ABCCONN's Policy on Gun Violence

INTRODUCTION

On December 14, 2012, violence engulfed our lives here in Connecticut. Because of this, we believe that it is our responsibility as people of faith and specifically as American Baptists to speak out on the issue of gun violence. We believe that human beings are God's creatures and as such we are called to live in peace until the natural order of life brings it to an end on this earth. As disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, we believe that we need to speak out when such unspeakable violence comes into our neighborhood.

THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION

One of the great theological issues at stake in the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy is the issue of responsible freedom. The issue of responsible freedom is addressed by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian Christians. Apparently, there were believers in the church at Corinth who were of the conviction that their new found freedom in Christ freed them to exercise their freedom with little regard for how the exercise of their freedom affected others. Paul quotes the position of his opponents in I Corinthians 6:12 and I Corinthians 10:23. Paul actually quotes their slogan in his letter when he writes, "Everything is permissible for me . . ." In the verses of Scripture cited above Paul affirms the position of his opponents. However, he expands their position in order to establish his position on Christian freedom. Paul's position on Christian freedom is contained in the words he uses when he responds to his opponents, ". . . but not everything is beneficial." While the apostle is addressing other issues, the principles which he uses to make his argument are principles that can be applied to areas of life that involve the exercise of our freedom.

It is important to note that Paul's interest in the ways in which one uses his or her freedom in Christ is not just because it has the potential for adversely affecting the community of faith. Paul is equally concerned about the way believers use their freedom because the exercise of one's freedom affects all of humanity.

There are some Americans who in light of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution advocate a position which is similar to the position of Paul's opponents. There are some Americans who want to exercise their Second Amendment right to keep and to bear arms in a manner that is demonstrative of an "Everything is permissible for me" stance. Proponents of this position are oftentimes resistant to endorsing laws advocating more stringent gun control.

However, Paul's position on the matter of responsible freedom is insightful for those of us who are Christians in America. In Christ, our freedom is to be exercised not independently but interdependently. Specifically, our freedom is always to be exercised in such a way as to protect those among us who are the weakest and the most vulnerable. Newtown, Connecticut is a tragic reminder of freedom which is exercised without adequate responsibility. Consequently, the church cannot sit idly by while our sons and daughters become the innocent victims of those who choose to exercise their freedom to bear arms simply because it is constitutionally permissible. The church must insist on more stringent gun control laws because this is the most responsible way any of us can exercise our freedom in a responsible manner.

WE RESPECTFULLY ASK THAT ALL OF YOU IN STATE AND NATIONAL LEADERSHIP TAKE THE FOLLOWING ACTION:

Work to ban all assault grade weapons. Institute universal background checks that include criminal background checks on the purchase of all gun sales including those sold at gun shows. Ban the sale of high capacity ammunition magazines. Require yearly registration for all guns in one's possession. Refuse to allow any grandfathering of old allowance with new laws.

WE ENCOURAGE ALL OF OUR AMERICAN BAPTIST CHURCHES IN CONNECTICUT TO TAKE THE FOLLOWING ACTION:

Pray for peace in our land. Pray for our state and national leaders who are dealing with this issue of gun violence. Write to our state and national leaders to ask them to work on the issues related to gun violence as has been outlined. Demand that the laws be changed to require background checks on all gun purchases. Work to strengthen our local agencies in the care for those with mental illness. Work for peaceful resolutions within our faith communities when there are times of discord and conflict. Promote a non-violent culture through preaching, teaching, and programming the promise of peace.

Approved by the Executive Committee, February 25, 2013
Approved by the Board of Managers, February 26, 2013

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