Categories: Rector's Corner

Gun Violence: To Save Life or Destroy It

Sari Ateek
Sari Ateek, Rector

I was inspired this week by the courage of a local synagogue. As a part of the Jewish High Holy Days, Temple Sinai in Northwest DC displayed 205 T-shirts on T-shaped poles—each shirt a tribute to a victim of gun violence in DC in 2016.

This creative and deeply moving installation draws visual attention to the impact of gun violence, leaving the observer with a gripping moral question that is made all the more urgent following the mass shooting in Las Vegas: Can we remain silent on the rampant use of guns in our nation when it is wreaking havoc on our communities?

Jesus was once faced with a similar dilemma of action vs. inaction. He was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath (the Jewish day of rest on which no work is to be done) when he was approached by a man with a withered hand. Jesus had a choice: Honor the Sabbath and do nothing, or heal the man on the Sabbath and be subjected to deep criticism by the religious authorities. Jesus had the man come forward, but before healing him, he turned to the surrounding crowd, and said, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?”

What I find so powerful and sobering about these words is that Jesus equates doing nothing with doing harm, and also not acting to save life is equated with destroying life. So, for the church, the question of action vs inaction becomes not only a question of conscience, but a spiritual question that requires a spiritual answer—an answer that Jesus clearly offers us in this teaching which we find in Luke chapter 6.

So, can we remain silent on the rampant use of guns in our nation when it is doing harm to our communities? The answer is no. Why? Because doing nothing is doing harm, and not intervening to save life is in fact destroying it.

Today, St. John’s will be joining other religious institutions in signing a letter that will go to leaders of the House and Senate next week asking for Congressional action to keep guns out of dangerous hands, fund community-based violence intervention programs, support public health approaches to reducing violence, and address hate based violence to save lives and make our country safer, stronger, and more prosperous. The letter also states its opposition to the two very dangerous bills pending in Congress: The Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill and the bill that would deregulate the sale of silencers (the so-called SHARE Act.)

Please join me in continuing to pray for all victims and perpetrators of gun violence, and for people of faith and conscience in our nation to rise up and do something for the sake of life.

Grace and Peace,

Sari Ateek
Sari Ateek

The Rev. Sari Ateek is the rector of St. John's. One of the many gifts Sari brings to the church is his conversational preaching style.