On Saturday a lone gunman attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing eleven worshippers and injuring six other people. There are far too many attacks on innocent victims in our country and they are endemic around the world. As Americans and as Christians, however, we have a particular responsibility when the victims are Jews. Our country, having marginalized Jews and rejected refugees from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, was among the nations that pledged “Never Again!” following the Second World War. That pledge requires vigilance in the face of nations and organizations abroad who vow the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people and their sympathizers and collaborators here at home.
As Christians we know that the persecution and marginalization of Jews have been done far too often in the name of the Church and of Christ. (There are also many examples of Christian leaders bravely defending Jews at great risk to themselves, Pius XII being a notable Second World War example. Yet given the anti-Jewish attitudes and behaviors of people claiming the name of Christ in the past, we have a particular responsibility to be quick to oppose demonization, persecution and attacks on Jews in the present.)
Most fundamentally, we Christians know the profound debt that we owe to the People of Israel. The Lord God of all Creation whom we know and worship in Jesus Christ is precisely the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Our Lord and Savior is precisely the promised Messiah of Israel. As St. Paul says, by grace we are grafted on to God’s Chosen People in fulfillment of his promise to bless the nations through Israel.
For all these reasons, on top of our Christian calling to love all our neighbors as ourselves, on top of our American calling to strive for justice and freedom for all, we have a particular responsibility to oppose anti-Jewish rhetoric, discrimination and violence whenever and wherever they occur.
May God have mercy on the dead and lead the living in the ways of justice and peace.