One reaction by houses of worship to last month's mass shooting at a Baptist church in Texas has been to look inward, and think about church security. Another, discussed at a forum on gun violence Tuesday in Charlotte, is to look outward and ask how people of faith can help battle the problem.
Mecklenburg Ministries organized the forum at Park Road Baptist Church after a gunman killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Nov. 5. Executive director Frederick Robinson said church security seminars like some hosted recently by CMPD are necessary.
- Listen to full remarks by Becky Ceartas and Rev. Benjamin Boswell below
“But they miss the point. We have to really deal with the hole in America's soul that is causing this mayhem. And as a faith community, it's not about self-protecting, its about protecting the world,” Robinson said.
But just how should people of faith get involved? About 25 people listened to thoughts on the question from a series of speakers.
“Simple things like writing letters to the editor; contacting your local media; meet with, call, email your legislators,” said Becky Ceartas, of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence.
Ceartas called on churches to help educate people about gun violence, such as how guns in the home are often used in domestic violence - and suicide. And she urged churches to push for better enforcement of existing laws and for reversing laws, such as one passed a few years ago in North Carolina that allows concealed weapons in bars and restaurants. Ceartas noted that businesses must post signs if they want to keep concealed weapons out.
The Rev. Benjamin Boswell of Myers Park Baptist Church disagreed with the idea that many mass shootings can be blamed on mental illness. He says the problem is easy access to guns.
“The real problem with gun violence is guns in America, not mental illness. Although I think mental illness is important for us to deal with, but I think the way that mental illness plays in this is that we have a sickness … we are mentally ill as a nation. We are sick with a disease and that disease is gun culture,” Boswell said.
Boswell said widespread gun ownership can't be justified, from a Christian perspective.
“Jesus was pretty clear about some things. He did not say take up your guns, he said take up your cross. He also said put down your sword,” Boswell said.
Mecklenburg Ministries Frederick Robinson says he hopes the forum will prompt people of faith to push for stronger gun laws.
"It's an issue that's not going away, and the faith community has to be involved in a deeper more meaningful way,” he said. “If we are compromised by the powers that be, by the gun empire, then there's not much hope for our nation.
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