Clergy Confessional (33) – Leave me alone! (Help me…)

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The terrorist attack in Las Vegas last week has left us all bewildered and sad, and maybe a little bit angry. Renewed calls for getting rid of guns completely are being shouted loudly as gun rights supporters scream back, “You’ll have to pry them out of our cold, dead hands!” (Thanks Charlton Heston!) Now we are arguing about whether the shooter was a terrorist or not. From where is sit, anyone who murders or rapes or beats someone is producing terror, and is therefore a terrorist. All of this is dividing us more, yet how can we change it?

A friend posted this, and it is a clear look at a problem that just about everyone in the world of organized religion should be looking at.¬† I have been at this church stuff long enough to understand that the reason for organized religion is that we are not meant to be alone. Jesus told his followers that God was present when two or three are gathered because – I think – he didn’t want people believing they could be the church in a vacuum. You can do good works – you can pray – you can share your faith – when you are by yourself. But all of these “spiritual but not religious” people sitting in front of their televisions alone are not being the church – and, to be bold, they may not (unless they are working or home bound) be being Christians.

That may sound harsh, but part – only part – of what it means to be a person of faith is to gather with others who are also seeking a relationship with God. Being active in a faith community keeps us from thinking our opinion is always right and the only opinion. It allows other people into our lives when we are low. It keeps us accountable to each other and to God. Too often, when terrorism happens, it is a person who has gotten lost in paranoia or conspiracy thinking, and they create a scenario that gives them permission to attack and cause mayhem. There is a world-wide loneliness taking place, and as the internet advances, it will get much worse. The grand age of communication is causing us to be more fearful, feeling more alone, and less able to empathize.

So what can we do? I often wonder how it is that nobody knows when someone is planning this kind of terror attack. It isn’t that we should have our nose in everyone’s business, but we should be aware and available when people are feeling desperate. We should be connected to one another – our schools should be able to reach out to community groups to find mentors. Our religious communities should be offering themselves as a resource. Our congregation is in the beginning stages of adopting a local elementary school, and there are lots of them to go around. We should be partnering with the police so they know what is available for people in need.

Mostly, our communities of faith, filled with so many good and well-meaning people, need to speak up on the side of the afflicted and oppressed. Too many of us spend our time attacking minorities we disagree with – that is not God’s way. In fact, God sides with the minority groups – the oppressed, the poor, the afflicted, the ill. We have become part of the problem, and our support of hate and division is destroying the world. Speak up – speak out – or go away.

Author: Pastor Steve Ohnsman