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Passover and Easter in Kansas City

23/04/2014: United States

In the wake of the multiple shootings in Kansas City on Palm Sunday, the following appeared on the website of the Jewish Community Center: Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, let there be joy. There are no better words to describe the message the Kansas City community has been hearing from the families of Dr. William Corporan, Reat Underwood, and Terri LeManno  the victims who were gunned down at the Jewish Community Center and at Village Shalom the day before Passover.

 For me this Holy Week has been quite surreal. However, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were my most profound Triduum experience ever. Beginning with the Wednesday prayer vigil for Terri LeManno at St. Peter’s church, Jesus’ words on the Cross rang loud and clear: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Speaking about her mother, Alyssa LeManno kept repeating their mother’s message to them that the most important thing in life is to forgive! On Thursday morning the theme at the Interfaith Service at the Jewish Community Center was Unity and Hope. Throughout the service I could not help but hear echoes of Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper: “May they be one as we are one.”“Do not let your hearts be troubled” … “If the world hates you, you must realize that it hated me before it hated you.” Then on Friday at 3:00 p.m., at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, we experienced in a most striking way the Paschal Mystery movement. The funeral service for William Corporan and Reat Underwood began with the scripture reading from Psalm 130: “Out of the depths I cry to you, lord.” Then Pastor Adam Hamilton’s words on The Redemptive Power of Unjust Suffering prepared us well for the moment when we left the church – three thousand strong - singing and clapping to the song Reat Underwood loved to sing to his mother: Good Morning!

Little did white supremacist and former KKK leader Frazier Glenn Cross (Miller) realize what his hate-filled violence would set in motion! For many of us the past several days have been a most powerful interfaith experience of being drawn together, determined to have love prevail over evil.

I found the Thursday gathering at the Jewish community service particularly poignant. It felt like the entire Jewish community was gathering the grieving Christians, with their arms around us, saying: “We are so sorry. Because you are part of our community, our friends, you are also being targeted.” Though not represented among the leaders presiding at the service, many persons of other faiths stood among us, their presence saying: “We are with you in your vulnerability and your sorrow, and we stand with you in your determination.”

The nature of that determination was demonstrated so beautifully at the Church of the Resurrection as we were arriving for the funeral service. The streets leading to the church parking lots were lined on both sides by young people from Resurrection and from Reat Underwood’s school. They were very silent, but the signs they held loudly proclaimed: Love will prevail! … Love is greater than hate! … Love wins! Prejudice, hatred and violence clearly drew the people of the American heartland together as one family determined to love with compassion, dignity and courage.

As a grieving population was celebrating three exceptional lives, America’s Midwest was also hearing expressions of overt antisemitism. It is shocking and frightening to see the bold resurgence of white supremacist and KKK activities. A case in point is the recently-elected mayor of Marionville, Missouri. Mayor Clevenger was challenged about his association with Frazier Miller and some of his past statements, for example: “The Jew-run medical industry has succeeded in destroying the United States work force…the Jew-run government-backed banking industry turned the United States into the largest debtor nation.” This past week he responded: “I am not a racist. I only pointed out that the corporations responsible for destroying the United States are run by Jews.”  Scapegoating is obviously alive and well!

We are also already hearing about the charges against Frazier Glenn Cross: capital murder … premeditated first-degree murder … hate crime. Though I cannot speak for them, I feel quite certain that the families of the victims will not be seeking the death penalty to help them come to closure. Their faith is leading them in a very different way. It will be interesting to witness how this will play itself out in the justice system of a country that cannot bring itself to repeal the death penalty. How will the interfaith family, drawn together by faith in face of hatred and violence, continue to send the message that LOVE PREVAILS?

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Audrey Doetzel, nds