When I drove to church yesterday morning the radio had Bonnie Tyler, with her unique throaty voice, rasping though “It’s a Heartache”. Somehow that set my mood for the day. Of course, the song is really about a romantic breakup. But, as I tend to do, I picked up more on the instrumental background. That plaintive guitar riff kept running through my mind.
So it is a heartache.
It is a heartache that in Pittsburgh a Shabbat service became the scene of a mass murder. Since I often write about Jewish/Christian relations with the idea that there is a solidarity based on our faith in the same God, I find this kind of thing particularly disturbing. The desire to harm Jews just because of who they are is so irrational. The attack upon people at worship is despicable.
It is also a heartache that we need to think about security for our sanctuaries. Although the motive for this attack is more upsetting, attacks at places of worship have frequently been in the news over the last few years. It has happened at black churches, at other churches, at synagogues and at mosques. Sometimes it has been terrorism or racism. But sometimes it has been something like a domestic dispute that has spilled over into church.
I am now getting more notices about seminars and workshops on security. I understand that the rabbi who talked to police on his cell phone to expedite the end of the situation at Dor Hadash had recently been to such a seminar. The reason he kept his phone with him during the service was that he had been taught the importance of this.
Some have suggested armed guards for worship services. It has already been implemented in some places.
In the Hebrew Scriptures gatekeepers for the Temple apparently were armed.
Of course, it is too bad. One of our values is peace and reconciliation. Armed guards at worship seems incongruous.
The fact that we have to consider it is a heartache.
It is also a heartache for me when people turn a fatal event into a political weapon.
The communication I got from my denomination narrows the problem down to the fact that the Pittsburgh shooter seems to have been a right-wing crank. So it decries white supremacists. It pretty much echoes the Washington Post.
And this echoes the talking points of a particular political party. It shows no awareness that the marked rise in anti-Semitism in the West is much broader than the alt-right. There is hostility to Jews in Black Lives Matter. There is hostility to Jews in The Women’s March. There is hostility to Jews among Islamists. Look it up. Do a web search if you are oblivious to this.
What is even more of a heartache to me is the lack of self-awareness in the leadership of my denomination, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). We have passed resolutions at several of our General Assembles that Jewish organizations have labeled as “functional anti-Semitism”. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood that opposition to the existence of Israel was anti-Semitism. But we have gone the other way.
Okay, so a certain level of alienation from the Disciple establishment–not my local congregation—is an ongoing heartache for me. But the immediate heartache is the absurdity of what happened in Pittsburgh. I have been writing in hope of grasping a new understanding of God’s people, Israel. Then this happens.