The Sojourners community reacted Saturday with shock, mourning, and growing fear to the horrific and murderous attack on Jews at the Tree of Life Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Eleven Jews were killed in the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States and more wounded while observing the Sabbath. Many of the victims had gathered for a baby-naming ceremony. That this evil act of anti-Semitic terrorism should take place here in the United States is deeply shocking for old and young alike. Yet both U.S. and world history teach us that the poison of anti-Semitism is very real and has deadly consequences. Indeed, the apparent motivations and beliefs of the killer make it clear that the 11 men and women murdered Saturday were targeted precisely because of their Jewish identity. Anti-Semitism is one of the oldest and most persistent forms of bigotry alive in the world today, and Christians, along with Jews—who believe all human beings are created in the image of God--have a duty to name anti-Semitism and confront it at every turn, particularly given the shameful complicity of so many who called themselves Christians in the Holocaust and other historical oppression and killing of Jewish people.
It must also be said that this hate crime capped off a horrific week of violence in the United States inspired by white supremacist ideology in which racist and conspiracy theories are being fomented and openly promulgated at the highest levels of political power as a deliberate electoral strategy and amplified by prominent voices in right wing media and dark web spaces. Let’s be clear; the attempted murder of critics of the Trump administration targeted with pipe bombs in the mail, two black Americans killed in a grocery store after an attack on a black church failed, and the massacre of Jews at their temple; were all carried out by white supremacist nationalists who are the greatest terrorist threat in America today.
President Donald Trump is deliberately and unashamedly using a political strategy of fear and hate--that can and has turned to violence. If it were not for the bigoted and hateful words of presidential political rhetoric with its anti-immigrant and refugee attacks; the Jews who are gone today might still be with us and their families. When the President of the United States now proudly calls himself “a nationalist,” in the midst of such hate and violence; the white nationalists, supremacists, and anti-Semites do feel supported and emboldened.
Our hearts are broken as we reach out in love, care, and solidarity to our Jewish friends, colleagues, faithful fellow believers and citizens. Our faith is offended by these assaults that contradict the biblical commands to love and protect our neighbors. Our conscience is seared by the lies and strategies of hateful politics that will lead to more and more violence in this country and put the soul of our nation in jeopardy. Words matter and hateful words do lead to violence. Our commitment to our brothers and sisters under attack will lead us to pray, stand, act, and vote against the politics of fear and hate, because of our faith and patriotism.
At a time of moral crisis, we as people of many faiths will live and love side by side.