Wednesday Word: Will you . . .
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
This past Monday evening I participated in a service of solidarity at Congregation B'nai Abraham here in Hagerstown in response to the murder of Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Besides myself, representatives from the Interfaith Coalition, Disciples of Christ, United Methodist Church, Roman Catholic Church, Islamic Society of Western Maryland, Bridge of Life Church, United Church of Christ, and the NAACP participated.
Rabbi Ari Plost pulled this together beginning Sunday evening, and by Monday afternoon both speakers and choir had been organized and would come together for the vigil. The synagogue was standing room only as we listened to the various speakers read and reflect on scripture passages from their various traditions that held some personal meaning, as well as praying for those killed and those who survived.
I chose to read the Baptismal Covenant from the BCP. In my comments, I said that this covenant wasn't just an Episcopal thing or even a Christian thing, but can be used as a guide for all our lives. I didn't say this explicitly, but the point was made that Christians, Muslims, Jews, agnostics, deists, and atheists can all work to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can all work for justice and peace. We can all work to respect the dignity of every human being.
We are living in a time where hatreds are running rampant. Racism and white nationalism are on the rise. White people are calling police on non-whites in record numbers for reasons that aren't even criminal – entering neighborhoods where they live, selling water for fundraisers, creating community gardens, etc. Politicians are using fear of the other and derogatory and divisive language that gives credence to more hateful speech and actions. Stopping THEM before they overtake US is the theme of the day.
And while the focus has become THOSE OTHER PEOPLE, nobody seems to notice or care that the vast majority by far of terrorist attacks in the US have been committed by white males. This includes the man who killed eleven people at worship in Pittsburgh.
Words have meaning. Words have power. Words matter.
Part of loving your neighbor as yourself means to stand up against people who belittle and attack those who choose hate over love. Part of striving for justice and peace means ensuring that all people are treated equally and calling out those who use their power to do otherwise. Part of respecting the dignity of every human being is to recognize that we are all made in the image of God and to put a stop to words and actions which do otherwise. Part of living into our Baptismal Covenant is to firmly and unequivocally stand against hate and intolerance of every kind.
If anything, the events of this past weekend should make us realize that it is past time for us to see our Baptismal Covenant as just another lovely liturgy of the church and to begin seeing it as a way of life.
I will, with God's help.