Yesterday, an anti-Jewish shooting occurred in Overland Park, Kansas close to where I live. Three people were killed. The shooter was a notorious white supremacist, and reports indicate that he yelled “Heil Hitler” when he was arrested.
There are so many reasons why this is heartbreaking.
I can’t imagine that it is coincidental that the shootings occurred as Jewish people were preparing to celebrate Passover.
There are many ironies of this all – the greatest being that this man, who identified as a Christian, chose to make himself an agent of death on the same week that Christians walk with Jesus through his death and resurrection.
In some circles, he ignited reminders from Christian leaders that the Church has much to repent of in its historical relationship with Jewish people. One such statement, from leaders of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), can be found here. In their beautiful statement, they strongly addressed the deep vein of antisemitism in Christian history and thought – particularly the charge that “the Jews killed Jesus.”
They wrote: “It is a cruel irony, and one of the church’s deepest sins, that so many of our teachers and preachers have twisted history to blame the very people who were targeted by Pilate’s act of state terrorism. As we journey through this week of reflection and repentance, we urge Christian leaders to actively and publicly renounce the destructive and false narrative that vilifies Jewish faith and all-too-often threatens the life and safety of our Jewish neighbors and friends.”
The man who perpetrated this act is many things. He is a terrorist, despite the unwillingness of the mainstream media to refer to a white man as such. He is a coward – so afraid of people different from himself that he would seek to kill them.
But he is also a child of God, loved by God, and offered redemption.
It is clear that he, and so many others, and perhaps even us regular folk, are enslaved to the death-dealing ways of the world. This man’s actions may be broadly condemned, but the idea that violence is the solution to social and political conflicts is hardly questioned. The government itself enforces its will through deadly force when it deems it necessary.
So often, people look at acts such as this one, and we wish to label it an anomaly. We want it to be “senseless.” When the perpetrator is a white Christian person, we look for psychological reasons for their actions.
But the truth is that we live in a world which has for a very long time adopted death-dealing violence as the solution to social problems. We ought not be surprised when somebody follows that path.
After all, we live in a world which crucified Jesus.
The good news, of course, is that all of this ends in resurrection, somehow.
I don’t know if that comforts those who lost loved ones. It may, or it may not. But I have already seen resurrection in the stubborn unwillingness of God’s people to let this act of violence have the last word. I have seen resurrection in the leaders bringing their people together. I have seen resurrection in strong Christian statements against antisemitism.
Because death does not have the last word, as absurd as that may sound. Life and love have the last word always.
Thanks be to God.