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A Monthly Message

Word-from-Pastor

Dear Church Family and Friends,

I write this, first, with sincere apologies to Regina, Salem’s secretary, who is charged with the unenviable
task of trying to keep me on a schedule for the newsletter. The truth is that I was in the midst
of preparing a letter for this edition of the newsletter…and then the tragic events at Robb Elementary
School in Uvalde, Texas happened and that letter no longer seemed appropriate.

Nothing seemed appropriate.

How can anything seem appropriate, save to stop for a moment and make space for the grief? To stop for a moment, set aside the everyday bric-a-brac of life, and make room for the ache that
comes from knowing 21 people have died in a single day of unspeakable violence, in a place where
they ought to be able to concern themselves with studying, homework, recess, and—at this time of
year—celebrating the year’s accomplishments as summer vacation waits for them, just around the
corner. Instead, now and forevermore, such innocence will be overshadowed by looking for the exits
every time they enter a room, checking for the best hiding places, and that gnawing feeling
crouched in the darkest corners of their minds that they may have said goodbye to their parents for
the last time that morning, as they ran for the school bus.

It’s no secret that we live in a society that is fond of quick fixes and acrimonious debate, so the
blood in the classroom was probably not even dry, yet, before there were people calling for more
gun control, more fortress-like school security, and any number of other “fixes,” sincerely believing
that their proposal would keep such a tragedy from ever happening again—and there is no faulting
that.

But maybe it would be best to grieve, first. Maybe it would be best to take this, and events like it, as
moments to be mourned…and while we’re mourning, to take some time for self-reflection, as well,
because herein lies the problem: we are part of a sick culture. Only a culture in which people are
essentially thrown away, forgotten, discarded, overlooked…unloved…to the point where there
seems to be nothing left but to tap their primal rage by hurting those who have let them down—only
in such a culture would these kinds of things happen with the monotonous regularity they seem to
have taken on.

More laws won’t help. If nothing else, the Bible has taught us that people will sin regardless of the
laws or the penalties prescribed for them. It’s a concept God is pretty familiar with. If the only thing
stopping me from murder is that there’s a law against it, then there is something deeply wrong with
my heart and soul, and that should be the focus of our concern.

Fortunately, Jesus has the prescription for what ails us: love. Actually, it’s a two-parter: love God
with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor. For those of us who believe in the first
part, we have to find better ways to do the second. It is not a quick fix, but if we can find ways to
make everyone feel loved, to bring justice and dignity to all, to not be cynically accepting of the idea
that some people are just going to do bad things…we can make a difference. And if we want to
avoid the grim Groundhog Day of school shootings, we must make a difference.

It’s a huge undertaking, to be sure, with more levels than we can imagine. I don’t even know what it
would look like. But bringing Christ to every aspect of how we look at society is the only way we
can stop the rot at its core–and that is the only way we can start down the road of keeping such
things from happening again–and leaving society better than we found it.

And we owe that to our children, present and future.

Pastor Keith