One week ago Sunday, a Las Vegas shooter gunned down 58 people before taking his own life. This past Sunday, churchgoers across the country gathered to pray and reflect on the violence.
But for many congregations, deciding what to do next is a complicated question. Political solutions like gun control can be a hot-button issue. So what do the tenets of Christianity require?
Take Two brought in two local faith leaders to hear their thoughts:
- Fred Berry, pastor at Azusa Street Mission in Downtown Los Angeles
- Mike Kinman, rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena
Mike Kinman, on his reaction to people posting "thoughts and prayers for Vegas"
The problem with thoughts and prayers is it's one of those things that at its core is good. We want to think well. We want to pray. We believe in the power of thought. We believe in the power of prayers. But what I believe is that thought and prayer only matter if it translates into action.
When thought and prayer becomes a deflection from action or even a deflection from a conversation that confronts the real issues that are at play here, then just saying "thought and prayer" — there really is a tone of blasphemy to that.
Fred Berry, a Republican, on whether thoughts and prayers are enough.
Well no, it's not enough. It starts with that, but then there has to be corresponding action with that. Now the question is: what is the action? What do we do to thwart this problem in the future? I'm trying to find a middle road now. We've got a problem in the church where we're being pushed by both sides, the left and the far right. The church is never supposed to be beholden to anybody.
My response would be, let's look at the cause of the problem and let's come up with a solution.
Mike Kinman, on whether Christians have a moral obligation to push for gun control
To respond to Pastor Berry on a couple of things and get to that — We talked before we started taping about a middle road. I'm not sure what a middle road looks like anymore, and I think part of the problem is — and you identified it yourself — we have a left and a far right. That's part of the problem with finding a middle road. Right now, this conversation is dominated — in fact, it's prevented — by the National Rifle Association, which is not just left versus right on an even field, it is far right. We have to stop pretending that the NRA is a rational communications partner in this with just a simple, alternate view of how we live as a society.
As a Christian, yes, we're not a theocracy, it's not a job for the church to make the laws, but we're supposed to be a clarion voice for morality, equity, and justice. And that means we believe thou shalt not kill. And that we should be a voice that says anything that makes it easier to kill, we stand against, and we are always for mitigating those factors, and we are always for decreasing the opportunity for death.
Press the blue play button above to hear about the steps that the two leaders think that Christians should take.
Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.