When I began writing this, pipe bombs had been found, but who had made them and what the motive was were unknown. We now know who did it, and we have also seen an attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh in which 11 people were killed.
Violence seems to be growing, and these two incidents seem to have motivated by hate and fear. These are fed by the current divisions in the country, and by the words we use to describe those with whom we disagree.
Here is what I know:
- Words matter. When we refer to those with whom we disagree as the enemy, it matters. When we refuse to show respect and listen to other perspectives, it matters. Those words led the bomber to think it was appropriate to send bombs through the mail. Encouraging violence is never okay. Applauding someone who decks a reporter or who runs an official out of restaurant is not okay.
- We need to avoid jumping to conclusions. At this point there are suspects in custody for both the bombs and for the shooting in Pittsburgh. While we have ideas about what motivated them, we can’t be sure. Jumping to conclusions and casting blame makes the divisions within our country worse.
- There are people out there actively encouraging the divisions within our country. Both Facebook and Twitter have found automatic systems that have been posting propaganda created by people from Russia and China. When we share an incendiary post, we are aiding them in their efforts to damage our country.
- We need a free press. The founders recognized the importance of a free press to assure that we know what is going on in our government and are able to make informed decisions when we enter the voting booth. In this digital age, we have more news outlets than we ever thought possible. Some of these are legitimate sources that value truth. Others spin the news to support their own biases. We have a responsibility to read critically. We need to be willing to fact check stories before we share them.
- We are all in this together. This time the targets were Democrats. In June of 2017 the target was Republicans practicing baseball. The divisions and heated rhetoric put all of us in danger.
As Christians, we have an opportunity to show a better way. Here are some of the things we can do:
- We can stand above the divisions and listen to all perspectives and model respect for all people.
- I have my thoughts on what is best for the country, but the reality is that I could be wrong. Any of us could be wrong. We need to step back from our certainty to consider other perspectives.
- Ultimately, our security comes from God, not the government. We know that God will win. As hard as our current situation is, we know that we can trust God.
- There is power in prayer, and we need to be willing to pray for those with whom we disagree—not that God would stop them or make them see things our way, but that God would guide them and bless them—wherever that may mean.
- Pray for victims of violence. Pray for Democrats and Republicans. Pray for the faith and courage to stand for Christ in a hurting world, not in a partisan way but in a loving way.
Let’s show the kind of love that is stronger than fear and hate. Let show the power of Christ in a hurting world.