A Terrorist is a Terrorist – No Matter WHO It Is!

We are all reeling from yet another atrocity – the massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland, Texas. The fact that someone chose to mow down people worshipping on a Sunday is an anathema of all this country professes to be. Unfortunately, we live in a world that is sadly marked by increasing violence and terrorism. It seems like very few days go by, if any at all, without some horrible act of terror or random violence. It has become such a ‘normal’ occurrence that some in the country hardly react any longer. There is surely something wrong in our society when the solution to a problem or reaction to anger is to not only kill the offender, but also massacre innocence people in the process.

But equally disturbing to me is that whenever there is a terror attack, the natural impulse is to blame a Muslim or ISIS. Are we so influenced by the national attitude that we can’t wait to immediately attach the nomer ‘Islam’ or ‘ISIS’ to the word ‘terrorist’? Perhaps it is easier to accept that a foreign element is responsible for our mounting atrocities than to accept the perpetrator may be the person next door, but clearly that is not so.

It is human nature to seek scapegoats for the causes of evil – it is far easier to look upon the things that come from without than the things from within. That chosen scapegoat suffices only until another deadly attack happens; then we repeat the blaming (mental health, access to guns, foreign agents).

If you look at the last six massacres, each one was perpetrated by a home-grown, All-American citizen – not some foreign boogey man. They may have had mental health issues, but they grew up and lived as a citizen of the United States. We are reluctant to admit that ‘we’ have spawned this monster.

We do not call their actions ‘terrorism’ . . . but terrorism is terrorism. . . – no matter who the person is. Whether they have a mental problem or are seeking revenge for a perceived slight, when one kills and maims dozens of innocent people, they are still ‘terrorists’. And until we accept that their actions are not solely, ‘mental health issues’, or ‘gun control issues’, but ‘acts of terror’, it will be nearly impossible to address these actions.

Living among us as law-abiding and patriotic Americans are thousands of Muslims. In a knee-jerk reaction, to continually label them as a group as being the cause each time we have an incidence of terror in our midst, is unfair, unjust, and weakens our ability to address the real causes behind the terrorist’s act.

We, as Christians, need to begin to address the causes of terrorism. We need to provide services for those who feel they have been a victim of injustice. And we need to be a strident, but loving voice against those who spout hatred against those who are not ‘like us’, whether ethnic, racial, gender, or religious. If we begin to ‘love one another as we love ourselves’, maybe we can begin to change the world.

We can pray this will be so – and put our prayers into action.

written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington & Parts Adjacent, OH; 12 November 2017

The Tragedy at Charlottesville

We saw the underbelly of American the last two days in Charlottesville, Virginia. People who now feel that they have ‘permission’, even support from people in the government, to spew their hatred and bigotry and racism openly and violently. We saw armed militias carrying Confederate flags marching in goosesteps, white supremacists shouting angry slogans, members of the KKK no longer hiding under bedsheets, but openly proclaiming their part in the election of the president and their right to return America to a white, Christian nation. Hatred consumes these people; something that is NOT a Christian value.

And most tragic of all, we saw a young person from Maumee, Ohio, deliberately drive his car into a group of peaceful counter-protestors, killing at least one innocent bystander just trying to cross the street, and injuring scores of others, some who may still succumb to their injuries. This kind of hatred and violence does not only happen ‘somewhere else’, but right here in our state and our communities. We need to stand against this.

But we also saw a group of people of faith joined together (Catholics, Protestants, Jews,  Muslims, Buddhists and others) singing This little light of mine in love and fellowship to counter the vitriolic chants of the ultra-conservative Alt-Right, Neo-Nazis, KKK, nationalists, white supremacists, armed militia, and people angry because Charlottesville is going to remove a statue of Robert E Lee from a park called ‘Emancipation Park’.

Most of us cannot make any sense or see any justifiable reason for the actions of those who chose to create discord and spew bigotry and hatred and xenophobia. But, those people of faith chose to take the risk, get out there, arms joined together in solidarity, and do what was right.  They chose to get out of the boat! – to risk life and limb to present to the world what the love and teachings of Jesus really are.

They got out of the boat!

So where are you this morning?

