Sunday, October 28, 2018

When the Homework Hits Home

Sometimes, I scare myself.

With our usual Old Testament professor in the Holy Land, the Academic Dean Melody Knowles was filling in as our lecturer. Her assignment was for us to write a psalm of lament for a community (thus assuring people would write on broader topics).  After much thought and prayer on where to go with this assignment, I decided to write on a topic that has driven much of my recent political action:  the wide availability of guns and the wanton killing of people in various otherwise innocuous settings.

And then, it happened again on Saturday. This time at a synagogue right before morning Shabbat services at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Just hearing the names and ages of those killed told a story to me. My wife is Jewish and routinely attends the Saturday morning service at her temple. The congregation is usually some of the stalwarts and most committed members of that Jewish community, the ones who volunteer to lead in any number of ways. Saturday is also the day when major ceremonies such as bar and bat mitzvahs take place. At Tree of Life, a baby and his family would be celebrating the bris, the time of circumcision. And so at this time of happiness, a man armed with an assault rifle and Glock pistols came into the sanctuary, shouted about killing Jews, and proceeded to do so. Eleven died at the scene...others were wounded.

And we are back to another round of a local community in mourning, the communities around that community offering love and support as they mourn, and a nation reeling from its own negligence to address gun violence.

So, with that....hear is the psalm that I wrote and posted for my class on Friday morning:

A Psalm Lamenting Gun Violence

1 O God, where are you?
        Why do you not answer?

2 Do you not see the body counts rising,
        or hear the mourners’ scream?

3 The tears of fathers and mothers
            Soak cheeks and inflame throats.

4 Does this blood cry out to you?
            Will these lives cut short touch you?

5 The opponents say not to talk of the horror.
            They reprimand us, saying “Too soon!”

6 Answer, Lord! Is it too soon?
            or is it too late?
7 Are we left to offer thoughts and prayers
to an empty void?

8 You are the God who hears our prayers
            and you know our thoughts both in our hearts and minds.

9 You wipe away the tears from the eyes;
            you do not take pleasure in violent deaths.

10 You alone hear the hoarse cries for help.

            Lord, come quickly to save us.

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