Monday, January 01, 2024


Walt Wiltschek

“The violence of the wicked will sweep them away, for they refuse to act with justice.” –Prov. 21:7, CEB

It’s become all too common: The breaking news on a web page or a radio or TV broadcast brings word of yet another mass shooting event—at schools, at malls, at supermarkets, at theaters, even in houses of worship.

I remember vividly the inner gut punch I felt on hearing news of a shooting that took place on Valentine’s Day 2008 at Northern Illinois University. It occurred two years after I finished my graduate degree there, in a building I passed through often. That tragedy left five students dead and 17 others injured.

That was more than 15 years and many deaths ago. And many other such incidents preceded it. This past week, a school shooting in Perry, Iowa—in a district where several Church of the Brethren members work—joined the horrific list. A sixth grader was killed, and the young shooter took his own life. Others were injured, and more families shattered.

While the exact statistics of such incidents vary depending on one’s definition of a mass shooting, the bottom line is that it’s much too large of a number. The Pew Research Center, for example, reported a total of 48,830 gun deaths (of all kinds) in 2021. And the US far outpaces most of the developed world in that category.

In a Messenger magazine column last year, Virginia pastor Nathan Hollenberg called the US’ blind fealty to the Second Amendment a form of idolatry, much like the golden calf in the wilderness of Sinai. “We must recapture the narrative of our faith,” he said. “There is no faith argument in support of weapons that are built to kill other humans as quickly and destructively as possible.”

The causes of our epidemic are complex, including the prevalence of bullying and mental health issues along with our culture of violence and social media and other venues that stoke the seeds of anger. We will not agree on the solutions to this disturbing reality, but as followers of Christ who are part of a historic peace church, I hope that we can acknowledge the problem.

Alongside our thoughts and prayers, what steps can we take to begin to make a difference? A few of our congregations have already held events around this topic, and a larger event took place at Annual Conference last year. What will our witness be?

As Northern Plains District executive Tim Button-Harrison wrote this past week: “Let us genuinely renew our commitment to teach and walk in the pathway of non-violence and love taught by Jesus and courageously raise our voices with all who are crying ENOUGH.”