I recently read an article covering the recent shooting at the Synagogue in Poway, California. You likely have heard or read the story, but if you have not, a young man walked into the synagogue intentionally targeting Jewish worshipers and killing one and wounding others. As the news has filtered out, it has been discovered he was a “faithful” member of a Christian church. In his seven page manifesto explaining his reasons for perpetuating this atrocity, he credited his theology and faith.
The article itself examined some of those beliefs. Some of his statements were grounded in historic Christianity. For instance, he proclaimed a Trinitarian theology – a belief in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet, his theology took a dark turn as he blamed all Jews for the killing of Jesus. As such, they deserved death.
Reading the article, my heart sank given the hatred spewed toward a group of people who are innocent. Such Antisemitism is wrong and not biblical. As I read, I kept asking myself how this man came to this conclusion having been in a church for most of his life. How can someone who knows the story of Jesus, understand Jesus’ own Jewishness, know Jesus followers were initially Jews, as well as see it was many of the Jewish leaders (not even all of them) who played a part in Jesus’ death. Moreover the Gospels present Jesus accepting His death as His choice. How then could someone still come to the conclusion killing another human being is ordained by God?
Obviously there is much to consider; however, I was reminded of how important theology is and the conclusions we draw from it. Moreover how we say things and what we say can (or left unsaid) can have great consequences. From what I’ve read, neither his church nor pastor espoused an Anti-Semitic idea. Yet he came to these conclusions. Were the evils of antisemitism left unsaid? It made me wonder the things I neglect to say or do which could have grave impacts. Theology really does matter and the conclusions we draw from it matter. But even more, how we form people matters. What we say and we leave unsaid matters. The Church must be crystal clear regarding it’s values. Love is our highest ideal. This is what Jesus showed and exemplified. Hatred and hate speech has no place in our life together. Hope is foundational. Mercy is required. All are children of God and created in the Lord’s image. Charity is an unquestioned value.
We must examine our minds and hearts and ask if the beliefs and virtues we espouse match the standards of Jesus and the general tenor of God’s activity contained in the Biblical text. Do our politics match Jesus? Do our beliefs about people match Jesus? Does our speech and action match Jesus’ speech and action?
I also thought about how important it is to read Scripture carefully and closely. For instance John writes about the growing tension between what is translated “the Jews” and Jesus. Yet the term used can also connote a group of Jewish leaders. No doubt the Gospels present this picture not an Anti-Semitic picture. Even Paul, in Romans, speaks to the open door for fellow Jews who haven’t agreed Jesus is the Messiah. All to say, a close reading of Scripture grounded in humility leads us toward a more faithful theology. Moreover Scripture must be interpreted inside the community of faith, read closely and slowly along with others. When we err, we must point out false narratives of faith. One must ask, Does this reading or interpretation do harm to another? Does it do good? Does it fall in the parameters of faithful Christian interpretation? We are responsible one for another. How we read Scripture and live it matters. We must be willing to do deep work of self-examination. We after all are not God. We see through a glass dimly. We must walk this humble path through the Christian journey.
May we be a people who are not fearful of saying things such as hatred is antithetical to the Gospel. May we walk in humility as we search for and walk along the narrow road.
Grace and Peace,