To suggest that there is just one cause for mass shootings and gun violence around our nation is to miss a real opportunity for change.

Some spiritual leaders in Harford County met this past year to discuss what we might do to address this very real problem in our midst. Out of a deep sense of concern, we would like to take a stand against mass shootings and gun violence in our society, and we reject the violence, the evil and the hatred that fosters it. We believe that this puts us on common ground with every one of you. After all, isn’t this what we’re all about? Aren’t we all in favor of seeing a better, more peaceful and more beautiful world? Of course, we are. Our goal is the same; our path toward that goal may vary.


The underlying issues are complex. We know that we don’t have all the answers, and we would welcome a larger community conversation. This letter represents my notes and thoughts that were inspired by our discussion. We’re not always one voice; but we’re always one voice that we must come together, and work together, out of love, and for the common good. This is what we think.

Guns are part of the problem. Easy access to guns is part of the problem. Let’s work together toward a sensible solution. Common sense gun legislation doesn’t take guns out of the hands of responsible people. It works to keep guns out of the hands of irresponsible people. Let’s not argue where no argument is necessary. If we’re honest with one another, we’ll all admit that there are people in this world who shouldn’t have guns. Let’s work together to ensure that guns don’t wind up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have guns.

White supremacy and extremist political ideologies are part of the problem. While there are hateful ideologies on both extremes of the spectrum, white supremacy appears to be on the rise in our country. We reject the rhetoric that foments hatefulness. We reject hatred and evil in any form it presents itself, and we affirm goodness and life as the great and greater force at work in the world. Love is stronger than evil!

Barriers to mental and emotional health are part of the problem, and the stigma against mental and emotional health is part of the problem as well. We have many resources to manage mental and emotional health within our community. Still things stand in the way: inadequate health care, lack of money, lack of knowledge about where to go for help, and a reluctance to take that first step. Where do you go when you’re feeling angry, fearful, sad, bitter, depressed, vengeful, overwhelmed? Without a coping mechanism, these things can spiral out of control.

Lack of communication is part of the problem. In the sacred name of confidentiality, we err on the side on staying quiet. There should be a way for us to communicate with one another, and listen to one another: parents, teachers, administrators, coaches, counselors, police and clergy, among other professionals, should all be working together to help those who are struggling. Instead, there’s a tragic sense of helpless silence, which benefits no one in the long run.

Our culture is part of the problem. We glamorize violence. We glamorize the sensational. We glamorize vengeance, and we glamorize power. From a spiritual standpoint, these are among the idols, which command our attention, and which distract us from an abundant life, and which ultimately may destroy us.

With so many problems in the world, it is natural to feel afraid. Many people are. Fear dominates the current mindset of our age. When we feel out of control, the immediate response is to restore our sense of control. Guns provide a way to do that, but it’s a false sense of security. Guns, and weapons in general, are just an illusion of control, because the problems of the world still remain.

The solution is complex, but there are ways to work to begin healing our community, which are far more effective than guns.

We invite you to envision a better and brighter tomorrow. We invite you to begin having these conversations within your faith and civic communities in Harford County and beyond. We don’t have to be of one voice. But let us love one another and work together to make a difference.


The writer is the senior pastor at Bel Air United Methodist Church.