In the last week, three acts of domestic terrorism reminded us of just how much hate thrives in the United States. The first terrorist used the mail system to send 14 mail bombs to prominent political leaders and media figures with whom he presumably disagrees. The second terrorist, unable to attack people of color while they were gathered in their church, walked into a Kentucky grocery store and gunned down two African Americans as they did their shopping. The third terrorist walked into a synagogue on a holy day and killed eleven people while they worshiped the God of Creation. No words can assuage the grief caused by these deplorable acts of hatred.
The PC(USA) Office of Public Witness joins with the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly (PCUSA) and other leaders in the faith community to express our sincere grief and horror over these unspeakable acts of hate and to call on a ban of the sale of all assault-style weapons, such as the weapon used in the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. These weapons are designed to be weapons of war and they have no place in the hands of private citizens.
No person should have to fear for their safety when going about their lives, whether that be while expressing political opinions, attending a worship service, or shopping for groceries. Nor should such fear be a reality in the lives of children at school, people of color in their homes or in public, people enjoying themselves at a movie theater, dance club, or concert. Violence and hate are not welcome here.
And yet, we know this very behavior is deeply rooted in fear. In this nation, the public climate has been growing increasingly uncivil for years, leading to more incidents of hate speech, acts of violence, public mocking, victim-shaming, and victim-blaming. In the last two years, the insidious realities of prejudice, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism, ableism, and other –isms, which had been hiding under a rock of unacceptability, have crept out into the open. Our nation’s leadership has emboldened those who embrace such hate by stoking fear of change, fear of other, and fear of being replaced. The nation is now gripped by a climate of hate in which acts of violence and hate speech are more common, and even acceptable. Words cannot fire weapons, but they can and do create an atmosphere that incites violence, affirms fear, and makes incivility the new normal.
We wholeheartedly reject such a climate. We choose to believe that God’s plan for our community is fuller, more open, and more beautiful than the narrow world view where hate and fear fester. We believe that we are called into community of mutual respect and support and will not give in to fear-mongering and gas-lighting tactics that are designed to make us feel that we are being threatened. We choose to live in hope.
We encourage Presbyterians to participate in community services at local synagogues, churches and mosques. This is the time for people of faith to come together in our united stand against anything that dares to try to separate us. In God’s name, we are one.