'Jesus is not a member of the NRA,' Episcopal bishop tells religion writers at #RNA2014

"Jesus is not a member of the NRA."

Of all the words said by all the experts who spoke on all the panels at the information-packed Religion Newswriters Association annual meeting this weekend in the Atlanta area, those may be the most memorable.

Journalists, after all, know a good soundbite when they hear one.

That explains why both religion writers for The New York Times and many of their colleagues tweeted the NRA quote, which came during a session on "God and Guns" at #RNA2014.

Given the number of firearm deaths in America, all five panelists seemed confident that Jesus wouldn't be out advocating for his right to own a gun.

What did the other side — people of faith who oppose gun control efforts — have to say? That was the awkward part. That side was not represented on the panel.

My understanding is that organizers tried to find a pro-gun person of faith to represent that perspective but could not get anyone to accept the invitation.

As RNA President Bob Smietana explained to me, the conference is dependent on those willing to come and speak. He assured me that the RNA is not trying to push an agenda but rather fulfill its mission of "helping journalists across the globe cover religion with balance, accuracy and insight."

So, here's my question for GetReligion readers: Who would be a good source — a respected religious leader — to fill the pro-gun seat (or seats) if the RNA hosts a similar discussion in the future? It would be fascinating to hear that person's response to the claim that Jesus wouldn't join the NRA.

At least one reporter explained during the question-and-answer session after the main presentation that he'd like to tell the full story. He asked the panelists for help in identifying their best faith-based opponents on the pro-gun side. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, the panelists could not come up with any names, as religion writer Kay Campbell of the Huntsville Times in Alabama noted:

DECATUR, Georgia – Is there a Bible-based theology that justifies an emphasis of personal defense and deregulation of gun sales and ownership? Not really, says a panel of activists who fight for good gun regulation out of their personal religious motivations. The panel on "God and Guns" at the Religion Newswriters Association's annual conference, going on through Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, in Decatur, Ga., represents several faith-based groups who advocate for more defined and consistent gun regulation in the U.S.
Why weren't faith-based supporters of non-regulation of guns represented on the panel, some reporters asked the panelists. The panel included Rachel Laser from the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, Christian ethicist David Gushee of Mercer University, Bryan Miller of Heeding God's Call, Atlanta Episcopal Diocese Bishop Robert Wright and Jim Winkler, the president of the National Council of Churches. One reason, Gushee said, is that such groups don't exist.
"It's hard to articulate a strong Biblical case for a heavily armed society," said Professor David Gushee, a Christian ethicist at Mercer University. "That's not Biblical reasoning; that's cultural reasoning."

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