Senate Chaplain Barry C. black, who urged lawmakers after Nashville school shooting He told CBS News he felt compelled to contact them that day to “go beyond thought and prayer” because “there comes a time when action is needed.”
“I hear you have my thoughts and prayers, and that’s valid for anyone who’s been told, again, pray without ceasing,” Black told Scott MacFarlane on “Face the Nation.” “But I also know that there comes a time when action is needed.”
The chaplain opened the legislative session by asking lawmakers to “go beyond thought and prayer” after the March 28 Nashville shooting, in which three children and three adults were killed at The Covenant School, a private Christian school.
When asked why he felt the need to make a statement after the shooting, the chaplain said that this particular shooting particularly affected him because it happened at a church school.
“That doesn’t mean every child isn’t valuable. It doesn’t mean every type of education is valid,” Black said. “It was for me to see nine-year-old boys die in a place that should have been a city of refuge, a place that was preparing them not just for time, but for eternity.”
The chaplain is an elected official of the US Senate, and his duties include opening daily sessions with prayer, providing spiritual counsel to members and staff, and hosting a weekly Senate prayer breakfast. A chaplain has been elected since the first congress opened in 1789.
When asked if the gridlock over passing more gun control legislation would continue, Black called himself a “perennial optimist.”
“You know, when a house is on fire, you don’t fight each other. It’s time to pull together,” Black said.
Black, who has served as chaplain to the Senate since 2003, spoke of his personal relationships with many senators. Asked if he received any criticism from any senators about his prayers after Nashville, Black said his relationship with senators is like “pastor to member” and he listens to feedback through Bible study.
“For two decades, I’ve been teaching a Bible study for senators every week. I had a senator who had missed a Bible study in 20 years,” he said. “Well, so they are there. So we speak, it is not a soliloquy, ‘To be or not to be, that is the question.’ It’s a dialogue. And, and so we share ideas, and we talk about issues. So I get feedback that way.”
According to Black, one of those problems is mass shootings. Last year, the Gun Violence Archive recorded 647 mass shootings in the United States. The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that collects data on gun violence through police reports, news coverage and open sources, defines a mass shooting as an incident in which at least four people are injured or killed.
“These are challenging times where people are hurting,” Black said. “And they’re hoping that somehow the government will help ease their suffering. I don’t have to walk into Walmart as the chaplain of the Senate, or as a citizen, when I’m looking around to see if there’s an AR-15. Bullets start spraying and you know, I What should I do? ‘Our Father’ or ‘Hail Mary’?”
Asked if he’s noticed a deterioration in the way politicians talk to each other over the past 20 years, Black said the country has extremism and competition in America today.
“We have extremism, growing extremism. We have dueling echo chambers. We have people who are competitively motivated to commit mass shootings,” Black said. “It’s crazy.”