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Kittredge: Lamentations

There’s a short book in the Bible called Lamentations; it’s a collection of poems written after the destruction of Jerusalem in roughly 587 BC. But the Hebrew word for “lamentation,” “ekah,” doesn’t mean to weep or mourn. It doesn’t ask “Why?” but rather “How?” As in “How can this have happened?” “How do we go forward?”

Today we are a nation in lament. But this was true even before the slaughter early Sunday morning at the nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida. For a while now, there’s been a deep and vitriolic undercurrent of confusion and anger in politics, as if finally voice has somehow been given to widespread frustration and fear. In publicly condemning – damning - whole segments of our population, those who feel themselves to be “the good guys” are affirmed by loud, angry candidates – who they then feel free to emulate.

Touble is, we all believe ourselves to be “the good guys.” And we who reject the proliferation of hate speak and condemnation, lament with heavy hearts and cry out, “How can this be happening?” But a more critical question is, “How shall we go forward?”

Right now, it matters little to me why Omar Mateen entered the nightclub and unleashed his fury on the innocent gathered in what they believed was a safe haven. On balance it’s immaterial to me whether he was mentally ill or an avid ISIL devotee. It is the how of what he did that we need to address. How did he do it? He used a military assault weapon purchased totally legally despite the fact that the FBI had been watching. How could we have let this happen?

After a week of cold and wind, the sun broke through the clouds late Monday, shedding welcome sunlight on Church Street in Burlington where close to 2,000 people gathered in solidarity with the victims of the Orlando massacre, the LGBT community, Muslims and all who find themselves in a state - a nation - of lament.

And this is a good thing. Giving voice to this lament gets the heart pumping and the pulse racing, but it’s still not enough. It’s time for those of us who still have a pulse to take what practical action we can to proclaim in word and deed that never again will hate flat line our LGBT brothers and sisters and condemn by association our many faithful friends and neighbors who just happen to be Muslim.

Susan Cooke Kittredge is Associate Pastor of the Charlotte Congregational Church.
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