(Photo: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Christians traveling to the site of the mass shooting in California where 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people before taking his own life, argue that Christians must stand up and speak on these sensitive issues.
"Evangelical church leaders have been largely silent on this crisis and that can't continue. These tragedies are a matter of life and death and they leave individuals, families, and whole communities devastated and in terrible fear. Christian leaders can't simply shrug their shoulders and walk away from such enormous tragedy. Clergy have a unique perspective and unique contributions to make toward solving this problem," the Rev. Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday.
The shooting rampage near the University of California at Santa Barbara on May 23 that left seven people dead and over a dozen injured has prompted a national dialogue on the role of men and women in society, particularly in light of Rodger's numerous videos where he says he is carrying out the attack because of his loneliness and lack of success with women.
While the Catholic president of St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, New York, called for a discussion on gun control as a response to the tragedy, the National Clergy Council suggested a more comprehensive approach.
"It's time for the Christian community, especially pastors, to stand up, speak out, and take action. We have spent so much time conducting funerals and comforting the grieving, now we must spend equal time working to avoid the next tragedy. If Christians don't have answers to this problem, who does? My hope and prayer is that a national conversation on the connection between gun violence and mental illness will begin among pastors and other Christian leaders," said Patrick J. Mahoney, also of the Council.
Weighing in on the gun-control debate, Schenck, who is a member of the National Rifle Association, said that the organization has not been "constructive" on this issue.
"While I appreciate so much of what the NRA has done historically, it is not playing a constructive role in this situation. I would like to try to change that from the inside," Schenck stated.
"At the same time, evangelicals must be very careful about how we make alliances with secular organizations. When it comes to this question, the church and the NRA are not working from the same playbook. In my remarks in California I will issue a strong caution about this to pastors and church leaders."
The NRA has said that it supports people's right to own and carry firearms and has argued that responsible gun owners should not be punished for mass shootings.