Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pro Life and guns

This past Friday marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade. Thousands of people marched in Washington in support of finding a way to end legalized abortion. More than 60 Catholic priests, nuns and scholars signed a letter to Congress this week asking people who are "pro-life" to do something about the "epidemic of gun violence" in our nation. Several of the key Republican leaders like John Boehner and Paul Ryan are Catholics who are "pro-life". The Evangelical leader Ron Sider wrote a book in the 1980s titled,  Completely Pro- Life, in which he argued a pro- life stance covers abortion and other social issues such as the death penalty, euthanasia, programs for the poor and children and by definition, I'm sure, he would have applied it to gun reforms, too. Surprisingly, Evangelicals who are mostly anti - abortion are also anti- any form of gun restrictions. A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 2/3 of Evangelicals who call themselves pro- life are also overwhelmingly opposed to stricter gun control laws (33% of those pro- life Evangelicals favor them). Among Catholics who say they are pro- life almost 61% favor some gun control reforms. Catholic bishops have gone on record to support the effort to renew the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. Almost 3/4 of the Evangelical leaders on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals believe the government should increase gun regulations but they have not taken a public stand as an association.

Recently there was a report in the NY Times about an urban church in Ohio that had a gun buyback program on a Saturday. The pastor got the church to come up with $4000 to buy back 40 guns from the neighborhood around his church. The pastor who had been there for 40 some years was tired of doing funerals due to gun violence. After they took in 145 guns he had to close the doors because he couldn't afford to buy back any more. Critics of this program said probably a lot of people used the money to upgrade their guns. Some said it was naive to think it would make any difference in gun violence. Maybe so, the pastor said, but it if means one or two less gun deaths because a gun was not available when a situation spiraled out of control that was good enough for him.

This church's program could be seen as hopelessly ineffective against the culture of gun violence today but at least, they were doing something when mostly what's going on today is people from either side of the gun control debate shouting at each other while gun sales are off the charts.  The presence of guns in our communities affects every one of us. When I went to school in rural New York State, some of my high school buddies brought their hunting rifles to school so they could head out and hunt after school. That sounds incredible today. This is a different time. What does it mean to be pro life at this time? How do we live out a pro-life ethic in our daily lives, in our communities?