1. Both men who have been accused of the murders have long histories of involvement with ultra-right-wing political-religious groups like the Christian Identity movement.
2. Both might, therefore, have been labeled "Christian terrorists" as various other murderers have been labeled "Muslim terrorists." So far as I know, this has not happened. I might add, "Thank God" for this restraint IF this meant we were abandoning that kind of labeling for every such incident. But on the other hand, there is a seed of truth in the labels -- if we applied them to the majority religion as well to the others. There is, after all, a thread of blood woven in the fabrics of all religious traditions.
3. Not only did the alleged perpetrators base some claim to legitimacy in their religious beliefs, but both attacks were aimed at sacred places: the Lutheran church in Wichita, one formally designated "sacred" by our customs; the other, the Holocaust Museum, treated essentially as a place of pilgrimage and awe even more than as a place of education.
4. So in a deeper sense than the labels, we see that the mysterium tremendum that is at the heart of religious experience is somehow engaged in these murders.
We call it "playing God" when people kill other people. (Does anyone call it "playing Satan"?) Even though all our religious traditions (even Buddhism: see under "Sri Lanka") have streaks and strands of blood woven in their fabrics, even though we often pretend "our own" is exempt, most of us experience a special twinge of horror when religion is invoked as the justification for murder and when a "sacred" place is the scene for murder.
How can both these impulses - the impulse to celebrate our own "God" through murder and our impulse to be horrified by violence in God's Name or in God's Place -- co-exist within us?
They can co-exist because each tradition passionately teaches community in celebration of the One. Then proponents of each tradition meet other folks who claim also to be honoring The One but have a totally different set of words, symbols, metaphors, practices. THEY must not only be wrong about their connection with the One; they must be lying about it. Demonic falsehood!
It is clear that we need to strengthen that twinge of horror at "religious" violence" into a torrent. Every one of our traditions needs first to unpeel the truth of its own bloody streaks --- in bloody texts and bloody actions --- and do penance for them.
Not only apologize, but publicly mourn the deaths it has caused as well as the deaths it has suffered.
Lutherans horrified by the murder of a Lutheran in a Wichita church on Pentecost Sunday need to grieve the deaths of Jews who were demonized by Luther and murdered by Lutherans. Jews outraged by a murderous attack on the Holocaust Museum and by murderous attacks on civilians in Sderot need to mourn the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians killed by Jewish bombs.
And after looking ourselves in the mirror, each of our traditions, our communities, needs to make much clearer its prohibition on violence not only within the circle of its family but toward us all, each other. No more chaplains hired by the military, but independent clergy challenging each soldier to stop killing. Congregations that observe Memorial Day and Armistice/Veterans Day by mourning not only the dead but the system that killed them -- not by whipping up the glamorous sentiments intended to shovel still more bodies into a future furnace. And we need to go beyond teaching against the use of violence to teaching for -- for the truth-value in the Other communities. Teaching that we need each other as fully and profoundly as the heart needs the liver, the brain needs the lung.
There are ways to teach and practice this wisdom not only in the head but the heart, the belly, the legs dancing. Two Freedom Seders forty years apart show how to do it in joy, as well as in learning. Forty years ago, for the first anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King, we created a Freedom Seder that wove together the ancient story of Israelite liberation from Pharaoh with the modern story of Black America’s struggle for liberation from Pharaoh. It became a model for Passover Seders that celebrated freedom for all people. And to celebrate forty years of growth and learning, this year we created a Freedom Seder for the Earth, drawing on the texts, teachers, foods, prayers, and songs of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and other traditions for protection of the earth from modern Pharaohs that are bringing modern plagues upon the earth and humankind.
In these Seders, our different tribes make up the rich and beautiful mosaic of our unique songs, dances, words, foods.
These Seders and others actually give four dimensions to these words of prayer: May the One Who makes harmony in the ultimate reaches of the universe teach us to make harmony within ourselves, among ourselves, for our own tribe and for all the unique and glorious tribes that You have shaped upon our planet.
Shalom, salaam, peace — Arthur
* Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, The Shalom Center http://www.shalomctr.org; co-author, The Tent of Abraham; author of Godwrestling — Round 2, Down-to-Earth Judaism, and a dozen other books on Jewish thought and practice, as well as books on US public policy. The Shalom Center voices a new prophetic agenda in Jewish, multireligious, and American life. To receive the weekly on-line Shalom Report, click on --
http://www.shalomctr.org/subscribe DVDs of the 1969 and 2009 Freedom Seders are available