Last Saturday, another gunman opened fire on yet another house of worship. Eleven dead. These eleven will be added to those recently killed at grocery stores, concerts, schools, homes, restaurants, clubs and street corners.
October 27 was the 300th day of 2018. It was also the day of the 294th mass shooting of 2018 in the United States. (The FBI defines a mass shooting as one where three or more people are injured or killed.) Hate-filled speech, dangerously ambiguous rhetoric, and life-harming – and often life-ending – bullets continue to fly.
We are outraged at the slaughter of people at worship and with the fact that the United States leads all advanced countries in homicides per capita – outpacing the next country on the list by four times the number of murders.
We mourn for those who died at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and for all those who have been injured and killed in mass shootings in the United States. We pour out our hearts in prayer for those who survive these shootings and who find themselves reeling in trauma they may never overcome.
And we pray for those who have perpetrated this violence on innocent victims. We are not born as prejudiced, hateful, violent people. The world is filled with those who foster goodness, bridge differences, and love neighbors as themselves. Tragically, however, others carry such deep physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wounds that they seek to destroy goodness, eliminate differences and annihilate neighbors. What is more, there are some in this country whose language and actions fan the flames of division and discontent in ways that only encourage the death-dealing actions we have seen this past week.
At Christian Theological Seminary, our faith is central to our life, work, and study. Every moment is a teaching moment. Every incident calls to us, urging us to learn and to engage.
Drawing deeply on the most ancient strands of our tradition and scripture, we affirm that all people are created in the image of God, and therefore have inherent worth and dignity. This, in fact, is the first statement of our values statement and, of course, comes from the proclamation in Genesis 1 that all humans are made in the image of God. The worth and dignity of all people are absolutes; they do not depend on variables such as race or ethnicity, gender or sexuality, wealth, intelligence, moral virtue, religion, ability, or social standing.
We also affirm in that same values statement that we hear, just as the people of God of every time and place have heard, God’s call to promote healing and wholeness in all of God’s creation. That is not an optional part of our faith. Scripture highlights our healing, serving, reconciling, peacemaking work in the world as central to our life of faith.
May God bless and strengthen all efforts to end the death-dealing ways that threaten our shared life as people of faith and as Americans. Let us join together in prayer. Let us mobilize together in faithfulness. Let us fulfill God’s desire that we all live in life-giving community with one another.
Rev. Dr. Bill Kincaid
Interim President and Herald B. Monroe Associate Professor of Leadership and Ministry Studies