Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Jeffrey Phelps / Associated Press / August 5, 2012 
I am not writing today to "make sense" of anything that happened at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin.  There are far too many people who are rushing to "make sense" of that event and every other one like it.

I happen to distrust most of those individuals . . . not because I dislike them or oppose them but simply because I distrust this fetish we in the West have developed for "making sense" of everything that happens immediately after it happens.

Job's friends were wise enough to sit in silence for seven days with Job after he lost everything.  And in the end they still didn't get the analysis right.

The "sense" that we make of the evil in this world is rarely sensible at all.  I had the misfortune to sit captive in an airplane seat last Friday while a fine specimen of my race, country and culture held forth as loudly as a hard shell Baptist preacher on Sunday morning on the virtues of killing to stop killing.  Among the outlandish things he stated was that our country would be a more peaceful place if everybody just had and regularly used their handguns, automatic weapons and deer rifles on the "criminal element."

No matter how you want to spin the numbers to deny the fact, by any measure, we are already one of the the most violent nations on earth.  Well, most violent save for a few war torn countries in which we seem to be doing our best to contribute to the violence that is going on.   Now Bubba in the back of the plane wants to make sense of it all by insisting that everybody own and use a weapon.  On the "criminal element."

So much for due process.  Let's replace the constitution with more guns, shall we?

Religious people- at least the so-called Christian variety whom I know best- are often equally unhelpful.  Eventually, if it hasn't happened already, some preacher with an ax to grind and an offering plate to fill will turn this event into an opportunity to get more people into his church.  Because we know, after all, that this is the fault of our country becoming "godless." Abandoning Sunday School and good morals.  All of which your local neighborhood church can help you out with. And if we dare raise thoughtful questions about anyone's logic or motives they will blame us for being godless.  Nice con-- virtually fool proof.

I'm not saying this as an embittered former church member.  I write the above words as a concerned career minister and local church pastor because I am sick-- sick to death-- of Christian ministers who take advantage of tragedy to promote church attendance. While I understand all too well that most church leaders don't make these statements with conscious and calculated intent, the result is still the same.  We don't get credit for our good intentions.  If we believe the Gospel we preach, we must eventually get around to being accountable for the effect of the things we do and say.

There is a self-interested angle in every rush to judgment.  And none of them speak for God.  Very, very few of them make the slightest bit of sense in the light of Jesus' words.

 Remember him?  Jesus? The Alpha and Omega?  The Eternal Word?  The source of creation and the manifestation of God's love for human beings?  The one we say we long to see return again so that he can reward the faithful and judge all the evil doers in this sinful world?

The one who refused to meet violence with violence?

I don't have any sense to make of the killing of seven people in a Sikh temple by a white supremacist.

All I have to offer today is a memory and a prayer.

The memory consists of me preparing a worship service to commemorate the dead soon after 9-11.  In the course of preparing the service I sifted through hundreds of photos taken in locations around the globe.  One caught my eye at the time.  It was a group of turbaned men in India sitting in a circle, weeping and praying for the victims, for the families and for the country that had just experienced such heinous violence.

A group of Sikh men praying for us.

I don't know what the content of their prayer was, but I was deeply touched then and find myself even more deeply moved today.  As I have been by the leaders of the Sikh community who have called for forgiveness and peace as a response to senseless violence.

The prayer I offer comes from Holy Scripture, because it is the absolute best I have to offer in the face of sickening and senseless violence.

 "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 
On the contrary:“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
Romans 12:17-21 

May it be so.

Photo Credit: www.Crosscards.com

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