Once again we find the summer coming to a close wearing the veils of grief and tragedy. This time our hearts are overwhelmed by the shocking events in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.
These terrorizing acts, which go beyond free speech and witnessing to be acts which endanger the lives of others in unlawful ways, have struck fear in the hearts of many, especially those who are so much the focus of these hate groups. For people of Jewish religion or culture, for people of color, for those with sexual orientations or gender identities out of the dominant paradigm, these are especially scary times. As someone whose last home was in Charlottesville and who lived and ministered in that town, I can say with surety that what happened there can happen anywhere. The unleashed culture of hate allowed young men to march openly as racists and bigots bearing weapons and surrounding a place of faith. As some of us already know, a random act of violence can change and end lives and we all mourn those killed and injured..
I was heartened to see the response of the faith communities of our county at last night’s vigil and we are grateful that Rev. Ranwa Hammamy conceived of and helped organize that event. Hundreds of people came out to stand in witness to the power of love and against the racist and white supremacist values that fueled the shocking loss of life and decency in Charlottesville.
And yet, we know we need to do much, much more. Some of us may be in a position to contribute to the unified medical fund for the dozens of people that were injured as counter-protesters (http://time.com/money/4899250/charlottesville-virginia-victims-help/) and to support the Southern Poverty Law Center which has long monitored and organized against hate crimes in the Southeast (https://www.splcenter.org/). We will take a collection as a congregation this Sunday.
Those of us who are Faith leaders must be rethinking how we engage in witness in these times when there is so much when basic boundaries about how we behave are no longer in practice. And all of us have to work to do and thinking about how our cultures Center and privilege those already in power.
For those of us who are still living in fear or extreme sadness, as a result of the past week’s events, please consider coming to this Thursdays Vesper service, which will be another chance for us to hold together our sadness and sorrow, this time in a place of meditation and contemplation. That service will be held at 5:30 in the sanctuary.
To see the places I know so well as the backdrop to such unspeakable acts was very difficult this weekend. Here was my response to myself which I share now with you:
Don’t make excuses for what is inexcusable.
Do engage in love as an act of resistance.
Do oppose the seeds of hate so they cannot grow.
Do believe in something larger than you and make its vision your guide.
Do call evil its name.
Do call evil its name.
In the spirit of gratitude and resistance,
(Rev. Leslie Takahashi)