As the nation reacts to the weekend’s mass shootings and President Trump decries hatred that “devours the soul,” religious leaders called for action from his administration and Congress.
In his remarks from the White House on Monday (Aug. 5), Trump said he joined in the grief and outrage over the “two evil attacks” in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in which more than 80 people were killed or wounded. At least 22 people had reportedly died as a result of the El Paso shootings and nine in the Dayton violence.
The president also made a religious appeal in his speech. “We ask God in heaven to ease the anguish of those who suffer and we vow to act with urgent resolve,” he said in a 10-minute address, with Vice President Mike Pence standing nearby.
The president called an online manifesto allegedly posted by the El Paso shooter “consumed by racist hate.”
“In one voice our nation must condemn racism bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”
The president suggested several possible courses for bipartisan action, saying he would direct the Department of Justice to partner with other agencies and social media companies to better “detect mass shooters before they strike” and to propose legislation so those who commit mass murders or hate crimes will face a death penalty that is “delivered quickly, precisely and without years of needless delay.”
Trump also called for reducing “glorification of violence in our society,” including through video games, and legal reforms to better identify mentally disturbed people and to reduce access to firearms by people considered a risk to public safety.
Spiritual organizations and faith leaders were also focused on solutions to the wave of shootings. In a sampling of religious reaction to the tragedies, several urged politicians and governmental bodies to take steps:
Franklin Graham, President Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
“As we mourn with these families & communities, let’s continue to sincerely lift them up in prayer before the Lord. He is the only one who can comfort & wholly heal their broken hearts.” Graham said on Twitter following the first incident.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
“The NHCLC’s community of thousands upon thousands of churches is profoundly grieving at the terror unleashed in El Paso today, terror targeting our nation’s beloved Hispanic community. We urge our political leaders, Democrat and Republican, to once-and-for-all depoliticize immigration in this country and instead embrace a fact-based approach to this and to all political questions that divide us. Even more importantly, we call upon people of sincere faith in every corner of our country to recommit themselves to loving the ‘other’ and to begin to pray with all their might that God would heal our broken land.”
Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association
“The American Family Association condemns white supremacy, all manner of racial animus and hatred of any kind that may have been the impetus for the attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. We also recognize the deep and vast spiritual needs of our country. Our nation needs God desperately, which is more evident every day. The more our nation turns away from God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible, the more it seems we reject the reality that innocent human life is sacred. We call on AFA friends and supporters around the nation to join us in praying for the devastated families and communities affected in El Paso and Dayton.”
— by Adelle M. Banks | RNS