Oct. 31, 2018
Last Saturday morning, persons gathered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh to celebrate a new life at a baby boy’s bris. That celebration was interrupted by a man who gunned down 11 persons and wounded six more, including four police officers. The man had previously posted anti-Semitic statements on social media.
The ongoing gun violence aimed at persons of different faith traditions or races is borne out of fear of the other. According to the Anti-Defamation League, violence against Jews has increased by 57 percent this year – the largest increase since the ADL began compiling statistics.
Last Sunday evening, I worshiped with the Jewish community alongside interfaith leaders at Congregation Shearith Israel. More than 700 persons prayed and sang together. Five persons, including Rev. Rachel Baughman of Oak Lawn UMC, spoke. It was a time of mourning and a time to acknowledge that people of faith have much work to do to heal our land. The service closed with worshippers, locked arm in arm, singing “We Shall Overcome,” a folk song of the civil rights movement.
Now, the work for reconciliation begins anew. Judaism speaks of Tikkun Olam, an activity that improves and restores the world. Translated, the phrase means “world repair.” I am confident that most of our clergy had remarks regarding the act of evil and/or offered prayers for the victims and their families in worship services this past weekend. It is now time to offer more than our words and prayers. Listening to people of other faith traditions or races, there are legitimate concerns regarding hate speech and other evil acts. It’s time for faithful people to listen, speak and act in the spirit of Christ.
Would each of us commit to an act of Tikkun Olam? Teach our children and students that racism has no place in the life of a follower of Jesus. Teach all that a joke or word of derision about race or other religions is not living into a Christ-like life. Challenge or call out another who uses words or actions to discount another. Remind others that the command of Jesus is a simple one:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. … And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
In short, may we love ourselves more so that we may love our neighbor and our God? Any act or word aimed to hurt is an acknowledgement that we are not loving ourselves, our neighbors or our God.
I have not lost hope that our nation can do better than this. Yet, little seems to change. God expects more: more from our elected officials, faith leaders and even us. In what ways – today – will you love and engage your neighbor?