WASHINGTON – While critics inside and outside of the United States are condemning the country's gun control laws, a group of evangelicals responded to the Virginia Tech shooting by focusing on the Gospel's power to heal and transform rather than on policy change.
Many of the Christian leaders present at the press conference normally work daily to press Congress on laws they believe will create a better society based on the Bible. However, all speakers were mum on public policy on Wednesday, flipping pages of the Bible and seeking verses from the Scripture for the ultimate solution to the anger and confusion in the emerging younger generation.
"One of the things that I want to say is evangelical Christians have been guilty in recent years of being seen as a force that tells everybody what they shouldn't do; seems as if we are against so many things," said Bishop Harry R. Jackson, chairman at the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in the greater Washington, D.C. area on Wednesday.
High Impact Leadership Coalition promotes conservative agendas such as the prohibition of same-sex "marriage," school vouchers, and private social security investment accounts among other topics.
Jackson publicly apologized on behalf of his congregation and the organizations that he represent for fighting the "war for the culture" rather than spreading "this powerful Gospel that transform lives, communities, universities, and [the] nation."
Following the school shooting spree by 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho that left 33 people dead including the gunman, the United States had come under harsh criticism from other countries as well as international editorials on its lax gun control laws.
In addition to secular critics, some Christian leaders such as the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of World Council of Churches, and the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, have mixed condolences with reproach on U.S. gun regulations.
Kobia said churches around the world view the U.S. administration's pro-gun position during international negotiation as a major obstacle in effective global regulation of small arms and light weapons. Although acknowledging that there are other factors involved, the ecumenical leader said U.S. arms manufacturing and sales policies have violent consequences not only in the United States but abroad.
Meanwhile, Edgar commented that the "epidemic of gun violence" in America gets little attention in Congress.
It is estimated that 40 percent of American households own a gun and some 200 million weapons are in private hands, according to Agence France-Presse. Moreover, some 30,000 people die from gunshot wounds in the United States each year and there are more guns in private hands than in any other country, according to the New Zealand newsite Stuff.co.nz.
Yet as the world and some Christian leaders are demanding tighter gun control laws, some evangelical leaders agree that the ultimate solution to end school shootings and gun violence is the Gospel.
Marion Kim, press secretary for the World Evangelical Alliance and herself a young 1.5 generation Korean-American, noted the great emptiness, sorrow, pain, suffering, anger, and hatred within this generation.
"Being able to see this, we must address and be able to respond to their needs with the Gospel, with the compassion and love of Jesus Christ," Kim emphasized. "We should bring all the wounded souls to the True Healer … I feel that is when the situation can be overturned and when evil can be covered with the good."
Barrett Duke, the vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also echoed the sentiments of Jackson and Kim. Duke's position at the ERLC requires that he address the social and moral concerns of public policy issues daily. However, in response to the Virginia shootings, Duke declared that the "ultimate answer is Jesus Christ" and urged churches to make sure the "answer" was everywhere and available to those who are hurt and confused.
"It is certainly a call to the church to once again remember that it has a task and its task is the love and the Gospel of Jesus Christ," concluded the Baptist leader.