Now that we've all had a few days to digest the guilty verdict in the Palm Sunday 2014 shootings at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom in suburban Kansas City, let's remind ourselves of what this whole event was about.
Specifically it was about the twisted, destructive, racist, antisemitic ideas that burrowed into the mind of F. Glenn Miller Jr. (also known as Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. -- pictured here) at an early age (thanks to his father, he says) and that eventually destroyed his ability to discern reality from putrefied fantasy.
In Miller's bizarre world, Jewish people were engaged in a worldwide conspiracy to destroy the "white race." It was his job, he decided, to begin to rectify this outrage by murdering Jews.
The fact that he killed three Christians and no Jews did nothing to wake him up to the stupefying ridiculousness of his contemptible ideas.
I wish his collection of rank anti-Jewish sentiments was such an outlier that these ideas could be seen as completely unconnected to any history. But, in fact, anti-Judaism and modern antisemitism have long, vicious, deadly histories (read my essay about that here) that were fueled by ideas -- many with deep roots in religion -- that were no more attached to reality than the ideas in Miller's sadly and willfully deceived mind.
Almost every day in the news we read or see or hear stories about disasters that have resulted from bad ideas. Police killing unarmed people, armed people killing law enforcement authorities, attacks on gay or transgender people and on and on.
Some of this, of course, may be the result of some mental illness that destroys one's ability to tell reality from fiction. But a good deal of it is simply the result of bad, destructive ideas gaining currency and eventually being accepted as worthy of belief and of action based on that belief.
Not all false ideas, of course, result in murder. Some simply affect our politics and our social fabric. For instance, a recent poll shows that 66 percent of Donald Trump's supporters believe that President Obama is a Muslim and 61 percent believe that Obama was not born in the U.S. On the flip side, 40 percent of Republicans believe Sen. Ted Cruz was born in the U.S. (He was born in Canada.) How can we govern a country in which fantasy is taken as fact by so many people? As I say, these ideas are not on a par with the bigoted notions in Miller's head, but they should serve as warning flags about the ease with which falsehood can be adopted as truth.
Spewing out racial prejudice, religious prejudice or any other kind of bigotry clearly has consequences. Faith communities are -- or should be -- in the business of standing against such terrible ideas and, more to the point, standing for constructive, life-giving ideas. But we all know that religions have been misused and that some of them have been the source of many terrible ideas.
Our job -- our collective and individual job -- is to point out ideas that are based on fiction and that lead to ruin. And to call them what they are -- lies. Then our job is to live as if truth matters.
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SPEAKING OF VIOLENCE. . .
A church in Mississippi offered an AR-15 rifle as a prize to the member who brought in the most new members -- until, that is, someone challenged the church's pastor on the idea. The prize has been changed. But what could have made anyone think such a weapon was a good thing for a church to be handing out? Would a bank give away prize ski masks?