As I write, it's Sunday morning, August 4th, 2019, in Chicago and, since Friday, there have been three shooting deaths and thirty-seven people wounded.
Last weekend, eight people were killed and more than forty were wounded within the city limits.
Reading through the various news accounts, I concluded that most of these these crimes fell into two main categories: 1) altercations that escalated into violence; 2) gang-related violence which not only included gang v. gang but also random gang-initiation killings. And, of course, there were the inevitable innocent bystanders who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Though such gruesome statistics
prove yet again the need for sane gun legislation/ regulation, Chicago's violence cannot be categorized as "hate crimes" that target specific
populations on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. For victims and/or their loved ones, this provides little comfort, but for those of us observing trends in society, it is an important distinction. The slaughter of innocent people at the
Gilroy Garlic Festival
, CA, or in El Paso, TX, was neither the result of a chance altercation nor of gang activity, but of hatred, pure and simple. To be more precise, the assassins were white supremacists who acted upon their desire to make America"white" again. What emboldened them and their like has been the rise in hate rhetoric aimed at the minority groups that have supposedly "invaded" this country.
The rise in racism and in anti-immigrant sentiments needs to be addressed in every church, temple, synagogue and mosque, as well as in every legislative body, school and place of employment. Hatred of "the other" --including mockery, discrimination, bullying and violence-- has no place in a civilized society. It is not only contrary to religious principles but also to humanitarian values. Regardless of our political loyalties, we need to demand an end to divisive language from all elected officials; at the same time, we need to have zero-tolerance for racial slurs, ethnic jokes and discriminatory rhetoric of any kind. Words generate deeds, and cruel words can lead to massacres; to be silent is to be complicit.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell your belongings and give alms.
Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven
that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
There are few people who are immune to financial anxiety. For some, there is never enough to meet basic expenditures and so poverty becomes a way of life; those in this category may not have enough to feed themselves or their dependents and may even forgo the healthcare they need, along with opportunities for education, employment and self-enrichment. For others, it is the unexpected that causes distress -
-- a flat tire, lost eye-glasses, a trip to the ER room, a crashed computer hard drive, and so on. Like the proverbial hamster on a wheel, many are caught in the endless cycle of working extraordinarily hard to pay for basics; add a luxury expenditure here and there, together with a few unexpected calamities, and one's finances can soon move from black to red. And then there are the 1% whose greatest fiscal concern is how
to lose what they already have through poor investments, stock market volatility or theft.
Money problems are so pervasive that regardless of one's socio-economic status, no one is immune from fiscal anxiety. Money, in fact, can take over our consciousness, making us forget that we are spiritual beings while reducing us to cowering materialists. We obsess over not having enough, needing more, wanting more still, protecting what we have, and fearing that it will run out.
In contrast, Jesus offers us "money bags" that will never wear out, become empty, or get stolen; inside these bags is an inexhaustible treasure --God's gift to us!
To access this gift, however, we need to get our priorities straight and detach our minds and hearts from money-making, money-growing, money-protecting. The spiritual life needs to be tended with loving care, not cast aside while we grapple with having too little or too much worldly wealth. It demands attention, being watchful, and patient waiting; it has to be cultivated with right thoughts, right words, right deeds. Above all else, it has to be what we treasure the most -- more than riches, security, status, relationships, and even life itself.
God delights in giving us the kingdom in the here and now but if we are clutching greed or fear, we will not be able to reach out to receive the gift.