Its on the Join Us and the Video pages.
The fear-mongers are doing a full court press. Those of us who seek a ban on possession of semi-automatic weapons need to be clear: we don’t want all guns banned! W just want a ban on the 15% of guns that are death-dealing semi-automatic weapons. This post from Salon crystallizes the need for everyone to focus on the real issue and not go off half-cocked!
In an email to supporters, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pledged to oppose gun control legislation and warned his supporters that Democrats “want take your guns.”
“You and I are literally surrounded,” the email says, according to The Hill. “The gun-grabbers in the Senate are about to launch an all-out-assault on the Second Amendment. On your rights. On your freedom.”
The email, signed by McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton, lays out which measures the Senate could take:
-The Feinstein Gun Ban, which will criminalize firearms by how they look.
-A thinly-veiled national gun registration scheme hidden under the guise of “background checks” to ensure federal government minders gain every bureaucratic tool they need for full-scale confiscation.
-An outright BAN on magazines holding more than 10 rounds.
-And that’s not even close to the end of it.
23 new Executive Orders.
It is almost hard to believe the sheer breadth and brazenness of this attempt to gut our Constitution.
Well, Mitch McConnell is not going to stand aside.
“It is almost hard to believe the sheer breadth and brazenness of this attempt to gut our Constitution,” the email says, asking supporters to sign a ”Defense of the Second Amendment pledge.”
Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creating a society where people do not fear humanity or the government must be our ultimate goal. This can best be accomplished by inclusion, by honoring the dignity of each individual, by integrating people into our community and decreasing their sense of isolation and peril. Martin Luther King gave us this vision of a beloved community. Kenneth Smith and Ira Zepp described this vision more fully:
Martin Luther King’s Vision of the Beloved Community
by Kenneth L. Smith and Ira G. Zepp, Jr.
Dr. Smith is on the faculty at Colgate Rochester/Bexley Hall/Crozer in Rochester, New York. Dr. Zepp is dean of the chapel and assistant professor of religion at Western Maryland College. This article is adapted from their book Search for the Beloved community: The Thinking of Martin Luther King. Jr. (Copyright © 1974 by Judson Press, Valley forge, Pennsylvania.) This article appeared in the Christian Century, April 3, 1974, pp. 361-363. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
Central to the thinking of Martin Luther King was the concept of the “Beloved Community.” Liberalism and personalism provided its theological and philosophical foundations, and nonviolence the means to attain it. True, King’s initial optimism about the possibility of actualizing that community in history was in time qualified by Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian realism. But the concept as such can be traced through all his speeches and writings, from the earliest to the last. In one of his first published articles he stated that the purpose of the Montgomery bus boycott “is reconciliation, . . . redemption, the creation of the beloved community.” In 1957, writing in the newsletter of the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he described the purpose and goal of that organization as follows: “The ultimate aim of SCLC is to foster and create the ‘beloved community’ in America where brotherhood is a reality. . . . SCLC works for integration. Our ultimate goal is genuine intergroup and interpersonal living — integration.” And in his last book he declared: “Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation . . .”
King’s was a vision of a completely integrated society, a community of love and justice wherein brotherhood would be an actuality in all of social life. In his mind, such a community would be the ideal corporate expression of the Christian faith.
A Vision of Total Relatedness
Integration, as King understood it, is much more inclusive and positive than desegregation. Desegregation is essentially negative in that it eliminates discrimination against blacks in public accommodations, education, housing and employment — in those aspects of social life that can be corrected by laws. Integration, however, is “the positive acceptance of desegregation and the welcomed participation of Negroes in the total range of human activities.” But King did not believe that the transition from desegregation to integration would be inevitable or automatic. Whereas desegregation can be brought about by laws, integration requires a change in attitudes. It involves personal and social relationships that are created by love — and these cannot be legislated. Once segregation has been abolished and desegregation accomplished, blacks and whites will have to learn to relate to each other across those nonrational, psychological barriers which have traditionally separated them in our society. All of us will have to become color blind. As King said, desegregation will only produce “a society where men are physically desegregated and spiritually segregated, where elbows are together and hearts apart. It gives us social togetherness and spiritual apartness. It leaves us with a stagnant equality of sameness rather than a constructive equality of oneness.” But integration will bring in an entirely different kind of society whose character is best summed up in the phrase “Black and White Together” — the title of one of the chapters of Why We Can’t Wait and the theme of one stanza of the civil rights movement’s hymn “We Shall Overcome.” Integration will enlarge “the concept of brotherhood to a vision of total interrelatedness.”
