Last weekend in Olympia was an interfaith vigil on gun violence. I was asked to give the closing words, here is what I shared:
We are reminded, especially after this week, that we are living in a time of fear.
We live in fear of violence that the accessibility of guns can bring,
And we live in fear that violence is seen as an appropriate expression of disagreement or dissent.
We live in fear that our leadership can not do what is necessary to keep us safe,
And we live in fear that our leaders want to do what is easy, not what is just.
We live in fear that individual rights are seen as absolute, while communal concern is seen as not a priority,
And we live in fear that individuals are rightfully held accountable for their crimes without an examination of the larger systems which support them.
We live in fear.
But we don’t have to.
Rebbe Nachman of Bratslov famously said, “The world is a very narrow bridge, the essence is not to fear.” The world is a fraught place, but we do not need to fear, because we can act.
The response to fear is to interfere.
Today is Shabbat, the sacred day of rest. In the Jewish tradition we read a section of the sacred Scripture—the Torah—each week on Shabbat in order, beginning with Genesis in the fall and continuing through the year. Today we are in the middle of Leviticus, in a portion called “Kedoshim”—holiness. The Holiness Code. It is a portion that gives us some of our most powerful ethical imperatives. Ways to be holy as God is holy. We are told, in this week’s reading, that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. And indeed we must.
But we are also told, in the verse immediately prior, that “you must not stand idly by the blood of our neighbor.”
And indeed we must not.
We will not stand idly by the blood of Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Oak Creek or Tucson.
We will not stand idly by the blood of the thousands upon thousands of victims who die each year by a bullet.
We will not stand idly by the blood of the victim of domestic violence, who suffers more because there is a gun in the house.
We will not stand idly by the blood of one of God’s children, who in a moment of despair makes the ultimate decision because there is a gun readily accessible.
We will not stand idly by the blood of one person whose death could have been avoided by more just, more compassionate, more reasonable gun laws.
We will not fear, we will interfere.
We will interfere with our elected officials, our community leaders, our fellow citizens.
We will interfere with our prayers and our protests.
We will interfere.
So let us move from a place of fear to a place of action, a place of sadness to a place of hope.
And may our steps be firm, our spirits strong and our vision clear.