Walking Our Faith: Us against them
Walking Our Faith
Last Sunday as Mom struggled to stand with the assistance of her walker, a woman came out of church and hurried over to Mom’s side and said, “Here let me help you,” as she took Mom’s purse.
But instead of helping Mom to stand, she hurried away. Mom called out for help and two men ran after the woman and retrieved the purse.
Mom relayed this story to me a few hours after it happened. All week, I’ve been wondering about this woman. Had she just attended the 9 o’clock service? Had she been standing behind the church doors watching this 92-year-old woman struggle to move her legs from the car to the pavement and then wait for her walker to be moved to the entrance of her car door before she would even be able to stand? Did she make the decision to take Mom’s purse before she offered to help or did that decision come after?
Last Wednesday members of the Summit County Interfaith Council held a prayer service at Saint John the Baptist Episcopal Church generously organized by Reverend Charlie Brumbaugh on two days’ notice. The service consisted of recitation of prayers, Scripture, poetry and song. There were representatives from many of our faith community in attendance, over 45 people in all.
We were there to honor those who died in houses of worship for no other reason than on that day they had come into the presence of God, and found themselves followed by hate and fear.
There were holy men and women at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, gathered for weekly Bible study, who welcomed a young stranger into their midst. After sitting in their holy presence for an hour, he stood and shot each of these generous Children of God because his heart was filled with hate and fear.
There were holy men and women at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They met every Saturday morning to worship God, until a man filled with hate and fear stepped into their sacred space and killed 11 beloved Children of God.
On a Friday evening in March, at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, as holy men and women knelt in humble supplication and prayed to God, a man filled with hate and fear killed 51 precious Children of God.
In Sri Lanka on Easter morning in to Catholic churches walked men so filled with hate and fear they exploded and took with them the lives of hundreds of blessed Children of God who had come to celebrate the resurrection of the Messiah.
Last Saturday, on the last day of Passover, a young man walked into the Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California, filled with hate and fear. As he tried to shoot the rabbi, a courageous woman stepped into the line of fire and lost her life. And other brave Children of God were wounded, only because they had come to worship God.
We try to give names to explain what happened: racism, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, anti-Catholicism, terrorism. But in the end, it is all the same. Fear of the Other, hatred born of frustration, moral barrenness. When they use God’s holy name to justify their actions, it is made more obscene.
Afterwards, again, economists will point to lack of opportunities, historians to our inability to learn from the past, policymakers will call for gun reform, and politicians will offer thoughts and prayers. It is tiresome to even list these repetitive gestures as we know little will change.
And so, the taking of an eye for an eye continues endlessly. We say it’s us against them, until we realize that from their perspective, we are them and they are us.
There is no revenge which can be exacted that won’t be answered in kind, no battle for right or superiority that won’t be ardently contested as wrong. There is only love and the absence of love.
When will we realize we are all Children of God? All created in the multi-hued glorious and perfect image of God? There is no us or them, there is only we. We are Children of God. We are God’s beloved.
We have demonstrated an endless creativity to justify our hatred and of names to call those we hate.
Yet, we are created by God with an instinctual need for love, for light, for kindness. Our greatest weapon against the darkness in all its forms is love. When we read headlines of another killing, we feel overwhelmed and shut our doors. But that is how hate wins. When good people turn their backs, darkness slides under the door.
Or we can open our doors, speak against hate, act with love in our communities, offer help to those in need. Because each of those places that were scenes of violence? They were someone’s community. And those young men, before darkness engulfed their lives? There was a moment when love may have made all the difference. God is love. Let’s open ourselves to become light-bearers, filled with God’s Holy Spirit, messengers of God’s Love.
Suzanne lives in Breckenridge. Her books can be found at the Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco and at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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