I was deeply moved to be invited and entrusted to speak at the candlelight vigil in downtown Walla Walla organized by Congregation Beth Israel to grieve the lives lost in Pittsburgh at the hands of an anti-semitic terrorist.
Here is what I offered:
I am here, as you can see, as a member of the Christian clergy. What you may not be able to see is that I’m here also as someone who has married into a Jewish family, and who is glad for my partner and I to be raising our child so that she is connected to her Jewish roots as well as her Christian roots. But here before you, I represent a church, and as such it’s best for me to not do a lot of talking – and rather to be listening and to be bearing witness to the pain and the strength of my dear siblings in the Jewish community.
In bearing witness, the heart breaks open.
But if I am to use my voice may it be to join with the cries of lamentation
If I am to use my voice may it be to join with those ancient songs of prayer that lay the pith of the soul bare before the Holy One Those ancient songs of prayer and law and prophecy That have carried the Jewish people through so many terrors May I sing with those songs of soul survival, Those songs of covenant, Songs of love, Songs of resistance in the face of oppression, Those song of great faith in the power and mercy of our Creator great faith in the promise of that day when we all shall beat our swords into ploughshares, those Hebrew Scriptures that compel us, until that good day comes, compel us into solidarity with all who suffer under injustice.
It’s no mistake that this terrorist was particularly enraged by Jewish humanitarian organizations that are aiding the refugees fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. It’s no mistake that this week as seen also a white supremacist murdering African-Americans. And before that yet more bombs mailed to those cast as the political “enemy.” And it’s no mistake that these connections have been made by so many Jewish folks I have heard from these days – that’s how Oliver opened this time tonight. It’s awe inspiring for me to witness how many Jews in this time feel compelled into solidarity with others who are also the targets of hate. It seems like it was no mistake that it was a Jewish doctor and a Jewish nurse who treated the shooter, even as he continued to spit his hate at them.
And so, if I am to use my voice May it be to join that struggle for healing and justice. But if I am to do that, as a Christian, I must repent, repent of the ways my Christian religion is so easily twisted into the service of anti-Semitic sentiment, hostility, and atrocity. It is my duty to call on my fellow Christians to do the same. It is our task to tear out these weeds of hate from the roots. The Christian religion has been perverted by White Supremacy, perverted by nationalism, twisted into the worship of a god of war rather than the God of all Creation. God knows no boundaries between nation, nationality, language, color, gender, sexuality, creed: All people are children of God.
And so, If I am to use my voice may it be to speak a word of peace. Peace! … Peace …
(October 30, 2018. Walla Walla, WA. Rev. Nathaniel Mahlberg)