Brothers and Sisters, I am deeply saddened by the horrific acts of the racist-based violence that has unfortunately occurred in the past week. We have witnessed a racist gunman shoot and kill two African Americans at a Kroger in a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky and eleven Jewish worshipers be gunned down by an anti-Semitic shooter who was allegedly upset about the Synagogue's participation in a Hebrew Immigration Aid Society Shabbat Service. To add more sorrow to the unthinkable, the Kentucky gunman who murdered Vickie Jones and Maurice Mallard, first attempted to enter a predominantly African American Church to commit the massacre of more than 70 congregants who had recently departed the Church property one hour prior to his arrival. When the alleged murderer could not enter to kill those congregants in the Black Church, he quickly drove to a suburban grocery store to carry out his racist-based murder. Why is this happening? It's called the POLITICS OF FEAR... and this is a hate strategy that we must unify to resist. Neither anti-Semitism, xenophobia, or racism should have a space of hospitality in our Americanism. We must reject the proclivity to embrace the politics of fear.
In my Christian context, the writings of the Apostle Paul found in 2 Timothy 1:7 says: For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind. So who spreads the spirit of fear? If you ask St. John's Baptist Church congregation on any given Sunday morning, they'd say it is, "The enemy of God... the devil." Our tradition tells us that the devil is the author of fear because the devil is a LIAR. We are witnessing the proclamation of that fear through this nation's political discourse being stoked and giving rise to the spirit of hatred that has always meandered as a fog throughout America. Words are life. Eventually, they bring about a tangible manifestation. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love its use will eat its fruit." (Proverbs 18:21) That means that faith and fear are in the power of the tongue. What consumes the heart is what is spoken. What you say flows from what is in your heart." (Luke 6:45 NLT). Fear is being consumed and fear is being proliferated. It matters not if it's political-based fear, theological-based fear, or socially-based fear, it's neither good or of God and it must be stopped. Eleven Jewish sisters and brothers are dead today not just because of their faith, they were killed by a hateful gunman because of the actions of their faith. Last week the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) sponsored a National Refugee Shabbat. The shooter, Robert Bowers' social media account had the following comment on his (gab.com account): "HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I'm going in." Where did he come up with this notion? Who is proliferating such xenophobic bigotry? You may remember that the political-speak concerning U.S. immigration has changed from immigrants to illegals to invaders. President Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed "nationalist" has been sadly and irresponsibly addressing this notion of foreign "invaders" in his rallies and press briefings. He is now sending 5,200 additional military troops to the U.S. Southern border to stop thousands of migrants -- weary sojourners like Joseph, Mary, and Jesus -- from approaching America to request asylum. Are we now to accept that Lady liberty who wades in the waters of the New York Habor while shining brightly the light of hope and social uplift to the blessed escapist of repressively bad-attacking governments is no longer crying: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” ??? Has Lady Liberty now been added to this White House's shunned list of fake news purveyors?
Unfortunately, hatred is infested with fear and it is spreading throughout America. There is also coupled in this politics of immigration fear, a racist-based fear of a browning of America. What is being spoken is being released into the spirit of America and we are seeing the tangible results of that hateful actions giving progressively greater license to these immoral acts of bigotted-based politics, speech, and murder. We must wake up and resist. Hatred is always going too far --seeks to destroy us all. People of Faith, we must rise at this moment. Remember the profound words of the German theologian and Lutheran pastor, Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemoller: "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out-- because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me —and there was no one left to speak for me. To target, challenge, and ultimately charge the right-leaning political psyche into hurriedly running -- half-cocked to the polls -- a spirit of fear is being proclaimed. To peacefully combat this fear, we must stand in the power and love and in the best of our prophetic traditions and collectively, yet simply utter: "NO." We must pray together with our mouths, our feet, and our hands. We have to combat the proliferation of evil with a kinetic ethic of love. As a beloved community, as the rainbow people of God, we have the faith to conquer evil. Let's do it! For such is God's foundational idea to combat hate with good.
Rev. Dr. Robert A. F. Turner, Senior Pastor