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Paula Reid (CNN Anchor): Many people argue that prayers aren’t cutting it.
US Representative Keith Self (R-TX 3): Well, those are people that don’t believe in an almighty God who has, who is absolutely in control of our lives.
May 6, 2023, 7:37 PM

“There is something deeply hypocritical about praying for a problem you are unwilling to solve.” – Miroslav Volf

There are over 30,000 verses in the Bible.  I’ve read all of them (at times) in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and English. So, finally, I’m ready to make a declaration. I’m sick of the killing and the violence. Whether it’s at outlet malls, schools, or in Canaan. I will no longer be an apologist for a violent, war-making God. Especially when the only response so many of my Christian brothers and sisters can offer to the epidemic of gun violence and subsequent child sacrifice it entails are “thoughts and prayers.” I also refuse to be told to be considered a Christian; I must believe in the evangelical version of an “almighty God” who answers all prayers in ways other than the common sense we could answer them for ourselves: make fewer guns available to fewer people. I am done. I refuse to believe in a God with so little respect for my life or the lives of others. I refuse to defend a God in public prayers, sermons, or as a pastor, who can only intervene to stop the slow-rolling massacre of humanity after the ineffectual prayers we mutter over the bullet-riddled bodies of children.

It is past time we stop killing each other. This level of violence is a spiritual, emotional, mental, and political problem. Each component plays a role in escalating the violence in outlet malls, elementary schools, grocery stores, and city streets. They cannot be separated from each other. Common sense gun reform must be undertaken to combat white nationalist extremist philosophies and ongoing mental health crises. Nothing can be done in isolation. Law enforcement, clergy, social workers, mental health professionals, and neighbors must work together to stop the murder on our streets.

We can stop this chaos, but it won’t be stopped with our thoughts and prayers, no matter how almighty we believe God to be. The almighty God of the Old Testament instructed Israelite men to kill the Canaanite men who inhabited the other lands they invaded. God’s chosen were directed to kidnap and rape non-Israelite virgins, co-opting into sexual slavery. (Deuteronomy 21:10-14) The almighty God we expect to stop this wanton slaughter on our streets has a long history of violence. In 1st Chronicles 22, God uses pestilence (what we would call biological warfare) to kill 70,000 people in support of David’s efforts to carry out a census. Today, we’d call these actions war crimes.

Russian Orthodox priests use Biblical passages like these to justify the atrocities of the Russian army in Ukraine. This isn’t a theoretical argument about the primacy of scriptural authority or how middle-class conservatives and liberals in America regard the Bible. This is not about certain passages being inconvenient to our political sensibilities, woke, or hot button issues in America’s faux culture wars. People who take the Old Testament literally today are using it to justify genocide in Europe. Innocent Americans are dying while our “Rome” burns. I’m not sure this Almighty God is the God we need to pray to save our children from the weapons of war that find their way into the hands of those intent on mass murder (or stop Vladimir Putin). Are we, in fact, praying for more death? Given what we see week in and week out and the growing body count, it would seem so. Our prayers are falling on deaf divine ears.

I refuse to live or die by the sword (Matthew 26:52). Jesus told his disciples not to carry weapons. I count myself as one of his followers, so I’ve resisted the urge to buy a Sig Sauer, M-4, or an AR.

I will no longer tie myself up in knots to explain away the violence inherent in the Old Testament to make the Almighty, who condones dashing babies’ heads against rocks, jive with a loving savior who tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I can’t do it anymore. This doesn’t mean I’m a snowflake liberal on scriptural authority. It means I’ve given up on making death and the Bible fit with a 21st-century ethic of life. It means I’m human. Call me names, but to quote Captain Rhett Butler, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” All I know is the status quo isn’t working and the killing must end. Prayer won’t stop bullets. Prayer will comfort the grieving, but if that’s all we can do, we should admit it: we worship guns and violence, not a nonviolent Savior.

So change the signs as we drop the “United” from our name. Instead, why not add something that says, “Welcome to the First Disunited Disaffiliated Church of the AR-15.” Then, at least, we would be honest.

–Richard Bryant