Along with most Americans, I am still reeling from the Fort Hood shootings. That 13 brave soldiers, pledged to defend my life and liberty, were struck down by a madman on our native soil breaks my heart and turns my stomach.
That the alleged gunman was a psychiatrist pledged to help soldiers manage combat stress adds to the perversity of the carnage. That he was a Muslim who allegedly cried “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”) as his rampage began makes my blood boil.
I know I’m not supposed to feel that way. I am a preacher and a follower of Jesus. We’re supposed to be in the forgiveness and reconciliation business, as was our Master. Pray for your enemies. Turn the other cheek. It rains on the just and the unjust. You know the drill.
But right now, I’m not feeling like much of a Christian. In fact, I’m getting reacquainted with parts of my inner life I mostly keep out of view, even from myself. That includes the lust for revenge, a lingering suspicion of Muslims since 9/11, and the justified outrage at a demented individual that so easily putrefies into a simmering hatred toward a people.
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Fortunately, there are better people than I offering sane and sound counsel: “Don’t rush to judgment. Get the facts straight. And remember that the deranged alleged killer, Nidal Malik Hasan, no more represents Muslims than the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was representative of Christians.” Those observations are all true. What bothers me is how powerless they are to quell the rage simmering within.
So right now, I’m praying the Psalms. I’m discharging my anger on the heavens. I’m railing at God so I don’t unload my anger on others in destructive ways. There’s a reason most of the Psalms are laments, after all. There’s a lot to lament in the world. And the Psalms are a gracious God’s invitation to rail and weep through a long, dark night in the hope a new day will dawn (Psalm 30:5).
A little Muslim boy in my city went to bed last night ashamed and afraid. He is ashamed of what a madman did in Texas that besmirched the name of his family’s faith. He is afraid the kids at school will make even more fun of him than before. He wonders if he is still welcome in this great land called America he loves with all his heart.
I’ve never met this little boy, but as I was praying the Psalms last night, Jesus told me about him. And Jesus said this boy is my neighbor. He said I am called to love and befriend him, and others like him, who are innocent and yet so afraid. Because that’s who Christians are. And with Jesus’ help, that’s what Christians do.
Bob Setzer Jr. is pastor of First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Ga.