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And thy word broke their sword, when our own strength failed us.

Hallo again to all.

It is the policy of Anglicans Online that we do not write as Americans about American matters, even though most authors of weekly writing have been Americans by birth. We intend to be a resource for the entire Anglican Communion around the world as we list the schools, parishes, hospitals, libraries, and events where we live and move and have our being.

But there was this week in an American synagogue a shooting in a city that has become a major epicenter of global Anglicanism: a person visited a synagogue in Pittsburgh, bringing with him legal firearms. And there he killed eleven persons, wounded more, and fractured the emotional safety of a neighborhood we know very well.

This is the fruit of many dimensions of wrongness in many registers.

Jewish persons in the United States have been at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement for racial reconciliation for more than fifty years.

In the United States and elsewhere, Jewish persons have contributed openly to public cultures of listening, rebuilding, and cross-cultural learning.

Jewish persons have been among the most important parts of our life—our closest friends, our collaborators in care for creation, love for our neighbors, stewardship of intellectual resources.

There are immense rifts in the world we know, many of them ripping and renting and destructive. But this need not be the case for Christians and Jews, and certainly not in societies where Christians are in a majority and Jews are in a minority. We can sing together, walk together, eat together, study together, and serve the poor and hungry together without any conflict in our most rigorous beliefs.

We have wondered in recent years, and not been comfortable asking the question: but what if German Jewish leaders in the 1930s had been in real relationship with German Christian leaders at the same time? Would the twentieth-century destructions of humanity have had a built-in check in which the local rabbi could ask an important question to the local diocesan registrar? What if the rabbi and the bishop went to lunch together every week in Heidelberg in 1925, and cared about each other as friends as deeply as they cared about the wellbeing of their own congregants and their parishioners?

What if Christian leaders and Jewish leaders today were in deep relationship and regular conversation? Would we turn to one another when our safety and freedom had been threatened, and try to care for one another? Does your bishop know the major local metropolitan rabbi where you live? Does your priest? Do you?

There is no answer tonight, because all of us speak in hypotheticals in the aftermath of murder, genocide, cultural destruction, religious distortion, gun violence, global political posturing, academic interference in direct dialogue, and cetera. There is still a parish in the Episcopal Diocese of New York where Jews are referred to as "perfidious" in public Holy Week liturgies.*

But there are things Christians can do when anti-Jewish behavior comes to the surface:

We can go to a synagogue and sit with our neighbors, and listen to their prayers. (Really, do it.)

We can go to a Chanukah celebration in a local park, and sing songs and share some ponchkes. (Your kids will like it.)

We can engage with good current scholarship about how Christianity and Jewish belief diverged in antiquity, and try to apply learning from that work to modern liturgical texts and social realities.

We can show our children pictures of persons who don't look like us, at their eye level when they are toddlers: persons of different skin colors and visible religious practice, neighbors who live in different kinds of homes, photos of folks who hold hands with and help others apart from the usual dichotomies of skin, gender, religion, national belonging.

We can read the Hebrew Scriptures on their own terms as the thought-world into which we have been grafted (most Anglicans are not ancestrally Semitic, although some are) and in which it is good for us to listen and study.

We can work as secular people to encourage the re-evaluation of laws about mental health and its occasional intersections with violence or the threat of it. Our faith can inform this, though we will always vote as citizens or subjects rather than partisans of any kind.

That's the base line of work to which reasonable people should commit themselves after a shooting in a synagogue.

Religious Jews speak to a mourner with a formulaic statement after a death: may you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. It connects the pain of an individual to the loss of a community—linking mourning across time and space in a recognition of a universal human experience. The words should be on the lips of every Christian right now as we meet the sorrow of so many, and try in our feeble ways to move from shock and anger to embrace and progress.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

Richard Mammana


All of us at Anglicans Online

28 October 2018

* This prayer has been a matter of concern among Christians ourselves since at least the 1920s. It was suppressed in that wording by Pope John XXIII in 1959; Pope John stopped the Good Friday liturgy in Rome when someone included the word "perfidious," and required the whole thing to start over again from the beginning. But there are still some of us who don't know any better.

A thin blue line
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