After the deadliest attack on Jewish people in U.S. history, Christian leaders are expressing sorrow and urging compassion. Eleven worshipers were shot and killed Saturday morning at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue during a baby-naming ceremony. Alleged gunman Robert Bowers, who reportedly said he wanted “all Jews to die,” is being charged with 29 federal counts, including hate crimes.
“If you hate Jews, you hate Jesus.”
In response to Saturday’s Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Russell Moore is urging a “sober reflection of what this attack means for us as Christians.” Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, writes that “Christians reject anti-Semitism because we love Jesus,” who he says is Jewish not only in the past tense but also in the present tense.
“A Bible with its Jewishness wrung out of it is no Bible,” Moore writes. “And a Christ with his Jewishness obscured is no Christ at all.”
“Whatever our ethnic background, if we are in Christ, we are joined to him,” Moore adds. “That means the Jewish people are, in a very real sense, our people too. An attack on the Jewish people is an attack on all of us.”
A Nation “full of hatred”
Southern Baptist Convention president J.D. Greear also expressed grief over the killings, calling anti-Semitism “a despicable lie of the enemy which we unequivocally reject.” He adds, “In a nation seemingly full of hatred, we remain committed to demonstrating and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pursuing religious freedom for all peoples, and praying for a more civil and loving society.”
On Twitter, author Beth Moore wrote, “‘This present darkness has never in my lifetime felt more present over this land. It feels horrifically, hauntingly determined. The people of God must, if we’re to withstand it at all, become exceedingly determined in taking the shades off our lamps and wiping away the soot.”
After Sunday mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis called the Pittsburgh synagogue attack an “inhuman act of violence” that wounds “all of us.” He prayed that God would “help us to extinguish the flames of hatred that develop in our societies” and renew a respect for life.
Following the shootings, President Trump condemned “what’s going on with hate in our country,” adding that “there must be no tolerance for anti-Semitism.” The outcome at the synagogue would have been different, Trump said, if an armed guard had been present.
Leaders Urge Loving Responses to Hateful Act
The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran in America, urges people of faith to “reach out to those whose hearts are most broken—our Jewish neighbors.” Simple, specific acts “go a long way to demonstrate our love, as an extension of God’s love,” she says.
Saturday evening, more than 3,000 people attended an interfaith prayer vigil at Pittsburgh’s Sixth Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Vincent Kolb began by sharing wisdom from Fred “Mister” Rogers, formerly a member of the church, saying a “spirit of neighborliness” led to the community gathering in support of Jewish neighbors.