In a week of especially holy significance to both Jews and Christians, this is a dark time for both communities in Kansas City.
The fatal shootings of three people Sunday at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom -- and the arrest of a man with a racist, antisemitic history -- have focused our attention on violence in a way that, for some reason, all the one-by-one-by-one murders of mostly young black citizens in our city's center have failed to do (to our shame).
And now families who have been shocked by the murder of their loved ones are starting down a long road similar to the one that my own extended family walked after the 9/11 murder of my nephew, a passenger on the first plane to smash into the World Trade Center.
It is, to be sure, a hard road that any sane person would want to avoid.
But sometimes we aren't given a choice. We are, instead, set cruelly and instantly on that road through the valley of the shadow of death and now it is up to us to figure out whether we can survive the journey and even, perhaps, learn some useful lessons on the way.
I know from experience that there are things to be learned in the dark -- to be more appreciative of the light, to allow the healing balm of quiet to find you, to discover that the dark can give you time and space to reimagine what's really important about life and what isn't. And more.
In some ways, I wish I'd had Barbara Brown Taylor's new book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, as a guide after 9/11. Taylor's many fans will find considerable enlightenment, so to speak, about darkness in this volume by this wise Episcopal priest and religion professor.
What Taylor has concluded through her own study of -- and encounter with -- darkness is this: "I need darkness as much as I need light."
It seems so counter-cultural and even counter-intuitive. But she's right.
And yet, as she notes, "walking in the dark takes some practice." You will find things in the dark that aren't there. You will bang into things and hurt yourself. And you will lose your way.
But, she writes, "For good or ill, no one can do your work for you while we are in this dark place. It has your name all over it, and the only way out is through."
It is exactly the right lesson for Christians who want to rush to Easter before stopping today for Maunday Thursday and tomorrow for Good Friday. It is exactly the right message for Jews in Passover season who may want to rush out of evil old Egypt without remembering that they have 40 years of wilderness wandering in front of them.
Indeed, it is the right message for everyone, including our whole Kansas City community (especially the Corporon and LaManno families), still in shock and mourning over what evil has wrought in our midst.
(Finally, the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council is calling for a time of community prayer at 1 p.m. on Sunday in a "virtual" gathering. For details and for a suggested prayer, download a pdf file by clicking here: Download GKCIFC-prayer)
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STILL A HATE CRIME
Even though the shooter this past Sunday at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom seemed to target Jews, the three people he murdered all were Christians. So will that affect the decision to pursue this case as a hate crime? This piece suggests the answer is no.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online here.