Behind King’s conception of the Beloved Community lay his assumption that human existence is social in nature. “The solidarity of the human family” is a phrase he frequently used to express this idea. “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,” he said in one of his addresses. This was a way of affirming that reality is made up of structures that form an interrelated whole; in other words, that human beings are dependent upon each other. Whatever a person is or possesses he owes to others who have preceded him. As King wrote: “Whether we realize it or not, each of us lives eternally ‘in the red.’ ” Recognition of one’s indebtedness to past generations should inhibit the sense of self-sufficiency and promote awareness that personal growth cannot take place apart from meaningful relationships with other persons, that the “I” cannot attain fulfillment without the “Thou.”
King saw the participants in the civil rights movement as representing the Beloved Community in microcosm. The people who attended the movement’s mass meetings and rallies, joined in its demonstrations, and supported its aims in many other ways came from every section of American society. The educated and the illiterate, the affluent and the welfare recipient, white and black — men and women who heretofore had been separated by rigid social and legal codes were brought together in a common cause. Indeed, since King wanted to make the base of the movement as broad as possible, he frequently called upon whites for help in his various campaigns.
Justice for Everyone
After the March to Montgomery in the spring of 1966, several thousand marchers were delayed at the airport because their planes were late. As King tells it, he was deeply impressed by the heterogeneity yet the obvious unity of the crowd:
As I stood with them and saw white and Negro, nuns and priests, ministers and rabbis, labor organizers, lawyers, doctors, housemaids and shopworkers brimming with vitality and enjoying a rare comradeship, I knew I was seeing a microcosm of the mankind of the future in this moment of luminous and genuine brotherhood [Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (Harper & Row, 1967)’ p. 9]
In King’s view, the interrelatedness of human existence means that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He believed that denial of constitutional rights to anyone potentially violates the rights of all. It is the entire national community that is the victim of electric cattle prods and biting police dogs. Discrimination against 10 per cent of our population weakens the whole social fabric. Race and poverty are not merely sectional problems but American problems. It follows that the liberation of black people will also mean the emancipation of white people. King took seriously the indivisibility of human existence. “In a real sense,” he wrote, “all life is interrelated. The agony of the poor enriches the rich. We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly” (ibid., p. 181).
His approach to human existence led King to believe that in seeking to eliminate racial injustice, the civil rights movement was making a far larger contribution to the national life. Integration is usually associated solely with the struggle for racial equality, but King conceived of it in a much broader way. He envisioned a future society in which persons would not be malformed as a result of racial hatred or economic exploitation. That is, King was not concerned about justice for blacks as opposed to justice for whites; he was concerned about justice for everyone. And he made perfectly clear what he meant by that:
Let us be dissatisfied until rat-infested, vermin-filled slums will be a thing of a dark past and every family will have a decent sanitary house in which to live. Let us be dissatisfied until the empty stomachs of Mississippi are filled and the idle industries of Appalachia are revitalized. . . . Let us be dissatisfied until our brothers of the Third World of Asia, Africa and Latin America will no longer be the victims of imperialist exploitation, but will be lifted from the long night of poverty, illiteracy and disease [“Honoring Dr. Du Bois,” inFreedomways, VIII, s (Spring 1968), pp. 110-111].
Plainly, King’s vision of justice included all the world’s poor — blacks, whites, browns and reds: North and South Americans, Africans, Asians and Europeans. Economic justice, he held, is a right of the entire human race. He was aware too that securing this right for all would require elimination of the structures of economic injustice characteristic of capitalism.
Alleviating Economic Inequity
King’s views on this entire question grew out of his early championship of an egalitarian, socialistic approach to wealth and property. “A life,” he wrote, “is sacred. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on; it is not man.” He repeatedly condemned the United States’ economic system for withholding the necessities of life from the masses while heaping luxuries on the few. One of our major goals, he declared, should be to bridge the gap between abject poverty and inordinate wealth. To this end he began, during the latter part of his life, to advocate a variety of economic programs, including the creation of jobs by government and the institution of a guaranteed annual minimal income. He was impatient with phrases like “human dignity”’ and “brotherhood of man” when they did not find concrete expression in the structures of society.
