Walking Our Faith: This is not who we are (column)
Walking Our Faith
They were 11 children of God killed in the house of God because they were Jewish.
I have grown up believing that the scale of anti-Semitism which produced the Holocaust could never ever happen here. Yet when I read about the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue, I understood how the Holocaust happened.
It is pipe bombs sent by one angry man to people of another political party. It is another man who, after not being able to gain entrance to an African-American church, walked into a local grocery store and killed two African-American people after passing a white man in the parking lot and saying, “Whites don’t kill whites.”
And it was a man who walked into a synagogue in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood and senselessly killed 11 people because of their faith.
All three incidents were born of overwhelming hate for another. I believe hate is fear in disguise — fear that our imagined life is slipping away, nostalgia for a past which never really existed, but which we desperately try to recapture. And when we realize we cannot, hate goads us to act with violence toward those we are afraid of.
Like a single cancer cell that multiplies exponentially and spreads throughout a healthy body, hatred committed by one person can spread. Three hate crimes targeting three different groups of people, committed by three different men.
Last Monday, 100 people from Summit County met at Lord of the Mountains Church. We were representatives from all faiths, but we had one common goal: to mourn with our brothers and sisters from Synagogue of the Summit. We prayed, we sang and we read from Psalms 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of this city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; He utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
The names of those who were killed were read and we lit candles, but most of all we gathered to share condolences and solidarity with our Jewish family.
How do we stop the cancer of hatred? I believe we build love within our communities through good works and kind words, to demonstrate that these are not places where hatred and bigotry are welcome. And we must get out and vote. We vote for people who share our values and who refuse to encourage hatred of other groups whether in word or deed.
Hate will consume us if we allow it. I know I have felt tendrils of hate testing the shape of my heart over the past week. It’s easy to fall into the desire to give back what we see in the perpetrators of hate crimes; to hate them. But to do so is the equivalent of entering a black hole in space where life is crushed — where we no longer recognize ourselves or see the good in those we don’t agree with. In these moments of heartbreaking tragedy we may wonder why God allows horrible things to happen to good people.
This quote from C.S. Lewis helps me: “Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”
That is why it was necessary for us to come together last Monday night to stand as one body in the house of God and declare that God‘s love is stronger than the darkness. When we stand in God‘s light, even when we are not feeling it yet in our own hearts, his light strengthens us. This love overcomes the world and our love for one another enfolds us like a comforting blanket, and together we are stronger because of our love for one another.
Hate will find no purchase here. We will not allow it. When we become discouraged and feel ourselves slipping toward the pit, one of us will remind the other that we love, and with our love we will hold each other up. We are all Americans and all children of God. We love one another. We are loved by the one who created love.
God is always our refuge and our strength. But he also commands us to love one another, our neighbor as ourselves. And by “neighbor,” God meant every person we share God’s creation with: our Muslim brother, Hindu sister, rabbi, priest, pastor, atheist, every beautiful shade of skin and every worthy place in economic stature. By our lives we demonstrate that the light of God overcomes the darkness of hatred and that we will be God‘s light in our community every day.
Suzanne Anderson lives in Breckenridge.
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