These are sad days in Iowa as we mourn the senseless deaths of two Des Moines metro-area police officers, Sgt. Anthony "Tony" Beminio and Officer Justin Martin, ambushed and slain early Wednesday by a gunman apparently armed with a semi-automatic rifle. This isn't supposed to happen here in the bucolic heartland.
The suspect, Scott M. Greene, now in custody, is a middle-aged white male with an apparent dislike for black people, a propensity to wave the confederate flag and a "Trump-Pence" sign in his front yard. With the possible exception of the flag, this is a description shared by many Iowans during this poisonous election season.
The key difference, of course, is that the alleged shooter apparently suffers from mental illness --- as does anyone who kills (or fantasizes about killing or advocates killing) anyone else, other than in self-defense or combat.
it is a challenge to avoid the suspicion that the inflammatory rhetoric whirling around us all and from all directions for months now was a factor in turning an angry and disturbed man into a killer.
But what to do?
I was struck by these words from my bishop, the Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, in a letter to his flock late Wednesday:
"We are reminded that Christ is our Peace by the writer of the letter to the Ephesians, and we must ask God to show us how to manifest such Peace in the here and now. How do we respond to the anger and violence that is being unleashed among us? We cannot be a nation permanently at war, and somehow believe that we leave the fighting overseas. Nor can we indulge our basest passions in the name of a presidential election, and expect to leave unleashed the darker side of angry and lost persons. It is all connected. And so is the potential for God's people in whom Christ resides as peace to be as one and to release that peace. To that end I pray.
This is a time to mourn what we are becoming; and to become earnest before God to be what God alone can make us through the Spirit's outpouring of love.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit to a few issues here. I grew up gay in a time now passing. I've never had a friend in Jesus. That wasn't allowed during my formative years and in many cases still isn't. Many of the old gate-keepers still are out there, waving sticks. And I've been sufficiently exposed to Christians and their evolving (or non-evolving) teachings over the course of a relatively long life to place no reliance in myth, magic or magic thinking --- and that includes the magic thought that somehow an all-powerful force will impose peace among us.
But I do believe in prayer, so long as it is recognized as a call for action. And the gospel according to Hal David, Burt Bacharach and Jackie DeShannon: "What the world needs now is love, sweet love; It's the only thing that there's just too little of; What the world needs now is love, sweet love; No, not just for some but for everyone."
The catch, of course, is that we have to work at this, to purge the poison from our own systems --- and collectively. It's fine and honorable, even useful, to "ask God to show us how to manifest such Peace in the here and now."
But the manifesting has to begin with each and every one of us.