News this past week brought again word of unthinkable hate:
Murdered for being Americans of African descent in Louisville, Kentucky, on Wednesday, October 24, 2018:
Maurice Stallard, 69
Vickie Lee Jones, 67
Murdered for being Americans of the Jewish faith in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, October 27, 2018:
Daniel Stein, 71
Joyce Feinberg, 75
Richard Gottfried, 65
Rose Mallinger, 97
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Cecil Rosenthal, 59
David Rosenthal 54
Bernice Simon, 84
Sylvan Simon, 86
Melvin Wax, 88
Irving Younger, 69
As I heard the news, I was reading a biography of Martin Niemöller (1892-1984):
Then They Came for Me: Martin Niemöller, the Pastor Who Defied the Nazis by Matthew D. Hockenos (New York: Basic Books, 2018). It was jarring reading about the ingrained anti-Semitism in Germany in the years leading to World War II and to the Holocaust. Niemöller, a Lutheran pastor, was a nationalist (a naval officer during World War I) and one who shared the prejudices of his time. The Nazi government took control of the Protestant Church and Niemöller (with others like Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the Confessing Church) challenged the new "German" Church. Niemöller spent seven years in concentration camps. It would take the years after his release to come to terms with his own complicity and that of the German people with the legalized and initialized hate of Nazi Germany. He is remembered for the quote inscribed on a wall in the Hall of Witness at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.:
First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -
and there was no one left to speak for me.
While the evil acts in Louisville and Pittsburgh are those of individuals, they have taken place in a national environment of anger and hate speech. Violence is nurtured in times of hate, division and the objectification of other human beings. Violence against anyone is an act against us all - against you and me. Words of hate directed against any group is a word of hate directed against all of us - against you and me. Words of hate, anger and division build. If they are allowed to become common place, then the acts of the insane and the evil can become acceptable.
In memory of these thirteen souls, we must say "no" to hate and violence. We must hold those accountable who use words of fear and anger. Most importantly, we must search ourselves for our personal pockets of prejudice, fear, anger and self-deception that allow us to turn a blind eye to another's pain or to objectify the other as a non-person - an object and not a human being. We must have true repentance and amendment of life, and then to defy in word and deed by God's grace those who promulgate hate, anger and fear with love, joy and peace.
Prayer for those who died:
Into your hands, O God, we commend our sisters and brothers as into the hands of a faithful Creator and most loving Savior. In your infinite goodness, wisdom, and power, work in them the merciful purpose of your perfect will, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for those who mourn:
O merciful Father, you have taught us in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve your children: Look with pity upon the sorrows of your servants for whom our prayers are offered. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness, lift up your countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for our Nation:
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.