faith and the presidential inaugural speeches in the nation’s history. Further, the oath of office includes a pronouncement of faith.
- The President used three Biblical texts in his swearing-in, including that which belonged to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- The National Cathedral hosted an interfaith inaugural prayer service on January 22, wherein the President’s orations were likened to a preacher. Three rows were filled with the clergy of 23 different national faith communities, while prayers were spoken in languages comprising Arabic, Hebrew and Spanish.
God in the Inaugural Address
Within the full inauguration speech, Obama said that freedom is god’s gift which much be secured by the people of earth. Before his closing blessings, he links God to three issues pressing all people on earth; protection of the environment and its peoples, the disparity of opportunity and economic fairness between the rich and the poor, and the clarification that the presidential oath is one made to God and country, rather than to any party or faction.
These five passages from the inaugural address fully excerpt the President’s references to God:
- Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
- For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.
- We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
- My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
- Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.
Another passage pertaining to peace and the security of all people prizes engagement of the other as a pathway to resolution:
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.
As we’ve seen differing opinions weighed in on the Obama administration’s religious activity, faith communities going forward should continue to seek common ground. Blurring the lines of church and state is not the goal of the interfaith movement’s relationship with government, as political debates will continue to question religious influence on policy. When a U.S. president’s inaugural address expresses intentions undoubtedly shared by the interfaith community, it presents an opportunity. Interfaith assemblies can increasingly secure a place for government to champion actions for peace and the protection of all people. If all peace-seeking faith communities can harmoniously support governmental action for peace and justice, so, too, can government work collaboratively with faith-based coalitions. For more information, visit the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships page for future initiatives during Obama’s second term.
Or, taking an even bigger step – suggest one.
by Philip Goldberg
Visitors exiting the Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Avenue are often perplexed by the street sign that reads Swami Vivekananda Way. What is it doing there? Who is this swami, and why does he deserve an honorary street name like Oprah Winfrey, Hugh Hefner and other Chicago legends? Most Americans would not have a clue, but interfaith activists do, and Hindus do, and a great many yoga practitioners and students of Eastern philosophy do, and everyone in India certainly does. And this year, millions more will learn why Vivekananda remains a revered figure more than a century after his passing. January 12th was the 150th anniversary of his birth, and celebrations and tributes will be held all year throughout India and much of the West.
The leading disciple of the legendary 19th century saint, Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda came to the U.S. in 1893 for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a 17-day festival in the midst of a huge world’s fair called the Columbian Exposition. He was an exotic sight in his orange robes and turban; very few Americans had even met a Jew or a Muslim at the time, much less a Hindu monk. Against all odds, the swami became an instant sensation, not as some carnival attraction but as a fresh, erudite voice that spoke with authority, in impeccable English, about his own tradition, religious harmony and the universal truths at the unseen depths of all religions.
He quickly encountered two types of Americans that are familiar to us all today: Christian supremacists who denounced him as a dangerous heathen preaching false religion; and open-minded, rational, spiritual seekers, who found his message and his demeanor irresistible. He was, in a sense, the Jackie Robinson of spirituality, a bold and talented figure shattering widespread misconceptions and biases. Through word of mouth and adulatory press coverage, he became such a superstar that extra talks had to be scheduled for him to accommodate the crowds that flooded the amphitheater in the building that would later become the Art Institute. Hence, the location of Swami Vivekananda Way.
Because he was in demand on the lecture circuit, he remained in America longer than anticipated: more than three years in two separate trips. He passed away in India in 1902, and, like Mozart, Gershwin, and other rare shooting stars who never reached the age of 40, he produced a remarkable legacy in his few productive years.
In voluminous writings, some of which were converted from his numerous lectures, he articulated for the modern age the essential teachings of Vedanta, the philosophical system that stems primarily from the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. His four slim books on the principal pathways of Yoga – karma (selfless action), bhakti (devotion), jnana (intellectual discernment), and raja (meditation and spiritual practice) — became the authoritative descriptions of those categories, and to a large extent they remain so in today’s yoga-saturated world because they set the tone for much of the subsequent commentary on the subject.
