Desensitized Americans to gun violence

"More Christians Will Bear Arms"

pro: Mr. Alexander, how do Christians in Texas feel today?

Aaron Alexander: Everyone is really sad that something like this happened again. Attacks like this are unfortunately becoming more common and I'm afraid we are becoming more and more desensitized and maybe accept them as normal. They should be anything but that. To Texan Christians like me, it feels like nothing fundamental changes after shooting like this. So we assume that it will be the same this time. The gun control debate is a very complex one for American Christians, and incidents like this fuel fire on both sides: One says that if this man hadn't had a gun, it wouldn't have happened. The other side says that if more people in the church had guns, it would have been prevented. The attack deepens the divide between Christians.

Did parishioners in your church have any contact with the victims in Sutherland Springs?

Yes, we have a family that has lost eight or nine relatives in the shooting. These include a worship leader from the Sutherland Springs ward, his wife, their son, and their one-year-old daughter. The musician's pregnant daughter-in-law and three of her children were also killed. It's really sad and tragic.

Are the people in your home country now afraid of going to church services?

No, I don't think anyone doesn't come to church because of that. It currently seems as if the attack was an isolated individual case in which the shooter wanted to kill the mother of his ex-wife. I think some people will be more nervous and make sure a church is prepared for a case like this, but they will come. However, I assume that more worshipers will be carrying weapons.

How are American churches and Christians reacting to something like this happening again?

This is a difficult situation for American churches. Our society's cult of guns and gun control got us to this point in my opinion. It won't be easy to fix. We are already getting questions from parishioners about how we as pastors feel about weapons in churches. There have been members with their handguns hidden with them before, but it is frightening to us that the number is likely to increase. Personally, I am against guns in the community, but I seem to be in the minority.

Are there more prayer meetings?

Yes, people are praying, but I don't know of any specific meetings. We're going back to business.

How do you personally deal with fear and worries about the attack?

I am very sad about how our society has developed. We need broad gun control, but also a jolt in society, which means that we no longer glorify guns and violence, because that is completely contrary to the personality of Jesus. But I believe that this is where the greatest rift lies in the Church: between gun-loving Christians and Christians who do not want guns. It is frustrating to see that we are unable to clear this divide.

In 2015, a bomber killed nine African Americans in a US church. This time the background does not seem to be racist ...

I am glad that there was probably no racist motivation this time, because guns and racism are the two issues that the churches in my home country are scraping up. But that the shooter had no racist motive doesn't make the act any less sad or devastating. There is deeply rooted racism and xenophobia in our society: Whenever a dark-skinned person commits a crime, we call it terrorism and the powerful use it to change immigration policy, for example. But if a mass murder is committed by a white man, it is only a single perpetrator and the act is not classified as terror. Both are terror and require meaningful changes to prevent them.

How should gun laws change?

We need a new gun control policy. That has been overdue for decades. It is devastating that our citizens can acquire high-performance weapons and thus use them to use any form of violence. After the attack in Las Vegas at the beginning of October with 59 dead, nothing has changed. Nothing. Even though the people were shocked. We need to ban high-powered weapons like those used there and in Texas. All other weapons must be harder to come by. Worst of all, Americans not only want to own guns, they love them. They believe they have the right to have many powerful weapons. I'm not behind it.

Shortly after the attack in Texas, US President Donald Trump tweeted that America would now do what it does best: stick together. Is he right?

Clearly not. Unfortunately, we all know that things don't get true, meaningful, or helpful just because Trump tweeted them. Right now we Americans are more torn than we ever were. It takes a lot to change that. But I believe it is possible.

Thank you for the interview!

Did parishioners in your church have any contact with the victims in Sutherland Springs?

Yes, we have a family that has lost eight or nine relatives in the shooting. These include a worship leader from the Sutherland Springs ward, his wife, their son, and their one-year-old daughter. The musician's pregnant daughter-in-law and three of her children were also killed. It's really sad and tragic.

Are the people in your home country now afraid of going to church services?

No, I don't think anyone doesn't come to church because of that. It currently seems as if the attack was an isolated individual case in which the shooter wanted to kill the mother of his ex-wife. I think some people will be more nervous and make sure a church is prepared for a case like this, but they will come. However, I assume that more worshipers will be carrying weapons.

How are American churches and Christians reacting to something like this happening again?

This is a difficult situation for American churches. Our society's cult of guns and gun control got us to this point, in my opinion. It won't be easy to fix. We are already getting questions from parishioners about how we as pastors feel about weapons in churches. There have been members with their handguns hidden with them before, but it is frightening to us that the number is likely to increase. Personally, I am against guns in the community, but I seem to be in the minority.

Are there more prayer meetings?

Yes, people are praying, but I don't know of any specific meetings. We're going back to business.

How do you personally deal with fear and worries about the attack?

I am very sad about how our society has developed. We need broad gun control, but also a jolt in society, which means that we no longer glorify guns and violence, because that is completely contrary to the personality of Jesus. But I believe that this is where the greatest rift lies in the Church: between gun-loving Christians and Christians who do not want guns. It is frustrating to see that we are unable to clear this divide.

In 2015, a bomber killed nine African Americans in a US church. This time the background does not seem to be racist ...

I am glad that there was probably no racist motivation this time, because guns and racism are the two issues that the churches in my home country are scraping up. But that the shooter had no racist motive doesn't make the act any less sad or devastating. There is deeply rooted racism and xenophobia in our society: Whenever a dark-skinned person commits a crime, we call it terrorism and the powerful use it to change immigration policy, for example. But if a mass murder is committed by a white man, it is only a single perpetrator and the act is not classified as terror. Both are terror and require meaningful changes to prevent them.

How should gun laws change?

We need a new gun control policy. That has been overdue for decades. It is devastating that our citizens can acquire high-performance weapons and thus use them to use any form of violence. After the attack in Las Vegas at the beginning of October with 59 dead, nothing has changed. Nothing. Even though the people were shocked. We need to ban high-powered weapons like those used there and in Texas. All other weapons must be harder to come by. Worst of all, Americans not only want to own guns, they love them. They believe they have the right to have many powerful weapons. I'm not behind it.

Shortly after the attack in Texas, US President Donald Trump tweeted that America would now do what it does best: stick together. Is he right?

Clearly not. Unfortunately, we all know that things don't get true, meaningful, or helpful just because Trump tweeted them. Right now we Americans are more torn than we ever were. It takes a lot to change that. But I believe it is possible.

Thank you for the interview!

Anna Lutz asked the questions