I found some wisdom and perspective in the newsletter by the Rev. Bill Owens, the 80-year-old leader of the Coalition of African American Pastors. He marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has been an outspoken supporter of traditional Biblical values.
He wrote, “In my last newsletter, I wrote about how I was concerned about the growth of hate and division in our public rhetoric. I mentioned the Rwanda genocide and pondered whether we were being driven to a point where people would be brainwashed into violence.
I was not thinking about mass murders - like the ones in El Paso or Dayton - when I wrote that. But the facts coming in so far suggest that fanaticism and poisonous ideology spurred at least one (if not both) of these tragedies.
CAAP joins with all Christians to extend our prayers to the victims of these massacres. It is sobering and heartbreaking to see this happening to our country.
I do not offer a simple solution because I do not think it is a simple problem. These killings speak to something poisonous festering in the hearts of a few evil men. There is nothing to be gained from pointing the finger of blame at any group or policy. In the past several years, we've seen killings motivated by everything from militant atheism to racism, antisemitism, Islamic extremism, and mental health problems.
What can we do to stop this evil?
Let me humbly suggest that we restore our understanding of the sanctity of all human life and the dignity of the human person. All life is sacred, all humans are valuable in the eyes of God. Even those who hold opinions you find noxious are children of the Lord. We need to return to treating each other with that level of respect and dignity - both online and in "real life."
It's also clear that there is a mental health crisis that should be addressed. Again, this is not an easy solution. Sifting through tragedies for warning signs has become one of the media's hobbies. Reaching out to the marginalized and mentally ill is a lot more difficult.”
Well said, pastor.