As we gathered for the second day of the 108th Convention of the Diocese of Olympia in SeaTac, the news began to come that yet again, gun violence had taken the lives of innocent people, and yet again, inside a house of worship. We now know that the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh is the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the United States. We know that the killer had as his motive, simply, “I just want to kill Jews.”
There is absolutely no place for violence in our discourse. The attack on that synagogue is an attack on all people of faith. It cannot be accepted and it should not become common place, or even tolerated. We cannot become numb to this reality. If the rhetoric and tenor of our collective life keeps heading the direction it is now, similar horrors will come to all our doorsteps.
Ironically, just a few days ago, Rabbi Daniel Wiener of Temple De Hirsch Sinai, sent out this Civic Covenant: Principles Unite us for Change from Faith United. I hope you will read it. We need it now more than ever.
At our convention, which had as its theme “This is Us: Looking Back, Moving Forward,” I began with a quote from Gary Wills book, Certain Trumpets, a book on leadership and followership. In his introduction he says, “Show me your leader, and you have bared your soul.” I am worried about our collective soul. I believe this may be something we might agree on – across the political and even theological divides – the fear for our collective soul, and yet we too often continue to demonize across those lines, blame, and incite. It needs to stop. To believe that the heated rhetoric, the call for violence, the just “punch them in the face” language coming from our leaders does not echo out into a world where people listen, and then act, is to be about as tone deaf as one could be. This can’t be had both ways. Words are important. You can’t call for violence as a solution one day, and then condemn it the next. Despite what it may seem, I am not blaming any one person. You and I are part of this. We share in what our leaders do, who they are, how we respond. Indeed, one of the themes of my address was the power of followership. It is not passive, we do have power. We need more responsibility and more leadership. I pray that people of faith, regardless of where they stand on the spectrum of theology, ideology, politics, or any others, can come together on this request. Tone it down. Realize that lives are at stake in how we lead, in what we say, in how we act. Speak out more, no matter where you are politically, and especially when our leaders, from any party, speak of violence and hate.
I encourage you to attend the many vigils that will take place, to offer them in your houses of worship, to most assuredly pray, but more than that, to act. Act to demand a change to the rhetoric, act by not joining in it, act by standing in solidarity with Jews, Muslims, Christians, and indeed with all humanity, as we are called to by our faith, and was modeled by our Savior and Lord, Jesus. As one banner flying in the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill read, “Love Thy Neighbor: No Exceptions.” There are certainly those who do not, and will not heed this commandment, but I believe there are far more that believe it is true, people of faith, and otherwise. Let’s join with them to save our soul.
Here is the link to Temple De Hirsch Sinai, statement and invitation.
Here is a link to the statement by Shoulder to Shoulder is a group of 34 religious denominations and organizations committed to standing with American Muslims to uphold American values.
The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel
Bishop of Olympia
1551 10th Ave E
Seattle, Washington 98102