I couldn’t think of a more appropriate scripture on which to reflect this week in the wake of the tragic violence in Arizona this past weekend. I was utterly devastated, but sadly not surprised, by the news that started flickering across my screens on Saturday. As the tweets, updates and finally the ’round the clock news coverage made clear the madness in our country has reached an unacceptably fevered pitch I sank lower and lower into a bog of sadness. Six dead, one a little girl barely older than my own 8 year little girl. So first I mourned her. Six dead, at the hands of a sick and violent man. So I mourn all who were killed so needlessly in the parking lot of the Safeway. Eighteen wounded and more shaken by the eruption of violence in their community. So I mourn the physically and mentally wounded who had come to take part in a sliver of our democracy. The gun wielding man, barely out of his teens, his mind twisted in illness. So I mourn even for him. But all this together creates a deep vacuum in my heart as I look for answers to how we as a nation have come to this point. As sheriff Dupnik so boldly and bravely said “The bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” he said. “And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” He went on to say “all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech,” Dupnik said, but that vitriol and political rhetoric “is not without consequence.” So I deeply mourn the state of our nation that produces such language, that creates an atmosphere of wanton violence. I mourn the loss of lives and the loss of basic decency in discourse. And how then shall we be comforted? Not in placating tones that promise everything will be OK. Not in promises of a sweet by and by where no more we will cry. I am comforted by moving into action and by those around me who are willing to speak up – boldly and without reservation – in the face of evil.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
My comfort comes from those willing to speak up and denounce the violent rhetoric swirling on screens large and small. My comfort comes from preachers and teachers who are willing to call evil for what it is and counter with nonviolence, with love. My comfort comes from women and men, Christians and Jews, Muslims and Buddhists who are willing to take a risk to live out the love of our Creator in tangible, even radical ways. Our discipleship requires neither silence or passivity. Though we seek to counter the vitriol we must do so in nonviolence – we must not become what we renounce. We can clearly and faithfully name violence as evil while extending open arms of love. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and our brother Jesus modeled that throughout their ministries.
Here are just a few leaders who are speaking up:
My comfort comes from working tirelessly to find the voices, listen to the voices and share the voices of God’s love so that the cacophony of hate might be suffused with the light of agape. Where are you hearing the comforting voices of hope?