Wait! Before you get ticked-off and stop reading, I have a very simple math problem for you. Yes, it does involve a hot button issue: guns. But could we please suspend with the political posturing for just a moment, and steer clear of those water-muddying, sidestepping issues that, if you’ll pardon the pun, take us off target, and consider how a simple math equation might help us save lives . . . thousands of lives.

Last week I offered invocational remarks and prayer for a Community Solutions Forum at Tri-C in downtown Cleveland. The event, largely organized by City Councilman Zack Reed, both challenged and empowered participants to think of gun violence as a public health issue. If people were dying in our neighborhoods at the same rate and by any other means than gun violence – heroin or diabetes, for examples, we would take proactive measures to understand and treat the problem. Good stuff, right? But when you solve public health issues you have to, first, do the math by looking at numbers, what’s causing them and then find ways of reducing root causes.

Well consider the numbers surrounding gun violence in America for just for a moment: Citing the Centers for Disease Control, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says that in “2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour.” And, according to recent articles, death by guns is about to surpass death by traffic accidents as a leading cause of death among our young people.

What we have in America is not a political issue, but quite simply, a math problem. Lots of people will try to steer the discussion off course or cloud matters with talk about mental illness or other sidebar issues. But they don’t add up. Ockham’s razor, lex parsimoniae, says that the solution with the fewest variables is usually the right one. Only when we subtract guns from the gun violence equation, do we phenomenally decrease the number of deaths by gun. It’s that simple.

Keep your guns unloaded and properly locked-up or, better yet, don’t own one at all and you will significantly reduce the number of suicides (62% of all deaths by gun in the U.S. according to CDC’s WISQARS™), homicides by gun (35%) and accidental deaths by gun (3800 between 2005-2010, of which, roughly a third were under the age of 25, and one tenth, over 300, were children).

And the really cool thing for right-brained thinkers like me is that the solution to ending gun violence is a simple math problem. No trig or calculus needed here: Death by gun – gun = fewer deaths. My colleague, Rev. Kris Eggert, the executive director of God Before Guns, met with me recently and said that this simple equation is “why death by gun has significantly decreased in countries like Australia and Canada where the people and their governments have passed legislation to limit certain types of guns and ease of access overall.” Rev. Kris and God Before Guns are part of a growing number of individuals and organizations that faithfully provide tools promoting gun safety, advocate on behalf of stricter legislation, and who bring a glimmer of hope to cities like Cleveland where the recent murders of young people in our city streets (one just a half-block from my front door) and children in their homes and even car seats have troubled even the most callous among us.

And this a math equation that will not only save lives, it will save money while increasing investment and development in our cities. My friend, Jeff Speck, is a renowned urban planner and author of the widely read book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. Jeff’s Ted Talk is nearing 1 million views (although I like to remind Jeff that his talk really got it’s start at the Old Stone Church’s Hope for the City program in 2013). A few nights back, over a great meal in downtown Cleveland, Jeff told me that the problem of gun violence contributes to an overall instability for walkable communities. If people don’t feel safe they won’t walk in their neighborhoods or on downtown streets.

From an economic and social point of view, guns on our streets add up to bad business for local economies and a decreasing sense of well being for people who want to live, work and play in their downtown communities. Just think about the negative on-line chatter in the comment section following an article about a shooting or murder in any downtown: “Stay out of downtown. It’s a death trap!” What restaurateur, retailer or downtown business owner wants to see that kind of press? If we want our local economies, and the people who sustain them, to thrive then we have to subtract guns and gun violence from the equation.

What if shootings became part of the Walk Score equation like other factors such as affordable housing and public parks, which rate a neighborhood’s walkability and, therefore, its desirability. I imagine places such as downtown Cleveland, which currently is defined as a “walker’s paradise” with a very high score of 94 out of 100, might be dramatically affected by the murder on Euclid Avenue two weeks ago and other shootings over recent weeks. But subtract the guns from the equation and walk score sum starts to climb again.