The point is that King believed it was God’s intention that everyone should have the physical and spiritual necessities of life. He could not envision the Beloved Community apart from the alleviation of economic inequity and the achievement of economic justice. Harvey Cox has aptly pointed out that King combined with this emphasis two traditional biblical themes: the “holiness of the poor” and the “blessed community.” In the movement King led, blacks were the embodiment of “the poor” and integration represented the vision of “the holy community.” Cox explains:
It is . . . essential to notice that the two elements, the holy outcast and the blessed community, must go together. Without the vision of restored community, the holiness ascribed to the poor would fall far short of politics and result in a mere perpetuation of charity and service activities’’ [On Not Leaving It to the Snake (Macmillan, 1967). P. 133].
Pilgrimage to the Promised Land
In speaking about the possibility of actualizing the Beloved community in history, King attempted to avoid what he called “a superficial optimism” upon the on hand, and “a crippling pessimism” on the other. He knew that the solution of social problems is a slow process. At the same time, he was confident that, through God’s help and human effort, social progress could be made. He said in a definitive passage:
Although man’s moral pilgrimage may never reach a destination point on earth, his never-ceasing strivings may bring him ever closer to the city of righteousness. And though the Kingdom of god may remain not yet as universal reality in history, in the present it may exist in such isolated forms as in judgment, in personal devotion, and in some group life. . . . Above all, we must be reminded anew that God is at work in his universe. lie is hot outside the world looking on within a. son of cold indifference. . . . As we struggle to defeat the forces of evil, the God of the universe struggles with us. Evil dies on the seashore, not merely because of man’s endless struggle against it, but because of God’s power to defeat it [Struggle to Love (Harper & Row, 1961). p. 64].
Thus, though acutely aware that the Beloved Community is “not yet,” but in the future — perhaps even the distant future — Martin Luther King believed that it would eventually be actualized, and already lie saw approximations of it. That is why he worked unceasingly for the realization of his dream and never lost hope that “there will be a great camp meeting in the promised land’ His hope was rooted in his faith in the power of God to achieve his purpose among humankind within history.
Irrational gun arguments: the ATF, the Holocaust, slavery and tyranny
Friday, 18 January 2013 22:39:18 PST
Since the horrifying school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., the right and left have been ratcheting up the gun rhetoric daily—from liberals thinking laws will stop America’s obsession with violence to conservatives passionately defending their right to bear arms and stop tyranny. The sentiment isn’t monolithic, for there are some liberals with guns and some conservatives who support commonsense gun laws.
But among those making the noise are the NRA, with their recent ad featuring President Obama’s daughters front and center, while calling the president “an elitist hypocrite.” Then there is the Gun Appreciation Day organizer failing to see the obscene irony in his statement on Dr. King and slavery, to the Holocaust put on blast for a lack of ammo in the hands of the Jews.
So let’s continue the irrational conversation on the nation’s many guns, on mass shootings, accidental killings, criminal possession, hunting, tyranny, slavery, the Holocaust, big government and the Second Amendment.
There are some rational steps being taken by the president to tighten our gun laws. He unveiled 23 executive orders aimed at gun control on Wednesday. Vice President Joe Biden has been working behind the scenes, meeting with the NRA, manufacturers, and the country’s biggest gun retailer, that juggernaut of mass products, Walmart.
Meanwhile, there is another convo taking place among pundits, in social media, in blog-land, and beyond—and some of it defies logic.
Irrational argument number one: “I think Martin Luther King Jr. would agree with me if he were alive today that if African Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country’s founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history.” This fromLarry Ward, organizer of Gun Appreciation Day, to CNN host Carol Costello.
There are so many variables here, and every one of them was lost on Ward. Like the fact that the civil rights leader was murdered by a gun. The obtuseness of his statement is stunning. Then there was his sad pandering to blacks with his slavery-could-have-been-avoided-if-only-those-enslaved-were-allowed-to-carry-guns argument, which descended into the incredulous.
Why stop at slavery? While preaching gun protection and the Second Amendment, he should have thought of the Native American people having guns too and what the outcome would have been when the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock and proved not to be as peace-loving as they first portrayed themselves.
Irrational argument number two: The Holocaust. Folks are actually using Hitler’s horrors to make their no-restrictions-on-guns argument. Memes on Facebook claim if the persecuted Jews had guns they could have prevented their nightmare. I guess they forgot that France and the Allied forces had not only guns but other weaponry usually found in the military (like warplanes, tanks, bombs) and that demon Hitler still managed to conquer most of Europe.
