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Combating Evil With Love

Buffalo Shooting Calls Us to Redouble Our Efforts

May 20, 2022 by

The shooting of thirteen fellow citizens in grocery store in Buffalo this past Saturday hits close to home for me as a New York pastor who for the last twenty-three years – since the Columbine High School massacre – has been working alongside the Breaking the Cycle team to reduce violence and hatred by promoting reconciliation and forgiveness in area schools. Less than a year ago, the racist shooter graduated from a high school a few hours from my home in the Hudson Valley. In times like these it can feel like, despite the worthy efforts of so many, we are losing the age-old battle against hatred and violence.

I feel deep pain for each of the grieving family members. To the extent possible, my church the Bruderhof, and I stand by those in Buffalo as well as our fellow believers suffering after a gunman opened fire on their church luncheon in Laguna Woods, California, on Sunday. In times like these I am challenged by Pastor Corey Brooks, who has been holding a rooftop vigil in Chicago to protest the urban violence that is threatening his hometown, which is regularly seen in New York City as well. As Martin Luther King Jr. writes in his letter from Birmingham Jail, “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

We are all participants in a spiritual war against evil. We must name evil for what it is and not pretend it can be swept under a rug.In the days ahead, we need to take a serious look at the mental health and spiritual crises affecting our youth and all those dying daily from despair. The professional and pastoral care we have been providing them has clearly been inadequate. We will have to have hard conversations about the direction our society is heading. We will have to look critically at a culture that continues to tolerate violence, division, and injustice as if those are ever acceptable. And we will have to get serious about combatting extremist ideologies that have been gaining traction in our society. The apostle Paul writes, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesian 6:12). Seen in this light, we are all participants in a spiritual war against evil. We must name evil for what it is and not pretend it can be swept under a rug.

More than ever, we need to keep working to teach our nation’s young people that they are precious. We must teach them reverence for the sacredness of life: how the arc of every life bends from the womb to the deathbed and beyond into eternity, no matter one’s race, creed, or nationality. Each person on this planet is created in the image of God, who loves us all dearly, as revealed by Jesus. In the same way, God wants us to love one another. Each of us needs to look at how we can better represent this wonderful truth with every word, in every interaction, and in all our relationships. My prayer for this country, which needs healing, is that by God’s abundant grace we shall overcome.

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About the author

Paul Winter

Paul Winter

Paul Winter serves as the Elder of the Bruderhof. He lives with his wife, Betty, at the Woodcrest Bruderhof.

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