taking the words of Jesus seriously

What is there left to say after two children and a young man the age of my youngest child are murdered? Their killer, at a Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif., who was younger than my youngest, also died after wreaking havoc. I am almost lost for words, but

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:18, after Jeremiah 31:15)

I do not know why he killed them, although some are beginning to guess. The online white supremacist language, the discovery of which has come to be expected in the aftermath of such an atrocity, has not, to my knowledge, been verified as belonging to the killer at the time of writing. But other clues are emerging

In a chilling insight, the Los Angeles Times reported him telling someone, in the chaos of the moment, “I’m really angry.”

In the lead up of President Obama’s second election in 2012, reporters Rosalind S. Helderman and Jon Cohen, writing for the Washington Post, quoted Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who worried, “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” Hindsight has only clarified the cynical tragedy of such an attitude. 

In White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, by Carol Anderson, I found the Graham quote draws the thread from the long history of slavery in the United States through the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement and up to the last election — a thread quivering with white anger at the suggestion of the establishment of racial equality in America.

When Jeremiah spoke of Rachel weeping, it was to offer comfort: a vision of peace and restoration after the invasion of a foreign force. By the time Matthew quoted him, the picture of harm was from within. It was the people’s own king and his interests that murdered the innocents in Bethlehem. A king, who perceived a threat to his power and influence in the wail of a swaddled infant of his own house, wreaked havoc and let loose his instruments of death. No wonder Rachel refused consolation.

There is a civil war raging in the soul of America, and its violence is not constrained to the Twitter feeds of trolls. From family separation at our borders to the devastation of families by gun violence, the anger against those defined as “others” stems from a similar source. Instead of shouting insurrection on street corners, some angry men spray it across crowds, spreading harm far beyond the death toll. 

Guns are not the only way to kill people, but they were designed and refined to be thoroughly efficient at it. They should not be a normal, everyday, easy accessory in a civilized society that claims to promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It should not be normal, everyday, easy for a teenager to buy a weapon of family-sized destruction. They should not be permitted to promote the deadly agenda of white supremacy and fragile anger.

And Herod still has blood on his hands.

About The Author


Rosalind C. Hughes has lived on three continents and now makes her home near Cleveland, Ohio. She became a U.S. citizen and an Episcopal priest on opposite shoulders of a very busy weekend in January 2012. She is passionate about the gospel and its implications for peace and justice writ large and small. She is active in gun violence prevention conversations, as reflected in her latest book, "Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence."

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