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After Santa Barbara, the world needs us to continue Jesus' message of nonviolence

Bishop Mark Beckwith contemplates ad on Newark bus that glorifies gun violence.

In Nigeria, the kidnapped victims are girls. In Santa Barbara, the shooting victims were intended to be young women. In both cases, the perpetrators were men wielding guns. In Nigeria, the men were convinced of their gender supremacy, but they needed their guns in a misguided – and tragic, effort to prove it. In Santa Barbara, the killer stoked his misogyny and psychotic need for revenge by spraying gunfire into the sidewalks of a college town’s Friday night activity.

In nearly every culture and in nearly every era of history, men have wielded power. With guns, men wield more power. When the men with guns are fueled by self-righteousness or religious fundamentalism – or are consumed by mental illness, the power of the gun may be the only power that they have; and as we have increasingly seen, the destructive power of guns can be disastrous.

Many of us are involved in efforts to reduce gun violence. Our work is about enhancing gun safety by reducing magazine capacity, introducing “smart gun technology,” supporting gun buy-backs, exercising economic pressure on gun stores that play loose with the rules and on gun manufacturers who produce new lines of more deadly products. Inevitably, the conversation gets twisted – to the issues of gun rights and gun control, both of which are protected by the Second amendment. Conversation stalls, acrimony and accusations fill the air – and very little happens.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus met violence with nonviolence. He preached peace in a world of unrelenting violence. Despite being rejected and abused – and finally being put to death, Jesus stayed on message. The power of that message – which transcended race, gender and culture – still abides. And is a powerful hope. 

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