Lewis Baldwin, a professor of religious studies at Vanderbilt University, said ministers also have a voice outside of the church that they don't fully use. For example, he said religious leaders haven't been vocal enough on the issue of gun control.
“We need to use our influence … to influence Congress,” he said. “Churches have been pretty much silent when it comes to challenging the NRA and challenging people in the halls of government to take serious stands against the easy accessibility of guns.”
Tennessee Sen. Stacey Campfield is among a number of lawmakers across the country sponsoring legislation that would allow trained teachers with handgun permits to carry weapons in school.
The Knoxville Republican said he supports the idea of nonviolence, but believes people should be able to prevent themselves from becoming victims of violence.
“If someone is trying to defend their lives or the lives of innocent people, they should have the ability to defend those lives,” Campfield said.
Robbie Morganfield, pastor of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Laurel, Md., said faith leaders should broaden their focus beyond guns and create what he calls a “partnership initiative” with other entities to improve mental health care, as well as address violence in entertainment and video games. Such issues are currently being targeted in proposals by President Barack Obama.
“There's definitely a need for a renewed discussion about violence in our society,” said Morganfield, who is also an adjunct instructor of communications. “I just think there needs to be a multipronged approach to it.”
He added that faith leaders should also emulate the boldness King showed during the civil rights era.
“I think on some level, that was the genius of Martin Luther King. The courage and the audacity he had to challenge people at a time when it really wasn't popular to do it, and it wasn't safe to do it.”
This past summer, Martin Luther King's principles of nonviolence were once again heard when a recorded interview with him from 1960 was discovered in a Chattanooga, Tenn., attic.
During part of the interview, King defines nonviolence and justifies its practice.
“I would … say that it is a method which seeks to secure a moral end through moral means,” he said. “And it grows out of the whole concept of love, because if one is truly nonviolent that person has a loving spirit, he refuses to inflict injury upon the opponent because he loves the opponent.”
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The choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence, but nonviolence and nonexistence.”
chief executive of the King Center