Predictably, both sides of the gun issue jumped to conclusions about my statement last week on gun violence in America. I spoke in the context of the National Memorial for the Pre-born and the annual March of Life. My statement was in the form of an Op-Ed essay, published in USA Today, and in my opening remarks at the Memorial service. To set the record straight, below you’ll find my essay (entitled by the newspaper’s editors, “Support life womb to tomb”), my statement to the clergy and attendees at the Memorial, and a follow-up clarification I released on Christian Newswire after my position on the issue was mischaracterized by the conservative blog, Breitbart. If you don’t have time to read all of it, I’ll summarize it here in brief:
I am not anti-Second Amendment. I do believe private citizens should be able to responsibly own and freely use firearms. I do believe it is morally permissible for a Christian to kill in self-defense, in war, and for capital punishment. However, the Commandments of God always trump Constitutional Amendments–so, the Christian must be more concerned with what God says than what the Founders said. The question I want to put on the table is how the Christian biblically and ethically approaches the question of gun ownership and use. My family has both a history of mental illness and gun suicide. Both have affected my decision about having a gun in the home. Other questions include: I it always proper for a gun to be used in self-defense? Pointing a gun means readiness to kill; is it proper to point a gun when someone is stealing your car? What about the person with an anger management problem, or an alcohol or drug addiction problem? Should they own a gun? What about families with histories of physical abuse? Should an abuser own a gun? Never mind what the secular experts say, what does the Word of God, the example of Christ, and a prayerful conscience say? As I meet more armed Christians across the country–and as our representatives in Congress wrestle with this issue, the President bears down on it, and the courts rule on it, I think Christians–and pro-lifers in particular–need to weigh in on the discussion. Here’s my two-cents:
Opening Statement at the National Memorial for the Pre-born and their Mothers and Fathers: Welcome to this, the 21st Annual National Memorial for the Pre-born and their Mothers and Fathers, America’s premier, indoor, interdenominational pro-life prayer and preaching service here in Constitutional Hall, just opposite the White House, in Washington, DC.
I’m Reverend Rob Schenck and I’ve been at this podium since Day One, with Fr. Frank Pavone, my twin brother, Fr. Paul Schenck, and many others on this platform and in this auditorium.
We’ve been through a lot together these more than two decades, and, for some us, for over 30 years, as we’ve struggled with the forces of darkness to expose the light of God’s Truth when it comes to the Sanctity of Nascent Human Life.
We’ve marched (as we will again today), we’ve raised money, lobbied, sued, been sued, rescued and done jail time; a few of us have been roughed up, been spit on, had cigarettes extinguished on our scalps; been kicked and punched; maybe you were with me in New York in ‘92 when we were urinated on as we knelt to pray. And pray we have, ceaselessly, since this journey began.
Of course, no one paid more than Jim Pouillon, whom many of us knew. In 2009, Jim was was shot and killed on a sidewalk in Owosso, Michigan, for his prayerful witness to the Sanctity of Life.
If you were around this movement in the 1990s, you also experienced the other side of Jim’s murder, when some among our own did the shooting and killing, taking the lives of those on the other side, violating the very tenet we have all held to so deeply–that every human life is sacred: good, bad, friend or foe, every life is cherished by a loving God, who is the sole Author of Life.
So, today I’d like to issue a new challenge to all who treasure God’s good gift of life and to all that have bravely sought to advance, and to preserve, protect, and promote this fundamental God-given human right.
Let’s take what we have learned during these past decades of our struggle and enlarge our reach, as the famous prayer of Jabez has it in 1 Chronicles 4:10, “Oh that thou wouldst bless me and enlarge my border.” Let’s take this Gospel of Life, as Christ commanded us, “into all the world.”–everywhere life is threatened, disrespected, devalued, and disregarded. Our pre-born brothers and sisters have taught us the meaning of the mandate in Deuteronomy 30:19, to “choose life, that you and your descendants may live.”
The recent events in Paris, and just Tuesday in Boston, brought back terrifying images from the murder and mayhem in places like Newtown, Connecticut, Aurora, Colorado, and Fort Hood; in tragic and avoidable losses of life in Ferguson, Missouri, and Brooklyn, New York. For at least one person on this stage, these are not simply tragic news reports. My special guest this morning is Lucy McBath, whose 17-year old son, Jordan, was murdered outside a Florida convenience store for playing his music too loud. Lucy is pro-life to the core: She fought through a high risk pregnancy to bring her miracle baby to birth, then raised him as a home-school single mom, only to lose Jordan to a man that, because he carried a (legal) sidearm, thought he could end an argument with a lethal weapon.
As pro-lifers, we have long decried the use of instruments of death against the yet-to-be-born, but many survivors of abortion will go on to face the imminent threat of violent death in their own homes, in their schools, and as they walk or drive home.
It’s time for those of us that love and treasure life to loan our voice of conscience to the national debate over increasing gun violence, just as we have to the debate over scissor and suction violence. It’s all of a piece.
Most of you know I’m an evangelical minister and my twin brother is a Catholic priest. I tell my brother if evangelicals ever had a pope, it was John Paul II, the Billy Graham of Catholics. John Paul II won my heart when he confronted Bill Clinton with the Sanctity of Life in Denver during National Youth Day in 1993; He’s still my hero. This brave man, a shooting victim himself, warned of the grave danger posed by the “uncontrolled proliferation of small arms.” Let’s follow that good counsel into the future to ensure the Gospel of Life surrounds every human life, pre-born and born.
Now, let us once again kindle the Light of Life as we begin our service . . .