31 Oct Have we reached the bottom yet?
Last week was a low point in American life. Thirteen homemade pipe bombs mailed to prominent U.S. citizens, all mercifully intercepted before they could achieve the carnage for which they were intended.
Then Saturday morning, another mass shooting, this time at a Jewish synagogue, and before intervention could arrive, eleven people were dead and another six were wounded.
The media coverage said the synagogue shooting, the worst attack against Jews on U.S. soil in our country’s history, “stunned” the nation. But I wonder. Are we stunned? Are we appalled? Are we outraged at more innocent loss of life? At the blatant persecution
of our Jewish sisters and brothers?
I thought we were stunned at Columbine. I was sure we were shocked at Virginia Tech. I just knew we were horrified over Sandy Hook. But none of it was enough. Nothing substantive has changed. And, I have no reason to think that what happened at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh is any different.
What has happened to us? Where is our moral voice—and more to the point, our moral backbone? When do our private groans, even tears, of sorrow turn into action? When do we offer more than words and prayers and even arms of comfort? When do we change?
I don’t have any easy answers as to when or how we change, because there are no easy answers. Change is hard, grueling work which is why most of us avoid it, both personally and collectively. If “knowing” there was a problem was enough to change our ingrained habits, none of us would smoke and obesity would be a thing of the past; we would never pull out of the driveway without our seat belt fastened; our personal and national debt would not be out of control; there would be no need for twelve-step programs.
No, change does not come easily or cheaply. But, is that a good enough excuse? Is our comfort, our ease with the status quo worth what it is costing us? The loss of life, the civility, the rending of families and communities?
Here is what I do know: regardless of who says it, hate is hate. Regardless of who it is directed against, hate is hate. And hate is evil. Evil. Evil. Hate cannot be excused for any reason in any quarter. Not for political expediency. Not because “they” are the problem. Not because someone holds a different viewpoint. Not under any circumstance, anytime, anywhere. And when hate does occur, all of us, with one voice, must stand together and name it for what it is. And, together we must also love our enemies and pray for—and with—those who disagree with us.
If you are a Republican, it is past time for you to call out the hatred and vitriol in your party. If you are a Democrat, it is past time for you to call out the hatred and vitriol in your party. If you are conservative or a liberal or fundamentalist or progressive, it is past time to speak the truth about the sins within your own camp. We in the church must do the same. In fact, we should be leading the way. It should never be that folks outside the church name our shortcomings before we do. We are responsible to say
what’s true, to confess it, to repent, and to change.
It is always tempting to point the finger and say, “the problem is over there. The change needs to happen with them.” No, my friend. It needs to happen in you. And in me. And it needs to start now.
Have you prayed for our country today? For our leaders? For those in your party? And the opposing party? Have you loved everyone Jesus said to love? (Hint: that’s everybody, no matter their religious, ethnic, political, gender or cultural identity.) See what I mean? Until you’ve loved everyone, especially those with whom you disagree, you have work to do. Start there. In your own heart. It is our only chance of beginning to be the change we seek.
Yours for the Kingdom,