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A Letter in Response to the Synagogue Shootings

October 29, 2018—Our community at Princeton Theological Seminary joins the voices of lament of those around the country who mourn the murder of eleven Jews who were worshipping on Shabbat in Pittsburgh.

Such a senseless act of hatred against innocent, faithful people leaves us reeling with grief and outrage. This violent anti-Semitism has no place in our nation. It is a fitting time for all of us, especially Christians, to confront the grave danger of anti-Semitism in our country and the conditions that permit it to fester among us. Hate crimes grow from hate speech and hearts that are filled with hate. Nothing could be further from the Gospel we profess. But it is not enough simply to say that the church should stand against hatred.

Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments are to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are called to advance an ethic of love in the world. It is hard to love God or to love our neighbors apart from authentic relationships.

I used to live a block from The Tree of Life Synagogue where the murders occurred. Every morning I walked my dog past the synagogue. The people who died within its walls last Saturday were former neighbors of mine. But I never got to know them. I always just walked past the synagogue, thinking I didn’t belong there. And now I deeply regret that.

This is also the neighborhood where Mr. Rogers lived and worshipped at the nearby Presbyterian congregation. Like others, I’ve pondered how he would respond to this great travesty in his neighborhood. We know he used to tell us when we’re scared to “look for the helpers” who rush to the scene. My guess is that he would use this as an opportunity to point to those who ran into danger to protect and to heal, and to remind us that there is room for everybody in the neighborhood, regardless of their race or religion.

My hope is that across the country Christians will take this opportunity to reach out to Jewish friends and neighbors to express dismay at this outrage and to pledge our resolve to be among the helpers who work for a society where all may worship freely and without fear.

We all belong in the neighborhood. We belong to each other. Let us commit ourselves to love of God and love of neighbor, praying for the peace and justice that God desires for our world.

M. Craig Barnes
President
Princeton Theological Seminary

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Pastor at Bethel AME Church, Pennington, New Jersey

Gregory Smith, Class of 2015

“Princeton Seminary helped me think critically and understand the relationship that humanity has with religion—historically, emotionally, and spiritually.”