We hear a great deal about ‘hate crimes’ that sometimes strike a trivial note, then something dreadful like yesterday’s mass slaughter at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, happens and we understand what hatred really means. It is not ‘mere’ prejudice or dislike translated into boorish behaviour. It is murderous — nothing less than the desire to kill, destroy, and inflict deadly harm. It is difficult even to think about such a thing, but think we must because the kind of violence displayed in Squirrel Hill is no different from that displayed by Islamist terrorists or any other individual or group that believes it has the right to exterminate others. The President of the United States of America is on record as saying that had the synagogue had armed guards, the massacre would not have occurred. To me, that sounds absurd. Surely, we should be trying to create a culture, indeed a world, where violence is unacceptable? If our default position is, we need guns to defend ourselves, we should not be surprised if those with criminal intent take us at our word and use the very same means to do us harm.
This morning we pray with and for our Jewish brethren and all who have been victims of hatred and persecution. For me, there is something peculiarly horrible about an attack on people praying in a church, mosque, synagogue or other place of worship. It is a profanation of the holy name of God, destruction of what God holds most precious — human beings. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of the living, and we honour him best by honouring those he has created in in his own image and likeness. Let us remember that, however much provoked we may be.