Irrational argument number three: “The right to bear arms is … the last form of defense against tyranny.” This is the mantra of many gun enthusiasts. Former rapper/actor Ice-T recited those very words during a recent interview.
So we need guns, semi-automatic killing machines, to protect ourselves if the big, bad government decides to act tyrannically? I don’t know what America these folks are living in. Maybe they have been watching too many Hollywood movies. Have they seen what the government is packing lately?
In case they forgot, the military industrial complex and the government are one and the same, and their weaponry has long surpassed Glocks, Bushmasters, AR-15s and all semi- and automatic rifles.
It’s fascinating, for the ones who accuse the government of psych-ops and other elaborate conspiracies of military mass destruction are the same folks who believe guns hoarded in their basement or lockboxes can go up against that kind of sophisticated tyranny.
Irrational argument number four: We already have more than 23,000 gun laws on the books; the government just needs to get the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to enforce them. What Republicans are leaving out in this conversation is that they have methodically and effectively muzzled that department to the point it is legislatively impotent. Like a Daily Beast article asks, What Does the ATF Do, Anyway?
There isn’t even an officially appointed head of the ATF, and that position has been empty for six years. The acting director, Todd Jones, has another full-time gig, as the US Attorney for Minnesota. It is an appointed position, thanks to Republicans. The ATF also cannot do a slew of things because it is undermined and limited by Congress via powerful NRA lobbyists.
Here are some of the things the department that is supposed to be in charge of enforcing gun laws in this country cannot do:
- Despite all their loud hoopla over the Fast and Furious program, Republicans have muzzled the ATF so that it can’t force gun vendors to take inventories.
- The ATF cannot effectively track guns because it is not allowed to create a gun registry and database.
- The ATF cannot make gun records public.
The gun-control reforms President Obama introduced Wednesday have their fair share of big-name supporters.
Since the Sandy Hook shooting, Piers Morgan’s CNN talk show has been a weeks-long sermon shouted from the TV mountaintop, a notorious blowhard delivering ratings-gold rants that amounted to little more than publicity and an asinine deportation debate. Well-meaning movie stars like Jamie Foxx and Jeremy Rennerpleaded for an end to gun violence … as their über-violent shoot-’em-up blockbusters racked up millions of dollars at the box office.
For the past 24 hours Scarborough’s Twitter stream has featured a takedown of the National Rifle Association’s extremism, 140 characters at a time. On Morning Joe over the past week, he’s slammed the organization as “sick” for, among other things, apparently releasing an iPhone videogame that allows users—age 4 and up—to take target practice. On his Politico blog, he warns the NRA of future extinction if it ignores a public that increasingly wants reform and continues with its “tone-deaf” ways.
Sure, these are things that his talking-head colleagues have said, in various ways, before. But Scarborough is different. For one, he is a Republican. He is of the same party that so many people on one side of the debate—those for sweeping gun-control reform—consider the bad guys. He is a longtime supporter of the Second Amendment and a believer of the original intention behind the formation of the NRA, calling it a good and “proud” organization that has been “besmirched and diminished” by a few powerful but out-of-touch gun lobbyists. “How sick are these people that have commandeered the NRA and turned them into an extremist operation for survivalists and gun manufacturers?” he says. And as a former representative, he knows the legislative difficulty that any meaningful reform will encounter.
Scarborough’s rants—as much as rational, reasoned arguments can be called rants—are rooted in advocacy. As much as he is decrying the recent spate of gun violence and the current mindset of the NRA, he is encouraging members of the Republican Party, to which the group is closely tied, to force it to reform its ways and make its way back from the edge of alienating and ultimately counterproductive extremism.
His message cites the stats, throwing out recent poll numbers about Americans’ support out “as a wake-up call” to the NRA and the Republican Party in general. “If they keep their feet in cement,” he says, “they’re going to be run over—not by Joe Biden, but by Middle America, by people that want to protect their children.”
And it’s not just the NRA he’s going after. He’s including gun manufacturers in his condemnation of the gun industry for “ginning up fears” that the government will reactionarily ban guns entirely following the Sandy Hook shooting, a fearmongering tactic that has goosed gun sales. “Hey, they can’t take your guns away—we’ve got something called the Second Amendment in the Constitution of the United States,” he says. “Justice Scalia said in 2009 they can’t come and take your guns away. You can have a handgun to protect your family. But after that, they can regulate guns.”
