On Sunday morning we were worshipping God at the West Douglas Church of Christ over in rough Delano, and that evening we were having dinner with the folks and a brother and sister-in-law at a swank retirement village where some adorable young children from a nearby synagogue were charmingly singing Hanukkah songs. All the local sports teams won in the afternoon, the food was good, and there was a lingering holiday cheer.
We came home to the news the someone had walked into the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, with a shotgun hidden in his overcoat, and killed two people before being gunned down by a couple of gun-toting members of the congregation. Late Saturday night in Monsey, New York, a man walked into a synagogue with a machete and severely wounded five people during a Hanukkah celebration, and although no one was sufficiently armed to prevent his escape an arrest was made a short time later. Such is life in America in the waning days of 2019, where such senseless acts of mass murder and mayhem are commonplace.
It happens all too often at shopping malls and music festivals and gay bars and sporting events and in random workplaces and crowded streets, but it’s all the more unsettling on the all too frequent occasions when it happens at schools and houses of worship and other places that ought to be considered especially sacred. Which is not to say that the lives lost in one place are any less precious than those lost in another, but only to express a natural human yearning for some safe refuge in such a cruel world as this.
As we try to envision 2020 through squinted eyes we see no reason to hope the problem will be solved by year’s end. So far there’s no known motive for the incident at the West Freeway Church of Christ, and might well prove some personal beef between the shooter and on the of the congregants, as the denomination tends to be blessedly apolitical and focused on more eternal matters, but it appears that the incident in Monsey was yet another manifestation of the Jew hatred that has long infected humanity and has lately been on the rise here and abroad, and every single incident of the past several years is probably best explained by the ancient belief shared by all religions that evil exists and persists in the heart of man. It’s been there all along, so far as we can tell, and neither of our political parties of the moment can offer any better solutions than the parties of the past came up with.
Despite our denomination’s placid and apolitical bent we’re not at all surprised that a couple of Church of Christ-goers in a Texas town called White Settlement happened to be armed during Sunday worship services, and we think they’re on firm scriptural ground with the admonition in Luke 22:36 that “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one,” and in this case it seems to have limited the carnage, so you can score one for the Republican argument about good guys with guns. Still, it’s as inadequate a solution as trying to get rid of guns.
So far as we know no one at the West Douglas Church is packing heat on a Sunday morning, and even if we were to bring the fancy handgun our father gave us we’d probably be of little help to our fellow congregants if something evil came our way, so we can’t blame those Jews in Monsey for sharing our faith in the goodness or at least basic decency that also persists in the heart of man, and usually prevails. Between God almighty and the local constabulary of our up-to-date western civilization we should be able to count on that.
The best that the politicians can do about it is to encourage the better angels of our nature, as President Abraham Lincoln once put it during a very divided and violent time in our history, but it’s hard to envision that happening in 2020.
— Bud Norman