Most of the evangelical church missed an opportunity to participate in what may be deemed the most important task of the Christian church, the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth.
As reported in the Tulsa World on Thursday, the leaders of several Christian denominations joined with other religious leaders to sign an open letter to the elected officials of Oklahoma to do more to prevent gun violence.
Notably missing among the Christian churches listed in the article are leaders from the various charismatic, Baptist and Pentecostal groups. This is particularly shameful for Pentecostals because of their history — albeit of a generation ago — of pacifism.
These groups, charismatics, Baptists and Pentecostals, hold fast to “the soon return of Christ” to establish the rule of God on Earth “as it is in heaven.” This eschatological vision goes beyond the “saving of souls.” It includes putting into place the righteousness, peace, and joy, prophesied by the Old Testament prophets. Furthermore, these groups emphasize that each believer should experience a transformation into persons who demonstrate the character of Jesus Christ by not conforming to the “pattern of this world” — the ways of thinking and behaving of the dominant culture in which they live.
By not advocating actions to prevent gun violence, this segment of the evangelical church seem to have aligned themselves with those who advocate the holy trinity of “guns, God, and violence.” This mantra — guns, God, and violence — seems to be a way of thinking postulated, at least tacitly, by the dominant culture of Oklahoma.
By not advocating actions to prevent gun violence, this segment of the evangelical church seems to have aligned itself with the states’ rights movement and the rights of individual gun owners rather than with the nonviolent reign of God instituted by Jesus. Oklahoma is central to the ideas of individual rights above the rights of others; all of this wrapped in a veneer of patriotism and First Amendment rights.
The ways to prevent gun violence are widely known, but little practiced. See, for example, the graphic printed in the New York Times on Oct. 5. Certainly, there are activities in this listing that would make a discernible difference regarding gun violence.
Another way to prevent gun violence is for each Christian church to emphasize that every Christian possesses dual citizenship. They are citizens of Oklahoma and of the United States, certainly, but more importantly, they are Christians, followers of Christ, and citizens of heaven. As such, they are to, as the Apostle Paul instructed his disciple Timothy, “… pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace.”
Although I am not privy to how the stated letter was circulated to the Christian leaders for their approval and signature, I am sure that leaders of the larger charismatic churches in Oklahoma, as well as the leaders of the Baptist and Pentecostal denominations were alerted. They should have signed the letter and been present at the news conference in which it was unveiled. Shame on them!