So much of the antigun argument has relied on passion and anger to make a point—and there’s certainly a place for that—but Scarborough is boiling the debate down to logic, and survival. His take on the gun debate isn’t an opportunistic takedown of an out-of-touch organization, but a much needed canary in the coal mine for a major presence in American politics that doesn’t seem to be paying close enough attention. Quite simply, he says that if Republicans continue to back the NRA as it promotes its current stances, they would be “driving off the cliff into political oblivion.”
“The only way we will be able to change is if [gun lobbyists’] audience, their constituents, their membership, says this time must be different,” Obama said in his address Wednesday, “that this time we must do something to protect our communities and our kids.”
Scarborough, for one, is doing his best.
Obama’s and Martin Luther King Jr.‘s stories will merge Monday
WASHINGTON — When President Barack Obama takes the oath of office Monday on the national holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and vision, the links between the two men will be easy to discern.
Both battled enormous odds to build historic multi-ethnic, multi-racial coalitions — one to advance the cause of civil rights only to be assassinated in 1968, the other to win the nation’s highest office. Both won the Nobel Peace Prize. Both could use soaring rhetoric to inspire millions. Both also had to overcome critics who accused them of socialist or communist sympathies, as well as black activists who maintained that they weren’t strong advocates for African-Americans.
Mr. Obama has long encouraged the ties between King and himself. He spoke at the civil rights icon’s Atlanta church on Jan. 20, 2008, a year before his first inauguration. He accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 on the anniversary of King’s Aug. 28, 1963, “I Have a Dream” speech. He’ll take the oath Monday on a Bible that King used, as well as on one that Abraham Lincoln used.
“What King and Obama have in common is that both are articulate voices, voices being heard at a time when people were listening and wanted to listen,” said Sam Fulwood, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research center.
The two men, of course, were also different, largely because of their times.
“Making America better in 1968 is different than making America better in 2013. I think they take different paths, but their goal is to use their strengths to help America be America,” said Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
National politics wasn’t an option for King. He was born in 1929 and came of age in a South where the simple act of voting was at best difficult and often impossible for blacks, effectively disenfranchising them in one-fourth of the country.
Even elsewhere, voters showed almost no inclination to elect a black person to any statewide office. It wasn’t until 1966 that Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts became the first black to be elected to the Senate in 85 years. Not until 1989 did Virginia’s Douglas Wilder become the first black person elected governor of a state.
Mr. Obama has benefited from a political structure that offers unbridled opportunity. He was born in 1961, soon after stronger voting-rights laws began empowering blacks and making them an important political force.
Through the years, so-called “race issues” have been less prominent, allowing black politicians to identify more closely with universal issues such as health care or the economy.
“Obama had financial advantages and the support of the Democratic Party,” said Kareem Crayton, an associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina Law School. “King was trying to dismantle a hundred years of exclusion, in violation of federal law and the courts.”
Mr. Obama, who as a young community organizer was frustrated that he couldn’t change an ingrained political system, learned to be an insider working from outside the black community. Many black leaders in early 2008 preferred Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic nominee.
King was the opposite, drawing his political strength from the black population in the heart of the segregated South, a place where the church was often the heart of the political community.
“King’s world was so shaped by religion and the American South versus Obama’s world, which is shaped by fundamentally different things,” Mr. Bunch said.
The bond between the two men, though, has at its core roots that are timeless, allowing a torch to be passed from one generation’s most prominent black American to another.
“It’s about leadership that comes from community support,” Mr. Bunch said. “King’s a Southerner coming out of a rigidly segregated environment but also coming out of a strong black middle class and nuclear family.”
Mr. Obama, reaping the benefits of the post-civil rights generation, “is able to both be deeply embedded in his community but to be beyond his community,” Mr. Bunch explained.
King and Mr. Obama shared an important personal trait that allowed them to flourish: Both knew how to reach out and become acceptable to key elements of the white community so they could build multi-racial coalitions to effect change. They also had to appeal to black constituencies while not offending whites.
Mr. Obama’s biggest challenge came in March 2008, during a crucial phase of his bid to win the Democratic nomination. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Mr. Obama’s pastor, came under fire for incendiary comments in his sermons and writings. Mr. Obama quickly distanced himself from Rev. Wright.
“What’s important to realize is for Obama, he really has claimed his Americanism,” Mr. Bunch said. “He’s really made sure that based on who he is and his vision, it’s for a broader America. … He’s made sure that he simply isn’t seen as a one-issue president. That’s the tension and the balance that he has to do.”
