I was planning to write a Contact piece dedicated, in some way, to the massacre in Las Vegas Sunday night. I thought, perhaps, that I might reflect on the American obsession with guns, or I might have gone deeper into the waters of social and political commentary by reflecting on how the American people are responding to a white perpetrator and victims who were fans of that wonderful (though, admittedly, very white) music we call “Country”. I was thinking about maybe pointing out how different the response would have been if the killer was a Muslim, or if he was Black, or both. I wondered if maybe I should say something snarky about how after Las Vegas we need to have a discussion about white on white crime.
But I looked at my Twitter feed before I started to write and there I discovered the shocking news that the United States had just voted against a United Nations initiative that would have condemned the use of the death penalty for things such as blasphemy and consensual gay sex. Oh dear. I needed time to grieve the loss of life in Las Vegas, and to be angry around our nation’s inability to pass sensible gun laws. But there wasn’t time. I needed to be outraged about the United States’ inability to stand firm against the archaic notion that a person should be put to death for engaging in intimate acts certain states—for whatever reason—have deemed inappropriate.
This is the world in which we seem to be living right now: between natural disasters and governmental venalities there is no time to grieve. Every time I reach for a box of Kleenex there is another reason for tears and for righteous indignation.
As a pastor, sometimes I feel as if I should have a lot of answers, but I don’t. However, I can say what inspires me, and right now I am feeling inspired by the witness of what the people of Geneva did nearly five hundred years ago when Protestants around Europe suffered and died for their faith. Geneva welcomed people.
It was a scary time. Every day Protestants were dying for their adherence to ideas coming out of Geneva. The folks of Geneva had every reason to fear the possibility of attack from France. Yet, in the face of fear, the people of Geneva’s response was to open the gates of their city to welcome those who were sore beset.
The story of Geneva’s hospitality in a time of violence and fear inspires me to ask how I can do something similar in these days of uncertainty, natural disaster and bloodshed. In the wake of hurricanes and earthquakes, people from Texas, Florida, Mexico, and Puerto Rico might come looking for a new home, and I hope I as a person and we as a community can welcome them. I’m not sure anyone from Las Vegas will be coming to California to escape violence, but even so, the generosity of our spirits and the hospitality of our souls may be able to touch lives in ways we never dreamed were possible.
So even as we live in times of uncertainty and fear, grieving the loss of life due to natural disaster and human depravity, even as we push to have our Government do better by victims of disaster, even as we long for a day when our lawmakers will have the fortitude to enact better gun laws, let us do what we can to keep open hearts and warm souls, extending hospitality and care to all who come looking for a kind welcome.