On Jan. 13 in Seattle a rally/march was held in support of new gun laws, i.e. changing restrictions on magazine capacity, closing gun show loop holes, stopping the sale of certain kinds of guns, and buying back guns already in the public. Civic and religious leaders joined with Washington Ceasefire and a concerned public to decry violence in our schools, our public spaces, and in our homes.
I am well aware that this platform will not stop violence in its entirety. Our faith story and our lived experience remind us that human beings sadly have creative and inexhaustible ways to hurt and kill one another. However, our faith and our hope spur us to strive for a better society that protects the vulnerable. The question is whether the proposed changes will or could make an appreciable difference in violence and its effects in our communities. Advocates of the platform say "yes" while gun advocates say "no." Several weeks ago, I signed in support of the platform, and I did so as a religious leader. Let me tell you why.
The day of the rally was Baptism of The Lord Sunday. In my tradition, Holy Baptism is one of two sacraments. Along with Holy Communion, Holy Baptism draws the individual disciple into the larger community and ties us one to the other, and all of us to our Creator. This is our binding covenant.
As followers of Jesus, one who lived and shared his life in community, Christians, through Holy Baptism, are called to be covenantal people, seeking a general welfare for us all. We are, like our Christ, supposed to be communal people, healing the sick, loving the outcast, welcoming the stranger, helping the poor, and embodying a just compassion in all that we do.
"Shalom," or "peace" is how we refer to this hope, this general welfare, this society. And, God's peace is not a strained abstention from violence. Rather, God's peace refers to a state of well being, wholeness, and interconnectedness. Yet, our current use of the word "peace" robs it of its robust and full biblical meaning. We have watered it down, made it weak, and stripped it of its import. We have begun to live and act as though community is not important, to act as though our communities and towns are just collections of individuals all competing in a zero sum society. God's shalom challenges this assumption. God's shalom is prefaced on an assumption that in covenant we can find enough for all and that all can flourish.
In covenantal life, like marriage, we give up some independence for the health of the relationship. We freely offer ourselves in love to another. We bind ourselves one to the other and pledge our fidelity. I am not so naive as to believe that our greater communities can be considered purely covenantal. After all, we live in the same cities, states, and country with one another much by circumstance, not because we have freely entered into a promissory relationship with each other. We are not all of the same faith (or any faith at all). That is why we have laws to govern us. But, a society that strives for a better future, hopes the best for one another, doesn't pit one group against another, and fundamentally believes that a common future can be had. Sadly, too often in our public discourse, this hope is lacking. I hear a different message, a different gospel, which says, "I got mine, Jack. You get yours." This is neither the Gospel of Jesus Christ nor a sound foundation for a strong secular society. A shared future is what gave fertile ground for things like public education, a police force, a publicly funded fire brigade, shared infrastructure, and shared utilities. We do not all build our own roads, dig our own wells, and so forth. Not most of us, anyway.