Some in the black community also have criticized Mr. Obama and King: Mr. Obama as not paying enough attention to their needs, King as not being aggressive enough.
As they became better known, King and Mr. Obama faced a new challenge: broadening and implementing their agendas. While both sparked unusual hope, they found that once they got beyond their signature issues — health care and reviving the economy for Mr. Obama, civil rights for King — things got tougher.
King was criticized as embracing the anti-Vietnam War movement with too much vigor. He tried to tie his war criticism to his efforts to curb poverty, and he explained the link in a 1967 speech at New York City’s Riverside Church.
“I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted,” King explained. “I speak for the poor of America, who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam.”
King, though, wouldn’t be a major player in Vietnam protests. His post-civil rights-era goals “were things he was never able to accomplish,” Mr. Crayton said.
As Mr. Obama tries to implement his second-term agenda, he, too, is reaching out, embracing an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system and gun control. Whether he can mobilize support, Mr. Crayton said, “remains an unanswered question.”
First Published January 20, 2013 12:00 am
Sowing Seeds of Hope Susan Lea Smith Cedar Hills United Church of Christ January 20, 2013 (as preached on the occasion of Martin Luther King Sunday)
Today we remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who loved God and his neighbors with all his heart,might, soul and mind, who picked up his cross on his people’s behalf and behalf of all of us, and who sought to follow Jesus until the day he was struck down by an assassin’s bullet.
Dr. King led the civil rights movement throughout the 1950s and 60s and taking Gandhi’s approach of non-violent resistance to evil, he led boycotts, marches, sit-ins and protest of every sort. But he was more than a civil rights leader. He was a tireless advocate for peace, nuclear disarmament and an end to the war in Vietnam. And he fought for economic justice at every turn. Indeed, Dr. King was in Memphis fighting for economic justice, supporting the city’s garbage collectors strike when he was shot dead on that sad day in April.
Dr. King was not only an activist: he inspired us through his remarkable speeches and sermons. He was indeed a modern day prophet and an absolutely consummate preacher! Now prophets have two unique tasks. The first is speaking the truth in love – diagnosing the true ills of a people and then prescribing a cure even if that requires telling them uncomfortable and inconvenient truths. The second is sowing hope that these difficulties will be overcome. The emphasis prophets give each task depends upon the circumstances of their time and place: they proclaim what the people need to hear
In today’s Scripture, Isaiah, a prophet of long ago, spoke at a time when his people most needed hope. He spoke at a time of hardship, confusion, and despair. He assured them that by remaining true to the inclusive message of liberation and compassionate justice, their loving God would bring them honor among nations and prosperity. Through these words, Isaiah did his best to sow seeds of hope.
Likewise, Dr. King’s clarion call to justice and his hope-filled vision of the future gave courage and hope to those of us who fought beside him, facing arrest, fire hoses, police dogs, cross burnings and death. But he supplied hope not just to those who struggled along with him: he offered an inclusive hope of racial equality, peace, and economic justice for all. And he promised that one day we would achieve those dreams, we would indeed reach that mountaintop. And from that mountaintop, our whole society would see the gospel vision, the Kingdom of God that, with God’s help, would come to pass on earth. Quite simply, Dr. King sowed seeds of hope—far and wide.
Since the morning of December 14th, 2012, when I spent hours praying in this sanctuary…since December 14th, a day that like Pearl Harbor day will live in infamy, I’ve considered how Dr. King would have responded to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and the larger problem of gun violence.
Dr. King abhorred violence in any form and, like Gandhi, was sorely disappointed on those occasions when his followers succumbed to that terrible…terrible temptation to use violence against evil. So there is no doubt in my mind that Dr. King would have been at the forefront of the battle against gun violence. But I am less certain which strategies he would have used to counter the power of the NRA with Congress and an antagonistic Supreme Court.
Perhaps Dr. King would have simply urged us to keep pressure on our legislators, writing letters, attending town meetings and talking to them at the legislature. I have it on impeachable authority that this strategy is very important right now.
Perhaps Dr. King would have led us in marching on Washington (and the state capitols of our great nation) to demand effective regulation of such weapons.
