Auburn responds to the tragedy at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas

In response to yesterday’s horrific tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Auburn Seminary, alongside several of our Senior Fellows, issued the following statements about the devastating tragedy at First Baptist…

From the Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson, president of Auburn Seminary

I can imagine that some people may be asking where was God in the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs as a gunman took the lives of 27 people and wounded many others. God was present then and is present now — our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. God does not promise to make everything alright and relieve us of human suffering. But the freedom we are given as human beings comes with the responsibility to order our lives, both personally and as a society, to allow for the flourishing of other human beings and the planet itself. We are failing in this responsibility as long as the freedom to own guns supersedes the protection we afford our fellow citizens from their misuse. God is present right now: calling us to rise up and do our work to ensure that this never happens again.

From the Rev. John Vaughn, executive vice president of Auburn:

What is it going to take for us as a nation to take gun violence more seriously? We now have had children getting killed in their elementary school along with parishioners in South Carolina and Texas killed in their houses of worship. We have the ability to provide more stringent access to guns so as to minimize the chances that they will end up in the hands of people whose mental capacity to have one is questionable. We have the technology to make guns that can be used safely and responsibly, such as handprint recognition. As people of faith, we must affirm the need for more checks and balances concerning gun ownership. For leaders or faith and moral courage, let us call together the gun owners in our congregations to listen and create faith-rooted responses and recommendations.

From the Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, senior vice president of Auburn:

I’m not against people sending thoughts and prayers for the people who were killed in Texas or in another case of tragedy. Thinking and praying are integral to what it means to be a religious or spiritual person. But if say you are going to think and pray, then really think and pray.

Think about the people who lost their lives – think about their laughter that is silenced, think about their smiles that will no longer light up a room, think about their hands that will no longer reach out, and their arms that will no longer hold and their hearts that will no longer love. Think about the families and communities that have been devastated. Then think about why the horrific gun violence is so prevalent in America and why it appears to be increasing.

Pray for the victims that they might rest in peace and power. Pray for their families who are suffering; pray that their hearts might someday heal, even as the deep scars will never disappear. Pray for the shooter because we must. And as important as any of it, pray for courage to confront those who make money off the very guns that spill the blood of our neighbors. Whose misguided, blind adherence to a principle are killing people. Pray for repentance of an America addicted to guns. Pray for peace.

From Valarie Kaur, Auburn Senior Fellow, civil rights lawyer, activist, and filmmaker:

As a Sikh American, I am still reckoning with the trauma and grief from the massacre in our house of worship five years ago in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Our heart breaks for Texas: We know that blood in a sacred space is a rupture that requires years of healing. We also know that this mass shooting, like ours, was preventable. We vow to be there for them long after the cameras leave — to change the cultures that radicalize these shooters, and the policies that sanction them. First we mourn, then we organize.

From Rev. Jacqui Lewis, Rabbi Sharon Brous, and Valarie Kaur via Huffington Post’s “We Need to Talk: The Link Between Sexual Violence and Gun Violence”:

We are long overdue for a national conversation about the prevalence of sexual and domestic abusers among mass shooters. While we desperately seek predictors of violent behavior — race? Religion? Ideology? — one reliable factor that links many mass shooters is violent or predatory behavior toward the women in their homes or workplaces. More than half the mass shootings in the United States were committed by men who also gunned down a wife, girlfriend or family member.

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