taking the words of Jesus seriously

Editor’s Note: This press release first appeared on Religion News Service on May 2, 2023.

Over 550 faith leaders call for Mother’s Day to be declared a national day of prayer, mourning, repentance, and contemplation to end violence

Over 550 faith leaders and organizations have signed onto a letter calling on President Biden to declare Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14, 2023, a National Day of Prayer, mourning, repentance, and contemplation on the gun violence crisis and the role Christian nationalism is playing in the obstruction of common-sense gun legislation.

Signatories to the letter include Rev. Jesse Jackson; Bp. Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Interim President of National Council of Churches of Christ, USA; Dr. Cornel West; Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Executive Director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice; Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America; Rabbi Jill Jacobs, C.E.O., T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; Dr. Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Christians; Rev. Hope Christensen, Co-Chair of Faith United to Prevent Gun Violence; Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, President, SojournersRev. Jim Wallis, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Chair, Center on Faith & Justice, Georgetown University.

“Addressing America’s gun violence crisis is a daunting task,” said Fellowship of Reconciliation Executive Director Ariel Gold. “It’s horrifying that gun deaths now are the leading cause of death for children and teens. What 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. We have called on religious leaders to sign on to our Mother’s Day initiative, because this melding of Christian faith and white supremacist violence needs to be called out for what it has always been: a perverse manipulation of faith into a form of control, coercion, and domination.”

The Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest interfaith organization in the U.S. and the initiator of the effort, chose Mother’s Day because of the original Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870 by poet and abolitionist Julia Ward Howe. That proclamation, coming after the catastrophic carnage of the Civil War, called for an end to war and bloodshed – “From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, Disarm!”  But it doesn’t address the deeper context of white supremacy at the heart of the American experiment since our nation’s founding.

“The worship of the gun, and the terror regarding any form of proposed gun control is directly related to the perceived tyranny of the federal government. The same government that dismantled slavery historically now looks to destroy the remaining advantages of white supremacy that have been embroidered with a racist and hateful perversion of Christianity,” stated FOR-USA Senior Advisor, Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler. The Fellowship of Reconciliation, which organized the faith leader’s letter, seeks to deepen the contextual meaning of the day in an effort to expose the errors of Christian nationalism and the gun violence epidemic and how they are related.

“You cannot say that you are pro-life and ignore gun violence,” said Shane Claiborne, author, activist, and founder and president of Red Letter Christians.  “Every one of the 40,000 people killed this year by guns is a child of God, made in the image of God.  When people say all we can do is pray — they are wrong.  We can pray, and we must.  But we can also take action.  Faith without works is dead.  When we ask God to move a mountain, sometimes God hands us a shovel.  And when people tell us that it is not a gun problem it is a sin problem…. we can say — it is both, and God heals hearts, but we change laws.  Too often we wait on God to do something that God has given us the power to do.  It’s time to choose to protect children, not guns.”

The letter: 

“From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, Disarm!“ – Original Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870, by abolitionist and poet Julia Ward Howe

Dear President Biden,

The epidemic of gun violence has become so dire that nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States have lost a family member to a gun death. Mass shootings have escalated so much in recent years (23% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic began) that as of April 12, there have already been at least 147 mass shootings so far this year. It is a war taking place in our schools, houses of worship, supermarkets, movie theatres, homes, businesses nightclubs, and more. While some may throw up their arms and say that this is a battle too large to win, we, an interfaith coalition, made up of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other faith traditions, remember the miracles of ancient times and remain optimistic that this scourge can be overcome.

Do we really believe as a nation 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 our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

We thank you for having last year pushed through Congress the first major gun violence protection legislation in 30 years, for highlighting the issue during this year’s State of the Union, and the executive order you issued last month.

Given the gravity and urgency of this issue, we ask for more. We appeal to you to declare this Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14, 2023, to be a national day of repentance, mourning, prayer, and reflection to address the culture of gun violence that is staining our collective soul.

We ask for our lawmakers and faith institutions to reflect this Mother’s Day on how we are allowing gun manufacturers, the gun lobby, and a culture of gun worship to hold our country hostage.

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 on as the brutality and death from another mass shooting is inflicted 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.

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, your administration has come into office for such a time as this. Will you squander the demand of this historical time, or go like Esther into the fury to save lives and people?

The Holy Quran, Surah 5 verse 32, teaches: “Whoever kills one person, it is as if they killed all of humanity.” The various holy books teach us that “to save a life is to save the world entire.” We are responsible to one another and responsible to all life.

As faith leaders, we call on you, and on our communities, to manifest our prayers and create a new covenant – a reclaiming of the name of G-d –  committed to honoring and saving lives. We must pray together, not only with our words, but with our feet, and take action, like Esther did, in such a time as this!

In memory of the lives lost in Nashville – Evelyn Diekhaus (9), William Kinney (9), Hallie Scruggs (9), Mike Hill (61), Katherine Koonce (60), Cynthia Peak (61), the lives lost in the Kentucky bank shooting on April 10, and the rest of the nearly 50,000 people that die every year in the United States from guns, we ask you to declare Mother’s Day 2023 a national day to end gun violence and heal our country.



Ariel Gold | [email protected] | (510) 599-5330Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler | [email protected] | (202) 302-0307

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.

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