Perhaps Dr. King might even have urged us to commit non-violent civil disobedience, to do radical, risky things—things that I fear I lack the courage to do. I can imagine that he and his closest followers might have stormed into gun shows where semi-automatic weapons are sold to convicted felons and people suffering from dangerous mental illnesses – and, like Jesus, upset the tables of the merchants of death. But I think he would have refrained because, however tempting, that sort of action would exacerbate fear.
Though I am not certain about his strategies for direct action, I am certain he would have shared another dream – a dream that not one, single more American child will die by bullets from the barrel of a semi-automatic weapon. He would have shared that dream.
He also would have sought to sow seeds of hope for all Americans, seeking to create an inclusive vision even for those who grasp most tightly onto their semi-automatic weapons – suspicious of humanity and afraid of their government. For you see, the job of a prophet is more than telling people what they are doing is wrong or what they ought to be doing. A prophet must illuminate a vision of the kingdom of God and reassure us that we, with the help of God, can bring that kingdom to earth.
Forces of darkness are telling Americans that we need semi-automatic weapons to resist foreign invasion, crime, governmental tyranny, and social disorder when the apocalypse comes. They bombard our friends and neighbors with a message that our country is on its way to ruin and our government is somehow responsible for that ruin. They seek to have us desperately worship the false idol of those weapons, trusting in firepower, rather than our God. They truly are engaged in a battle for the American soul.
Sadly, Dr. King is not here to fight the battle against gun violence. Only you and I can fight this battle. But the same Spirit of loving compassion and justice that nurtured, called and guided Dr. King, the voice of God that spoke so clearly and strongly to him, remains. That Spirit now calls us to do our part to assure America is no longer a society where deeply disturbed people have ready access to weapons of mass destruction.
In her sermons over the last few months, beginning with the one before Sandy Hook when she read a list of recent mass shootings, the Rev. Mary Sue Evers has provided a prophetic voice about gun violence. Have we been listening? Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear? I hope and believe we do.
But today I ask even more of you, of us, than she has asked. For we must address not just the symptoms, but the disease that makes people hold onto their guns so tightly: their profound fear of our society and our government. Dr. King taught us that the antidotes to fear are self-awareness, courage, love, and faith. So, to combat the disease of fear that grips those who cling onto semi-automatic rifles, to help them fight their fear– each of us must serve as a prophetic voice, intentionally, consciously, sowing seeds of love, of faith, of hope among our friends and neighbors.
To be such a voice, we must be careful about how we address the various flaws of our society. Whenever we talk about problems in apocalyptic terms, whenever we use rhetoric more extreme than our positions, and whenever we blame the flaws of our society on corrupt government and mindless bureaucrats, we play into the hands of darkness and we foster more fear, cynicism, and despair.
I confess that I’ve said such things, I’ve used that sort of dark rhetoric— and I suspect that many of you have as well. We ought to be more careful.
We ought to take care not to feed apocalyptic nightmares by suggesting that somehow the sky is falling: the global economy poised on the brink of collapse or that any other problem from nukes in Iran to global warming is about to destroy life as we know it.
We ought to take care not to act, or overstate our position, in ways that create more fear instead of less. If we moderate our actions and our rhetoric, we can foster dialogue: if our issue is with death-dealing semi-automatic weapons, it is good to reassure owners of ordinary hunting rifles that we do not support banning their weapons.
We ought to take care not to foster contempt for our government by suggesting that our democratically-elected government is somehow illegitimate. Each time we engage in such dark rhetoric, we reinforce the darkness. Leave the darkness to the darkness.
So, what should we say? What might Isaiah or Dr. King say in these confusing and troubling times. Preach the good news and sow seeds of Gospel faith: trust in God’s abundance, mercy, and justice, and foster that trust in others. Lift up the victories and sow seeds of hope—celebrate the states that are acting on this issue and celebrate that our President is prepared to lead the battle against gun violence even through it carries political risks. Tell stories of compassion, justice, and love. Let me share just one little story—an almost unbelievable story—right now.
In my last sermon, I recounted how directly experiencing God, the Spirit that is love, during my stay in India has led me to experience the same exquisite joy whenever I serve as a conduit of that love to others. I gave one small example – my Wal-Mart moment, when the Spirit moved me to pay the bill of a woman at the checkout counter at Wal-Mart who had her credit card declined. Her plight flooded me with compassion in part because I’m sure her teenage daughter was absolutely mortified!!! My Wal-Mart moment indeed freed me to share God’s abundance with others whether they just need an ear to listen, money for gas or groceries, or a hot home-made meal.
