It's time to heal our ages-old divides

The Interfaith Service of Holocaust Remembrance at Aqudath Shalom Synagogue on April 28, was a moving and encouraging experience.

It also reopened disturbing, long-term questions.

Members of the three Abrahamic religions here in Lynchburg have come together often to affirm their commitment to justice and community.

But I was surprised when, at the lunch after the service, an older Jewish woman made it a point to thank me for my courage in coming to the service. “Courage?” I thought. What courage? Then I remembered the announcement at the service that there was a police car out front watching to protect us. How could I have been so insensitive as to be surprised? One reason, of course, is that there have been no group killings of Presbyterians or Lutherans in the U.S.

We majority Christians perhaps have little visceral understanding of the raw fear that our Jewish or Muslim neighbors can experience — nor of the complexity of their situation.

Our Jewish fellow citizens have to juggle the internal battle between right-wing “Zionism” and the quiet, but firm rejection of this stance by groups like the Jewish Voice for Peace and leading Jewish scholars both here and in places like South Africa.

The U.S. Muslim community faces a similar dilemma. The world press documents the murderous destructiveness of various radical Muslim countries and movements, but leaves relatively unreported the tenacious gentleness and peacefulness of Muslims that many of us have experienced both here and abroad. Some of the Ramadan greetings of our Muslim elected officials have been powerful and moving.

Nor are we Christians without our massive inner contradictions that still need to be dealt with responsibly. Franklin Graham’s public put down of Pete Buttigieg’s Christianity and of homosexuality and Jerry Falwell Jr.’s continued celebration of Donald Trump’s brand of Christianity are signs of a deep wound crying out to be healed.

Judaism, Islam and Christianity — the three so-called Abrahamic religions — have some distance to go as they move from inner wounds and contradictions toward greater health and effectiveness.

Can we inch toward such healing here in Lynchburg?

PETER KJESETH

Lynchburg

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