Father Constantine Lazarakis of the Greek Orthodox Congregation, and Jewish Center of the Hamptons Rabbi Josh Franklin discuss the issue of guns and gun control following the recent Uvalde, Texas elementary school shooting massacre.
Rabbi Josh Franklin
What wouldn’t we do for our children? The answer to this seemingly rhetorical question, should be: “we would do anything for them!” Our attitudes and behavior, however, seem to suggest otherwise. Our schools aren’t safe, and what’s worse, schools have become the altar upon which we sacrifice our children?
We sacrifice our children so that every American has the right to buy an assault rifle. So that we can buy high capacity magazines for our guns. We sacrifice American children for the laissez faire attitude towards access to gun ownership. We sacrifice children for freedoms that enslave us more than liberate us.
The one sacrifice that is absolutely prohibited in the Bible, even in the period of countless animal sacrifices, was the sacrifice of children. The Bible calls the sacrifice of children “an abomination!” It was an abomination when the Israelites witnessed their own people sacrificing children in the valley of Hinom outside Jerusalem, and it’s just as horrendous today.
Through my tears, I whisper the words: “Not my children!” And then my whisper becomes a crying out, and eventually an indignant shout: “Not my children! Don’t you dare sacrifice them!”
If you’re out there, and you’re thinking that “this isn’t a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue.” Or “it’s about these violent movies and video games,” then I would remind you that other Western countries have mental health issues too, and other countries have violent movies and video games also. What they don’t have is school shootings on a weekly basis. It has everything to do with the amount of guns, and freedoms which we have granted citizens to own guns with little law.
What we need more than individual freedoms is laws! We need to restrict gun sales, ban assault rifles, close gun-show loopholes, tighten background checks, and I would go as far to say as to require a license for anyone who wants to own a gun in our country — and even then, we would have more individual freedom than any other civilized country. Foremost, we need our children to be safe. I value the memory of those 19 students and two teachers from Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas too much to let their lives be sacrificed only for our sympathy, and broken political promises about reform and accountability. Not my children, please God, not any of our children!
Father Constantine Lazarakis
On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, our church offered special prayers, reading aloud the names of our service men and women who bore arms in the defense of our freedom. We also read the names of 19 children, all between the ages of 9 and 11, and two faculty members who were gunned down in a maniacal abuse of freedom. A murderous rampage that ought to have no place in our country, but by way of travesty and perversion has become all too common.
Shamefully and predictably, policy makers, news outlets, and the general public have doubled down, digging their heels into two camps; The guns rights camp blaming mental health problems, the corrosion of morality and poor school security, and the gun control camp blaming a lack of gun regulations. To the peril of our children, we have opted to shut the other side down rather than work together to solve the problem.
Gun violence is a national emergency. The staggering frequency of incidents and other statistics fail to represent the cost in human lives. Yes, our mental health crisis contributes to the problem. Yes, schools need ever improving security. Yes, the Second Amendment guarantees our right to defend ourselves. and yes, we need better laws that insure proper training and screening for gun ownership. The solution we urgently need cannot be an “either or.”
In 1978, Alexander Solzhenitsyn brilliantly told Harvard graduates that our obsession with legally guaranteed rights needed to be brought into balance with our moral obligations. Our rights come with responsibilities. The right to bear arms must be held in balance with the immense responsibility it carries. Until we come out of our political camps and face all aspects of this crisis honestly, until we all take responsibility for our part, we will fail to protect our children.
Father Constantine Lazarakis and Rabbi Josh Franklin will be co-teaching a class that will be open to the public this summer, True Love: An Interfaith Exploration of Relational Love. Details will be available soon.
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