Well, today I’d like to finish that story. About two years ago, I found the tables turned. One night, I was standing at the Safeway checkout counter with my son Nathanial, who had just returned from college. He still eats like a teenager –those of you who have had teenagers can imagine what my grocery bills are like when he’s home! That night, when I zipped my debit card through and punched in my PIN, the system declined it. I was embarrassed and anxious about Nathanial finding out how tight money was. As I turned to talk with him, the woman behind me in line just handed her card to the clerk and paid my bill – more than $240. When I asked where to send the money to repay her, she smiled and told me not to worry about that – she had enough money. That woman’s loving act was a simple, vivid illustration of how God’s love indeed fills the entire world and how trust in God enlivens, enriches, and simplifies one’s life.
The truth that we can proclaim to our friends and neighbors is that amazing things happen when we act out of loving compassion and when we trust in God’s abundance, mercy and justice. If Dr. King were here today, I believe he’d remind us that we are all called to act with loving compassion. We are all called, in whatever way we can find, to light a candle, to be a force of light chasing away the darkness. Quite simply, we are all called to be prophets and to take on the task of sowing seeds of hope. I pray that each of us will respond to that call. Amen.
Polls show Obama’s proposals are supported by the majority. Visit our polls page http://wp.me/P2Z8Ra-1x
* Require criminal background checks for all gun sales.
* Take four executive actions to ensure information on dangerous individuals is available to the background check system.
* Reinstate and strengthen the assault weapons ban.
* Restore the 10-round limit on ammunition magazines.
* Protect police by finishing the job of getting rid of armor-piercing bullets.
* Give law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime.
* End the freeze on gun violence research.
* Make our schools safer with more school resource officers and school counselors, safer climates, and better emergency response plans.
* Help ensure that young people get the mental health treatment they need.
* Ensure health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.
Some strategies require Congressional action, but the White House announced that President Obama will sign 23 executive orders on guns and gun violence immediately:
1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
11. Nominate an ATF director.
12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.
There are few watershed moments in history, and one is likely to occur today when President Barack Obama rolls out his plan to curb gun violence.
This newspaper is encouraged by the details that have emerged so far. Based on Vice President Joe Biden’s work after the deadly Newtown, Conn., school shootings last month, the president is expected to endorse ideas that this newspaper has long supported.
These include reinstating and tightening the assault weapons ban, limiting the purchase of high-capacity ammunition magazines, requiring universal background checks, conducting additional research on gun violence, investing in mental health programs, devising specific recommendations for school safety and cracking down on straw-purchasers who perpetuate gun trafficking.
Now it’s time for serious congressional leadership. The nation’s gun violence doesn’t have a single solution. Reducing the problem — from Sandy Hook and Columbine to the streets of Chicago and Dallas — requires a coordinated commitment to address a wide range of issues.
Many of the proposals have gained public support in the month since the Newtown massacre. For example, a recent Washington Post–ABC News Poll reports that 52 percent of Americans are more supportive of gun safety regulations since the shootings, including an assault weapons ban. According to that poll, 87 percent of gun owners support background checks at gun shows and 67 percent of them support the same for ammunition purchases. Even controversial measures, such as a federal guns database and controls on high-capacity clips, have substantial support from gun owners, 62 percent and 55 percent respectively.
Earlier this week, the president spoke in favor of a new assault weapons ban and universal background checks, regardless of whether the sale is made over the Internet, in a back alley or in someone’s living room. Some of these reforms will require congressional approval, but not all.
For example, we urge the president to demand more rigorous enforcement of existing gun laws, including prosecution of those who lie on gun sale background checks, stricter checks on gun dealer inventories and a requirement that the FBI contact state and local agencies when a gun buyer is rejected for mental health reasons. It would seem that basic steps such as these could win bipartisan support.
We respect Second Amendment concerns and firmly believe that keeping powerful firearms from those who might abuse them protects the rights of those who own and use the weapons safely. This newspaper does not support limiting hunting rifles and small firearms or rounding up weapons already in citizens’ possession.
It’s time to responsibly end needless gun violence.
What we support
This newspaper hopes the Obama gun plan includes:
•Renewal and tightening of the assault weapons ban.
•Limits on the purchase of high-capacity magazines.
•Requirement of universal background checks.
•Additional research on gun violence.
•Investment in mental health programs.
•Specific recommendations for school safety .
•Prosecution of straw-purchasers who perpetuate gun trafficking.