Dean Puts Religious Power Behind Gun Debate

Host Guy Raz talks to The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the National Cathedral, who is calling for stricter gun control in the wake of the mass shooting in Connecticut. In his sermon Sunday, Hall said the National Cathedral would become a focal point for taking on the gun lobby.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

Some of the sounds from Washington's National Cathedral earlier today. In his sermon, the dean of the cathedral, Reverend Gary Hall, asked a simple question.

REVEREND GARY HALL: Why do we, as a society, tolerate these massacres in increasing numbers? These mass shootings are happening with increasing frequency, and they more and more seem to be targeted directly against children.

RAZ: Reverend Hall is with me now. And, Reverend, thank you for joining us.

HALL: Happy to be here.

RAZ: At times like these, there are many who look to people like you for answers. What can you say?

HALL: In a tragedy, there really isn't much to say, aside from just being with the people who are suffering. The problem of evil and the problem of why God allows suffering is probably the major religious problem for all religious traditions. And no tradition really finally gives a satisfactory answer. Almost every tradition just holds it up, finally, as a mystery.

So in the face of that, it seems to me that people of faith are called not so much as to try to explain why something happened as to simply stand with and put our arms around and care for people as they go through tragedy.

RAZ: In your sermon this morning, you said: The best way to mourn the victims in Newtown is to mobilize the faith community for gun control. There is no doubt, Reverend, that there are those who will say you are politicizing a national tragedy. And what would your response be?

HALL: Well, first of all, whenever the church speaks prophetically, it's accused of engaging in politics. And it's important to remember that most of the Bible is concerned not with personal morality but with social and public morality. In fact, the teaching of Jesus, the teaching of the Hebrew prophets, the teaching of Muhammad in the Koran, those teachings are essentially social teachings.

And so in response to a national tragedy, the church's response needs to be a public response. And the way our society has decided that it engages and does its public business is through our political structures. So, yes, in some sense, you might say I am politicizing a response to a tragedy, but I for one can't listen to another conversation where someone says: Let's talk about gun control, and people say: Well, it's too soon to talk about gun control. Let's grieve.

And then there's a few days of grieving, and then the narrative gets changed. My intuitive sense and the sense of my bishop, Mariann Budde, and with the other faith leaders I've talked about is it's just really time for the faith community to be a countervailing force and to stand against this kind of violence.

RAZ: That's the Reverend Gary Hall. He's the dean of the National Cathedral here in Washington, D.C. Reverend Hall, thank you.

HALL: Thank you very much.

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RAZ: And you're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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