West Chelmsford United Methodist Church
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

As I write this we stand at the end of a truly horrific week of violence and attempted violence in our country. Except for the Redsox winning the World Series (a big exception for most of us in this region of the country), the past week was one of shock and mourning. As we watched and listened to the news we heard about bombs sent to political leaders, a shooting in Kentucky by a man who fatally targeted 2 African Americans, and a mass shooting in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA that killed 11 people and wounded others. In worship last Sunday, Oct. 28 we prayed for the victims and their families, which is the first instinct of people of faith. But as some more time has passed, I find myself reflecting more deeply on how we can respond in more concrete ways.
In the aftermath of each event last week, we heard the usual expressions of sympathy and support for the victims, the shock that this could happen in our beloved country, and the broad sense of helplessness that seems to accompany these expressions of political violence. The perpetrator is usually a troubled individual who has no history of political violence, but is moved to act, perhaps by our heightened political rhetoric and by the encouragement of like-minded individuals on social media.
It is the sense of helplessness that I want to push back against. I believe there are some reasonable responses that will make these horrible events and others like them less likely to happen, but we must find the political will to respond. I would call for better treatment for the mentally ill people in our nation. I would call for sensible restrictions on access by civilians to military-type assault weapons, like the one used in the synagogue killing. (I can’t help but think that fewer people would have been killed if the gunman had been armed with less lethal firearms – a less-bad outcome, though still a tragedy.) And I would call for a voluntary toning down of the political rhetoric that has escalated in recent years to a fever pitch. Most of us can hear incendiary political language and not act on it violently; but a few among us do not have that kind of self-control.
I have no illusions that it will be easy to find the political will to do any of the things I listed above, but I believe we must try. This time the violence is coming from the far right, but I am old enough to remember violence from the far left has happened in our country, too. Growing political violence will not end well for either side of the political spectrum, and certainly not for our country.
My prayer for our country is that we will find we are bound together by the common ground of loving our society and protecting all of us from political violence.


Reverend Mack