Huddled in the boat with a life jacket and your seat belt on?

One leg in, one leg out?

Out of the boat, but fearful, still clinging to the edge?

Or looking with faith into the eyes of Jesus and walking on water?

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus, help us to walk with you wherever this life may take us. Help us to recognize whatever it is that:

Helps us to seek you,
Helps us to trust you,
Helps us to obey your teachings.

Help us to face our fears and trust whatever the storms of life may be, You are there, guiding and redeeming us. Be with those who have died and are injured physically and emotionally from this horrid incident in Charlottesville. Wrap your loving arms around them and the rest of the nation, reminding us that

The greatest of these is love  (1 Corinthians 13:13)

And give us the strength to get out of the boat.


Excerpted from a sermon (‘If You Want to Walk on Water, You  Gotta Get Out of the Boat!’) delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church  of Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 13 August 2017

Thoughts on Gun Violence (by Joanna, Spacious Faith)

The words below are taken from the sermon I preached last Sunday. There is more to say. There are better things to say. But these are the words I have right now.

The Bible does not specifically address issue of gun control, but there is a lot in scripture that speaks to various aspects of our problem with guns—scripture about how to deal with fear; about how to respond to violence; about how we should live in community.

Obviously fear is part of what fuels our obsession with guns in this country. And it is a never-ending cycle: there are lots of guns out there so people are fearful and go buy more guns. It is a skewed and deadly logic that can only be stopped if we can interrupt the fear. The good news is that as followers of Jesus, we have been called out of fear and into the promise of God’s eternal and abundant life. Scripture is full of passages that tell us not to be afraid.

The Bible also addresses how we are to respond to violence—Jesus in particular addresses this. The story of Jesus’ arrest, while not particularly addressing the issues of guns (which wouldn’t be invented for 13 centuries), is pretty clear about what Jesus thinks of retaliating with weapons. “Put away your sword,” says Jesus.

He refuses to meet violence with violence because he knows that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword;” he recognizes the need to interrupt the cycle of violence, no matter what the cost—and the cost for him was great, indeed.

There is also a lot in scripture about living in community—especially in the letters written by early church leaders to various congregations. Let’s listen again to some of Paul’s words to the church in Rome:

    Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty.

Do not be haughty. Let me replace haughty with a word that gets more use these days: Do not feel entitled. Now the problems of entitlement reach beyond the issue of gun violence, but are certainly part of our gun problem. Did the man in the Biloxi Waffle House believe he was entitled to smoke in a non-smoking restaurant? The NRA certainly believes that Americans are entitled to have as many of whatever kinds of guns they want. The assumed white supremacists who shot four BLM protestors in Minneapolis feel they have more right to freedom of speech and assembly that black people do. Racism is connected to gun violence in horrifying and sinful ways in this country.

If you want to live well in community, do not be haughty. Do not act entitled. None of us has the right to take the life of another. But carrying around a loaded handgun suggests otherwise.

And Paul continues:

    Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves.

The way of the world seems to be to repay evil for evil. The way of video games and TV shows and movies is certainly to repay evil for evil. But if we want to live in healthy, loving communities, we have to be willing to stop the cycle.

Those who seek retaliation and revenge have plenty of role models—from the Terminator (“I’ll be back.”) to Inigo Montoya (“You killed my father, prepare to die.”) But those of us who want to stop the cycle of violence also have role models. As Christians, Jesus is our primary example. Though we don’t have to look that far back in history. I think of the BLM protesters, most of whom are black and have endured lifetimes of discrimination and violence and injustice; who are demonized and gassed and arrested and shot at and still remain peaceful in their protests.

Yes, our country’s obsession with guns is deadly. It is overwhelming. It is sinful.

And yet, this morning, on the first Sunday of Advent, we have lit the candle of hope. We claim hope in the midst of our gun crisis because Advent reminds us that God–who is coming, who has come, in Jesus—is a God of life. It is God who creates, redeems, and sustains life. It is God who calls us through Jesus and empowers us through the Holy Spirit to live into the Divine life even—and especially—in the face of the deadly forces of the world.
Pastor Joanna, Posted on December 3, 2015
Thoughts on Gun Violence