“33 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)… 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” 40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.”
The death of Jesus was an act of terror painfully inflicted in the presence of those who loved him. His death is universally familiar but still startles us when we read it. The anguish of Jesus who cries out to God his pain of forsakenness. Even in the death of Jesus, it is a remarkable witness to the power of forgiveness and love. The centurion proclaimed words of faith. Joseph of Arimathea accompanied by Nicodemus tenderly took the body of Jesus and laid it in a cave. The women who “cared for his needs” “in life continued to do so in death as Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome prepared spices to anoint his body.
On Saturday, August 3rd, 2019, 22 people were murdered in the span of twenty-four hours. A gunman walked into a Walmart in El Paso, Texas and shot 46 people with 22 dying from their wounds by Monday with 26 wounded. On July 28th, in Dayton, Ohio, a gunman walked into a bar and in thirty seconds killed nine people and wounded 27 others. Last weekend, innocents died. Men and women who did nothing wrong came under attack by bullets fired from firearms made for war. This adds to the more than 250 mass shootings that have occurred in 2019.
We stand in prayer and solidarity with the families of those who were wounded and those who lost their lives. Their words and actions demonstrate great strength that only faith can provide.
- Two parents made the ultimate sacrifice. When the shooting started, Jordan Anchondo jumped in front of his wife, and the child’s mother dived on top of their infant baby. Both died.
- David Johnson died protecting his daughter and nine-year-old granddaughter from gunfire. He pushed them down, got on top of his family, and he was shot.
- In Dayton, Dion Green, held his father, 57-year-old Darren Fudge, in his arms as he took his last breath.
- The Jamrowski family declared, “I forgive the shooter. Love, faith, and forgiveness. We forgive him, pray for him, hope he finds God cause God teaches you to be loving.”
I was greatly touched by one of our members who shared out of his individual and collective grief. “I am an elder of PCUSA… Too many people have died senselessly. I still walk around 44 years later with the scars of the murder of my sister and her four children (5, 12,16 &17), all because people couldn’t resolve their differences.”
These horrific acts of senseless violence must end. Gun violence is a disease that bleeds through the veins of our country. Each year, occurrences of gun violence increase, with occurrences increasing by 16 percent between 2014 and 2017. Legislation for stricter background checks when purchasing firearms, H.R.8 – Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 and H.R. 1112- Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, passed the House of Representatives in February. However, companion bills have yet to be introduced in the Senate. We must hold Congress accountable and demand that they pass legislation to address this crisis. After years of watching innocent people die as a result of these senseless acts of violence, elected officials must take action to prevent gun violence. Congress needs to hear from us! We will no longer sit by and accept gun violence as a part of everyday life in the United States.
Therefore, the Office of Public Witness reiterates the 219th Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly’s call for common-sense gun violence regulations. We call for legislation that will—
- Ban all assault weapons and high capacity magazines. These are weapons of war and have no place in the hands of common citizens.
- Require universal background checks when purchasing any firearm.
- Make gun trafficking a federal crime.
- Repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from litigation by victims of their products.
As people of faith, we must continue to speak out and demand that Congress enact sensible changes to gun laws that will keep these senseless acts of hate from occurring. For more information on gun violence, please Click here to download the PPF toolkit.