God, Guns, & Christian Nationalism: 2024 FOR-USA Summit

As the Holy Quran, Surah 5 verse 32, teaches: “Whoever kills one person, it is as if they killed all of humanity” and as the various holy books declare “to save a life is to save the world entire.”

Long ago, Mary, a role model for motherhood, stood at the foot of the cross witnessing brutality, inhumanity, and death being inflicted on her child. Today we are all parents looking at the brutality and death that mass shootings inflict on our children. At the same time, we are painfully aware that gun violence is a racial justice issue. Black Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to die from gun violence.

The litany of racially and anti-LGBTQ+ motivated attacks around the country continue to mount. Rather than being lone-wolf attacks, as they are often framed, they are a continuation of America’s violent history of slavery, lynchings, racial massacres, carried out under a cloak of the so-called “Christianity” that we today name as Christian nationalism. To address these intertwined crises, we are convening this spring in Atlanta, GA to Reclaim the Name of God and overcome the epidemic of gun violence, so severe that gun deaths are now the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States.

Why gun violence and Christian nationalism? 

As Frederick Douglass aptly pointed out, Christian nationalism is not on the rise, it has been a foundational reality in the United States for centuries. Lurking just behind the founding myths of America is the story of the birth of the most violent culture thanks to a claim that the land (referred to by Indigenous peoples as Turtle Island) is for the plunder and rule of white Christians. It is a story that has been told for centuries and strictly enforced with the barrel of a gun. 

Addressing America’s gun violence crisis is a daunting task and an aspect of the crisis that is often missed is the high correlation between those who are regarded as Christian nationalists and those who refuse to contemplate any form of gun control. In the wake of mass shootings, the constant refrain from these Christian nationalists is only that Americans need to pray more while acting as though it would be sacrilegious to consider any limitations at all on gun access. Do we really believe as a society that the Second Amendment and the profits of those who manufacture AR-15-style assault rifles, Hellfire missiles, and other instruments of death should take primacy over the lives of our children? In the words of theologian and FOR member Walter Wink, our reliance on the myth of redemptive violence is a form of insanity. 

Topics and panels being planned by our advisory committee for the conference will be announced shortly.

FOR Spring 2024 Conference Advisory Committee:

  • Rev. Fahed Abuakel, Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta; 
  • Linda Alvarez, Fellowship of Reconciliation National Council (FOR-NC) member, adjunct professor at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), owner of the only feminist mobile bookstore in the U.S.; People Called Women (PCW), LLC.; 
  • Rania Batrice, legislative, human rights, communication, gun violence victims strategist; 
  • Dr. James Zogby, founder, and President, Arab American Institute; 
  • Ron Hampton former Executive Director of the National Black Police Association; 
  • Rev. Chris Ney, FOR-NC co-chair, pastor of Central Congregational Church (UCC) in Newburyport, MA.; 
  • Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Christians, RAW Tools, and more
  • Ellen Lindeen, FOR-NC member. Professor Emeritus
  • Morgan Artyukhina, journalist, trans-rights activist
  • Rev. Dr. Susan Smith, ordained minister and the founder of Crazy Faith Ministries in Columbus, Ohio, serves on People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers In Action. 
  • Dr. Nina Turner, educator, activist, senior fellow at the Institute of Race, Power, and the Political Economy, former Ohio State Senator
  • Rabbi May Ye of Mending Minyan congregation in New Haven. CT, Fellowship of Reconciliation 2023-24 Wink Fellow;
  • Rev. Dr. Tyrone Pitts, general secretary emeritus for the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., works with New Baptist Covenant, racial justice activist with the National Council of Churches, and chair of the Morehouse School of Religion Board of Directors;
  • Rev. William Lamar, IV, senior pastor of the historic, nearly 2,000-member Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, Washington, D.C. 
  • Ms. Jacqueline Luqman, Mid-Atlantic coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace, Host on The Real News Network, and pan-Africanist
  • Rev. Dr. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC. 
  • Rev. Patricia Fears, Senior Pastor, Fellowship Baptist Church

Esther was counseled by her uncle Mordecai that she was born for such a time as this. For her to go to the King and expose the plots designed to steal the lives of young and old alike. In that same vein, we call on all people of faith and conscience, to join us next spring to pray together, not only with our words, but also with our feet that we may manifest a new covenant: a reclaiming of the name of God, committed to honoring the lives, dignity, equality, and rights of all.

For over a century, the Fellowship of Reconciliation – the oldest interfaith peace organization in the world – has gathered people from different faith traditions to work and advocate on issues of peace and justice. Over the years our membership and leadership have included the likes of Dr. Matron Luther King Jr., Dorothy Cotton, Jane Adams, and Thích Nhất Hạnh. Our work has included conscientiously objecting to numerous wars, the struggle for civil rights for all Americans, and the disarmament and removal of nuclear weapons. In that time, we have learned that the need to advocate for peace and justice is constant, but the way those issues manifest themselves is incredibly dynamic.

FOR-USA launched the Reclaim the Name campaign in 2023 to raise awareness about the hypocrisy of Christian nationalism, and to organize, train, and grow a diverse movement of allies and faith leaders Last Mother’s Day, as part of our Reclaim the Name campaign, we organized a petition, signed by over 650 faith leaders, including Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the National Council of Churches, Rabbi Jill Jacobs of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Shane Claiborne of Red Letter Christians and the Rev. Liz Theoharis of Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, requesting that Mother’s Day be declared a National Day of Prayer and Action Against Guns Violence.

Join us May 3-5 in Atlanta

We’re building a grassroots movement. Are you in?

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