In a World of Mass Violence, Christians Must Model Peacemaking

A wall mural in downtown Las Vegas transforms a pistol into the word "peace." (Image courtesy of Marc Cooper via Flickr)
A wall mural in downtown Las Vegas transforms a pistol into the word “peace.” (Image courtesy of Marc Cooper via Flickr)

by David Gungor

At a church where I used to serve, one of our lead pastors owned an assault rifle. It was a glorious specimen as far as guns go, a black AR-15 type of weapon. The same kind that was just used in Las Vegas.

I remember the day this pastor (and my boss) showed all of “the boys” on our staff the picture of his new weapon mounted on the wall. Amid all of the congratulations, I kept thinking, “How can this be okay?”

From the outside, our church appeared to be obsessed with social justice. Our vision statement was taken straight from Micah 6:8: “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.” To make sure no one forgot it, we printed that slogan on bumper stickers, plastered it on coffee mug, totes, and repeated it in front of our congregation with regularity.

And yet, with stunning irony, one of the leaders and pastors of this “justice-obsessed” evangelical mega-church was bragging about owning a powerful weapon that was created for the purpose of killing humans who are made in the image of God. How exactly can someone do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly while carrying a deadly assault rifle? My pastor friend was one of the most empathetic and loving people I knew at the church.  So I had a hard time understanding how could one reconcile the Micah 6:8 message, let alone the Sermon on the Mount or Jesus life, with the ownership of such a weapon?

Years later, I’ve realized that the tension I experienced in my former congregation is a microcosm of a sweeping problem now facing the American church. I’ve witnessed it firsthand. I grew up an evangelical pastor’s kid and I’ve worked in four churches since I was 18. I’m a full-time musician now, and I’ve led worship at churches all around the country in the last dozen years. Along the way, I’ve witnessed countless Christians who celebrate violence but claim to follow the Prince of Peace.

So what is the gospel for gun-loving Christians?

Our recent history has made this question difficult to answer. After Sandy Hook, a certain part of my American idealism died with the fact that Americans could ignore the issue of gun control. In subsequent tragedies—from San Bernardino to Las Vegas—my idealism has been driven deeper into the grave. Many Christians and proponents of non-violence feel similarly.

In a world of mass murders and school shootings, Christians must find a way to model peacemaking. Amid the darkness and bad news, the human tendency is to self-medicate by stockpiling whatever makes us feel safe and in control. But modeling the Jesus way requires us to dismantle the idols of power and security and fear in our own lives.

There’s no turn-key process for tearing down these strongholds in our lives, but I think the process begins by reminding ourselves of three major themes in the Christian faith:

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SOURCE: Religion News Service

David Gungor currently serves as worship pastor at Trinity Grace Church in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan. He is also the lead singer for the popular band, “The Brilliance.”