The following is the article I wrote for the Minister's Corner of The Shawnee News Star, April 20, 2013.
“Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. In your mercy, forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your holy name.”
Confession of Sin, Book of Common Worship, 1993 Westminster/John Knox Press
As I write this article we as a nation continue to reel from the terrorist attacks that happened Monday, April 15, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. While it is still unknown who did this and why, we do know that three people were killed – an 8-year-old, a grad student and a young woman in her late twenties. There have been more than 170 people injured, many of them traumatic injuries resulting in amputations. The debris from the blasts is being meticulously sifted through, and remains of what looks to be the potential bombs are being analyzed. The people of Boston are understandably shaken and horrified at what has happened – as we all are – but they have rallied in spirit and determination and are refusing to shrink down in terror in the face of this gruesome attack on their city.
Over 11 years ago the people of New York rallied in spirit and determination, refusing to give into fear at the indescribable evil that struck on September 11, 2001. And 18 years ago this week the people of Oklahoma City and Oklahomans everywhere rallied in spirit and determination after the terrible bombings at the Murrah Federal Building in downtown OKC.
Whenever something terrible like this happens, people rally together. All the factors that divide them on ordinary days don’t seem to matter as much when the unthinkable occurs. The late children’s television host and fellow Presbyterian minister, Fred Rogers, shared wisdom his mother told him when he was little and something scary happened. “Look for the helpers.” We’ve seen countless helpers in Boston. Ordinary citizens, as well as first responders, rushed toward the explosions, to offer help and care. Runners left the race and ran to nearby hospitals to donate blood. Doctors and nurses who were runners assisted with triage. There were many helpers in Boston. There were many helpers in New York and in Oklahoma City. For this I am grateful because it does, as so many people have said already, reinforce my belief in the goodness of humanity. Those who would commit such monstrous acts of violence against innocents are far fewer than those who would rush in to help.
But even saying that, it is at times like these that I wonder about the violence of our race. We are capable of such great beauty and equally capable of such brutality. I will make the assumption that no one taking a few minutes to read this article would ever commit a crime against their fellow human beings like the one perpetrated in Boston this week. Yet violence and hatred have the same potential to wreak havoc within me as they do anyone. Maybe I don’t act on it, but it’s there. The events in Boston are not the first time that people have acted viciously towards other people. It seems that from the moment human life began we’ve been trying to kill one another. I might not have harmed others in big ways, but I know I’ve harmed in small ways. One of those ways is that too often I am silent in the face of violence, which makes me complicit in its continuation.
I am sickened by the violence and carnage on Monday. I was sickened by it over 11 years ago and 18 years ago. But violence against innocents happens every day, here and around the world. And if I’m not raising my voice against that, if I stand silent or turn away at the acts of terror that happen in other countries or in homes or in schools, then I am guilty of allowing violence to go on. I am guilty of proclaiming that I believe in peace, but do not act on it. I am guilty of not loving my neighbor as I do myself. So I confess today that as a human being I am culpable for the violence that is too often enacted against my fellow humans. It has become a cliché, but truly, if peace is ever going to make it in this world, then it has to begin right here, right now, with me.