In America, Vivekananda’s most enduring impact may be the organization he created to perpetuate his work. The Vedanta Society, which eventually established centers in most major U.S. cities, was the place for seekers interested in Hinduism, Indian philosophy, and yogic meditation in the early part of the 20th century. Through its publications and the swamis who came from India to run the centers, it was the leading voice for what the title of one of its widely read anthologies called “Vedanta for the Western World.” A large percentage of the students drawn to later gurus, such as Paramahansa Yogananda and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (who was also born on Jan. 12), were primed by the Vivekananda lineage. In mid-century Vedanta Society swamis mentored some of the most prominent thinkers and writers in American history. If you’ve had transformative moments reading Joseph Campbell, Aldous Huxley or Huston Smith, or if you identified with the eccentric spirituality of J.D. Salinger’s Glass family, you were touched by Vivekananda whether you realized it or not.
That 1893 gathering of religious leaders would probably not even be remembered if the token Hindu hadn’t ignited such a fervent response. Instead, it launched the modern interfaith movement and catalyzed an East-to-West transmission that has reshaped America’s spiritual landscape. For those reasons and more, you will be hearing about Swami Vivekananda a great deal in the coming year, and so will people 150 years from now.
Philip Goldberg is an Interfaith Minister, Spiritual Coach, Public Speaker, and author of ‘American Veda: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West’
9mm Golden Calves
by James E. Atwood | January 2013
Originally printed in Sojourners Magazine
BACK IN 1990, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) issued this warning: “The religious community must … take seriously the risk of idolatry that could result from an unwarranted fascination with guns, which overlooks or ignores the social consequences of their misuse.” Two decades later, about 660,000 more Americans have been killed by guns, with a million more injured.
These figures convince me that what was a risk in 1990 has become our reality today: For too many, guns have become idols. They claim divine status; make promises of safety and security they cannot keep; transform people and neighborhoods; create enemies; and require human sacrifice.
Not all gun owners have permitted their guns to become idols or absolutes. In fact, a recent poll shows most gun owners and NRA members, in contrast to public perception, believe personal freedom and public safety are complementary, not contradictory. But those few who hold the microphone at the NRA (the wealthy manufacturers and the gun zealots who do their bidding) have permitted their fascination for guns to supplant God and God’s requirements for human community.
An idol’s followers boldly claim divine status for it. Former NRA executive Warren Cassidy was clear when he boasted, “You would get a far better understanding [of the NRA] if you approached us as if you were approaching one of the great religions of the world.” Not to be outdone, Charlton Heston, during a speech as NRA president, intoned, “Sacred stuff resides in that wooden stock and blued steel—something that gives the most common man [sic] the most uncommon of freedoms, when ordinary hands can possess such an extraordinary instrument that symbolizes the full measure of human dignity and liberty.”
To turn away from the idolatry of guns will require community dialogue, self-examination, and prayer. One part of our response should also be to enact common-sense gun laws—which, when they have teeth, are very effective. We in the U.S. need two new federal laws, which would almost guarantee an immediate, dramatic decline in gun violence. The first needed law is a renewed ban on the sale of assault weapons. Good citizens have no need for guns that can rapidly fire up to 150 rounds without reloading and are designed to kill great numbers of people in close-quarter military combat. These are the weapons of choice for deranged individuals who are determined to kill. They must be banned in America forever.
A second common-sense law would require all gun purchasers to undergo an instant background check. This is technically feasible today, but it has not been implemented because the Gun Empire considers any law, however wise or minimal, to be a coordinated attempt to confiscate their weapons. Such a law would eliminate the many sales by unlicensed dealers at America’s 5,000 gun shows—dealers who can, in most states, legally sell any weapon to any person with no questions asked. It’s simply cash and carry.
I make no claims of certainty in determining whether or not a particular individual’s spirit has been converted by an idol, but for 37 years I have observed individuals who grow threatened and angry when gun values are questioned; who show little grief for society’s gun victims; who oppose any preventive measures to stop gun violence; and who believe the solution to gun violence is to arm more people. I am confident that such traits indicate that people are, at least, struggling with idolatry as they turn a human-made thing into an absolute that challenges the requirements of the living God. As Jesus taught us, we cannot serve two masters.
James E. Atwood, a retired Presbyterian pastor, is a gun owner, author of America and its Guns: A Theological Exposé, and chair of the Greater Washington chapter of the anti-gun- violence group Heeding God’s Call.
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