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If pastors and church leaders don’t work to find a solution, they lose the right for their condolences to be taken seriously.
Last week thousands of children and young people across the United States walked out of class in protest.
Students left their classes for 17 minutes in memory of the 17 pupils who died last month in Florida and to demand changes in the current laws related to owning firearms in the USA.
The protest produced contrasting reactions from both sides. On the one hand, a group of students placed 7,000 pairs of shoes in front of the White House, a visual representation of the approximate number of children who have been killed by guns since the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2013.
On the other hand, the National Rifle Association (NRA) reacted on Twitter by posting a photo of a gun similar to the one used in Florida with the caption: “I'll control my own guns, thank you”.
Multiple studies have shown that a large number of our children live in fear of going to school. They feel the insecurity that, despite the various school massacres, nothing serious is being done to change the current situation or the access to firearms for people with clear mental and emotional problems. Violence and death in schools is now something regrettable but tolerable.
This time certain actions have been seen. In the state of Florida they passed a series of new laws that seek to control the access to firearms for those under 21. However, the NRA issued a legal challenge to the new law. Furthermore, the president implied that he wasn’t afraid of the NRA and spoke in favour of a similar legalisation. He later changed his opinion after meeting with the leaders of this organisation.
Where are the churches and the Christian leaders? Their first reaction was the same as always, condolences and a promise to pray. However, as a lot of young people have pointed out, they are tired of hearing condolences and that they are praying. If pastors and church leaders don’t work to find a solution, they lose the right for their condolences to be taken seriously.
Do we have the courage to work in favour of laws that seek to control access to guns whose only aim is mass killing? Is it that it will continue to be easier to buy a war gun than a vehicle in the USA? They currently have stricter records of vehicles than guns in this country. The majority of people in the USA recognise that we suffer this type of disaster because we have laws that permit private, almost unlimited, access to military style weapons. If this is not changed we should not be surprised when the next massacre occurs.
Many more will be marching on March 24. If all we can offer our children is “condolence and prayers”, then it should not surprise us when they say that they don’t care. As pastors and churches we should pray and console. But we also have to act. If we are not going to look for change, our condolences and our prayers ring hollow. We should not be surprised if our young people outright tell us this.
Juan Francisco Martinez, Professor of Hispanic studies and pastoral leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary, USA.