Beloved in Christ Jesus:
Over the last week, we have been stunned once again by senseless, hate-driven violence. Fourteen pipe bombs mailed to public figures, two African Americans murdered in Kroger in Kentucky, eleven worshippers murdered in a Pittsburgh Synagogue. In the Pittsburgh massacre, others wounded included first responders. Keep in mind these are just the headlines that most of us happen to be up on. I am pained to imagine the myriad of incidents and attempted incidents of hate-based violence that took place in the same time frame that many of us know nothing about. But let me assure you, there are others and likely the contemplation of even more. We cry out, “How long, O Lord?” How many more lives must be lost and families torn apart before we come to ourselves?
This is a time for deep prayer. Now some will be quick to react that prayer is not enough. It is not if we never move to action. But action without the grounding that comes from prayer will be short-sighted and short-lived. Our prayers must express our lament, pain and grief. Our prayer must be one of repentance in order to believe and live the Gospel. It must inquire of God and self, “What shall we do? Which way shall we turn?” While the context and situations are dramatically different, the question of Bartimeus from the Gospel reading for Sunday, October 28, shouts out. He responds to Jesus' invitation to state what it is he wants Jesus to do for him, saying, “Teacher, I want to see.” This must become the cry of our hearts as we cry out to God: “We want to see!”
We need deliverance from the blindness of our hatred. We have a huge propensity to define ourselves by our hates rather than our loves. We want to justify our hatred with violence. We continue to be blinded by the idolatry of believing and acting as if my right to be must be on the back of your non-existence. All humanity is bound together whether we accept it or not. The refusal to receive this gift will only give us more of the same. Refusal leads to our own destruction.
Now while we are focused on physical acts of hate-filled violence, we would all be remiss if we turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the coarse, vitriolic, derisive speech that is rampant these days. It flows from the lips and halls from which we need most to hear words that point us and urge us toward a common good. Such speech fills the internet and social media. The name-calling of this age and our tolerance for it are unacceptable. Hate-driven violence and demeaning speech assault the humanity of us all. God bless many of our parents and elders who taught us that “words can never hurt you.” They were just wrong. They meant well. But they were wrong. Words that hate, demean, slander, and make fun of others can hurt and do hurt. They are harmful beyond imagination. What is more, they often set the stage and create the climate that perpetuates hate and accommodates violence.
So, Church, join me in:
- Deep prayer
- Denouncing hate
- Building the relationships that come from knowing our neighbors not in a cursory way, but a deep way
- Choosing to speak to and about others with care that affirms our common humanity
- The way of Jesus, which is non-violence both personally and in terms of public policy
- Reaching out to communities and populations that are being targeted with hateful speech and actions
- Coming to know better those who espouse doctrines of hate and separation
- Not “growing weary in doing the right thing, knowing we shall reap if we don’t give up”
Your servant through Jesus Christ,
+Gregory V. Palmer