From James Howell, senior pastor at Myers Park United Methodist Church:
We shudder over the shooting deaths of 20 children and six teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. And yet Ive been to the movie theater four times over the holidays. Each time, my fellow movie-goers, who surely gazed sadly at the Newtown massacres coverage on their TV sets less than three weeks ago, now gaze wide-eyed, and full of anticipation, as the previews titillate with gunfire, slaughtering a dozen, forty or more. Dont miss this next thrilling action-packed adventure! Shoot em up!
I learned a few years ago that its risky to talk about guns: I penned a column asking if Jesus would join the NRA, if he would go to a gun show and drool over the quality of the firearms. I didnt even answer Yes or No but merely raising the question elicited hate mail, and threatening calls to my home.
But it is riskier for us, the people, and for the next round of victims, to let the memory of executed children in Newtown slip from our attention, or become yet one more casualty of powerful lobbying and political timidity.
I wonder if we could agree to a modest proposal: lets call it the Sandy Hook rule. If a movie or TV show displays the killing of 26 or more people, the show is banned. Different from banning guns, right? Or, assuming we cant get that done (as a bevy of Hollywood lawyers would shoot that down swiftly), what if we, the good citizens who shed a tear or two about Newtown, simply turn off the TV when the firing begins, or dont plunk down $10 to watch a movie weve been fully informed is about mass murder.
I mean, if a film exhibited the shooting of 25, or 17, or 3, maybe thats really more than we should be able to stomach. I can get people to nod if I say, Theres too much violence on the screen! But if those of us who were sad last month would turn it off or refuse to purchase movie tickets for films with dozens of gun killings, they wouldnt show it, or even produce it. Its in our power to clean it up.
And the mentally ill wouldnt be able to see it, either. Theres a topic for another day: what are we willing, and even eager to do to help the mentally ill and their families?
After the Newtown executions, I said in my next sermon that perhaps we can agree on another modest proposal, based on something Im 100 percent sure is correct: Jesus does not like automatic weapons so lets not tolerate them any more: the other Sandy Hook rule, in memory of the children.
I wont waste our time by venturing an opinion on guns in general. The droning of the gun lobby is boringly familiar, making me yawn, or grow ill. The 2nd amendment! We need more guns, not fewer, to defend ourselves! Lets arm the teachers! I interviewed a dozen teachers after this crazed notion got traction last month, and to a person they said they would quit before they would agree to manage a gun every day with children in the room.
The NRA is not budging an inch and it declares this within days of a brutal massacre. This strikes many of us as obscene. We must have rapid fire weapons! Or we wont be Americans! Or we wont vote for you! Please. Is this good citizenship? Must gun rights be all or nothing?
The time has come for some baby steps, like my Sandy Hook rule, and the other Sandy Hook rule, before we lose more babies. Remember the children rule.
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