Yes, this is a hot-button issue. But one of the things that makes America great is our ability to come together and find solutions to some of our most challenging and divisive problems. We’ve got to get over the political posturing that divides us and find some common ground to solve this crisis which is killing us. I have friends from other countries who often ask, “America is such great nation; why are so many people shooting each other?” My new response: “Because we’re not very good at math.”

“The dominant ideology of our culture wants to silence all serious speech, cover over all serious loss, and deny all real grief. Such a silencing is accomplished through the reduction of life to technique that promises satiation. But such a muteness will leave us numb, unable to hope or to care. Against such an ideological urging, speech . . . is a bold, daring, subversive alternative. It is an assertion and enactment of the conviction that our humanness may not and must not be silenced. When there are no longer real words, but only clichés and slogans, life is that much more diminished.”

– Walter Brueggemann,

He who laughs, lasts!

Posted: April 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

The trouble with quotes on the internet is that is difficult to determine whether they are genuine or not.

– Abraham Lincoln

Jesus for daytime televison?

Posted: October 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

“Go into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Matthew 22:9

Last Thursday on Fox 8, Natalie Herbick, the delightful but power tool challenged host of New Day Cleveland, asked me about my incentive for creating a new weekly television show called Power2ools: 2 minute tools for life! My response was to note that, in part, Christians are called to go beyond the walls of the church and into the world with the good news just as Jesus crossed borders and boundaries to reach those most in need. The majority of Jesus’ ministry, I reminded Natalie and her 25,000 or so viewers, extended well past the boundaries of even organized religion to reach some of the most vulnerable of his day. In other words, Power2ools, for me, is an opportunity to take God’s word of hope, guidance and even invitation to people who regularly wouldn’t hear it.

Herbick Giuliano

How often does a preacher get to appear in an interview on secular daytime television and talk about Jesus and his boundary crossing love.

And just in case you think I’m making this stuff up, let me tell you, there’s very good biblical basis to support our evangelical commission. Not only did Jesus live it, he taught it. His parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew’s Gospel, for example, describes the kingdom of heaven like a king who commissions his servants to go out to the “main streets” to deliver an invitation to the great wedding feast. The servants are wonderfully indiscriminate with their invitation, not judgmental in the least, and fill the hall with guests “both good and bad” (Matthew 22:10). In this parable, Jesus’ followers (read, the church) are the servants and the lost and lonely, sinners and saints of the world are the guests (read, those who don’t know about our God of amazing grace).

And most importantly, before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave an imperative to the church: “Go into the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). It doesn’t get much clearer than that! 

Sometimes going into the world with good news can even mean creating a 2 minute television show that offers tools for life. And besides, in this secularized day and age, how often does a preacher get to appear in an interview on daytime television and talk about Jesus and his boundary crossing love. What joy!

Dr. Mark Giuliano, The Old Stone Church
Cleveland, Ohio

Power2ools videos can be viewed and shared at http://www.Power2ools.com

World Communion Prayer

God of bread and wine, of grace and mercy: you set a large and abundant table for us today in the heart of our city. Gather us, we pray, from our many different places:

We come from our homes in suburbs to the east and west and south; from apartments and condos in the neighborhoods on the lakeshore, uptown and downtown, from city shelters and makeshift hideouts in parks and under bridges. We are newcomers and long-timers. Yet, here, we are one at a table big enough for all.

Today is World Communion Sunday. We break bread with Christians around the world:

We praise you, O God, for your global Spirit which tethers your local people with sisters and brothers, children and grown-ups in everyplace. We remember those who are hungry, lonely and most vulnerable throughout the world. We give you thanks for your grace which finds us and binds us together at a table large enough for the entire world. Makes us one, we pray, in the magnificent mosaic of your mercy, in the unconditional wrap of your grace, and in the overwhelming truth of your eternal love. In your Holy Name we pray; Amen.

R. Mark Giuliano
The Old Stone Church
(First Presbyterian Church of Cleveland)




Ring the bells!

Posted: September 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

– Leonard Cohen

One week today! The first Power2ools video, The Power of Patience, will be aired. Save the date, it launches on Fox 8’s New Day Cleveland and on-line October 2nd at 10am! I can hardly wait!