I awoke today to the news of just the latest mass shooting in the United States. Seven people, including the shooter, were killed in Chesapeake, VA, falling fast on the heels of the killings in Colorado Springs and Charlottesville. It feels as though we’ve reached the point where these slaughters have become commonplace, routine, accepted, just the “cost of doing business” as Americans. As we prepare to gather around tables to offer thanks, it feels as though we need to acknowledge that we have some deep sicknesses in our land. We like to say that America is an ‘exceptional country’ – and we certainly are in many respects. But we’re also exceptionally violent. We have an exceptional degree of poverty and inequality. We have an exceptional history of racial oppression and bigotry that continue to mark and contort our society today. We can be exceptionally caustic in our civic discourse. And so in this season of gratitude, I’d like to say “no thank you” to gun violence, “no thank you” to racism and white supremacy, “no thank you” to anti-gay hate, “no thank you” to Christian nationalism, antisemitism and Islamophobia.
My hope in the midst of these national afflictions rests in the exceptional compassion found in the American people, in their exceptional generosity, in their exceptional faith in the God who holds us, and in the exceptional humanism of those who don’t adhere to any particular faith tradition. Dr. King often said it most profoundly. He offered, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Rev. Pat Jackson