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Apr  2014 21
Violence and Neighborly Love

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City is located less than five miles from my childhood home in Overland Park, Kan. Coincidentally, I happened to be passing through town on Sunday, April 13, when tragedy struck. I was at my old neighborhood BBQ joint enjoying lunch with friends. We were oblivious. And we felt safe.

My guess is that Dr. William Corporon and his Eagle Scout grandson Reat Underwood felt safe, as well, in the parking lot of a familiar community center where auditions were being held for a singing competition. There was no reason to believe that hate might arrive in a sudden explosion of gunfire. And, yet, it did.

Likewise, I imagine occupational therapist Terri LaManno entered Village Shalom for a weekly visit with her mother without a single thought of approaching danger. Yet, somehow the gunman's bullet found her.

News of the shootings spread quickly through social media and regular news outlets. This violent outburst, like so many others before and since, evoked a sense of deep sadness and compassion for the families affected. This hate crime also called forth a renewed awareness of the persistent vulnerability experienced by my Jewish friends, neighbors, and family members in places that to me seem safe and secure—in places that should be safe and secure. 

No sooner had I come to terms with the fact that these senseless acts of violence had occurred in my neighborhood when I discovered another set of connections. The slain grandfather was a 1967 graduate of Phillips University. One of Dr. Bill's cousins, Kirby Gould, is a Vice President for the Christian Church Foundation (Disciples of Christ) and a good friend to the seminary.

Kirby posted the following Facebook status regarding Mindy Losen, daughter of Dr. Bill and mother of Reat, whose graceful handling of the situation has impressed many observers:

I continue to hear the media ask Mindy: How do you have the strength to be so visible during this tragedy? The Corporon clan--a very large clan at that--has birthed heirs that are prominent in the fields of print journalism, radio, television, advertising. We are ministers, missionaries, teachers, doctors, nurses, attorneys, actors. Perhaps the common thread that runs through us is to seek the truth and to tell it accurately. Although we come from different viewpoints and persuasions, we communicate what we think, we feel, and we know. Mindy's faith in God, love for her family, and hope for the community is what she wants the world to hear. (4/15/14, shared with permission)

In my opinion, the Corporon family offers a beautiful testimony. They inspire me to ask the question, what does a loving response to senseless tragedy look like? How does love triumph over hate, faith over fear, life over death?

Participants in Thursday's interfaith Service of Memory and Hope at the Jewish Community Center wore buttons proclaiming in Hebrew, V'ahavta. "Love your neighbor as yourself."  That sums up in words the response that is required. However, living these words can be challenging.

As I see it, three not terribly profound steps constitute a neighbor-loving response to a tragedy such as this one:

  1. Surround the victims and their loved ones with a community of support and shared lament, as well as prayers for healing and comfort;
  2. Call for justice without vengeance regarding the perpetrator, who is also a neighbor, however misguided or downright evil; and
  3. Actively address the broader issues of hatred and violence, including our unintentional complicity in it, so that we can prevent or at least minimize the impact of further tragedies.

The outpouring of love shown by people of all faiths—and no faith—to the Corporon and LaManno families this past week has been astounding and is a sign of the prevailing good will in what I'm proud to call my hometown.

The well-oiled wheels of justice will turn toward Frazier Glenn Cross (a.k.a. Miller).

That leaves step #3 for all of us to do. And it will take all of us, working together, to foster the kind of world (locally, nationally, globally) where we truly love our neighbors as ourselves. And by 'neighbors', I mean all human beings. I happen to believe that this is the work God has been about for a very long time. We have the privilege of sharing in the Creator's ongoing work of re-creation.

When will the task be complete? We'll know we are done when all neighbors in all neighborhoods can feel safe because they are safe. We'll know we are done when hate surrenders to love, when fear subsides in faith and trust, and when even death cannot overshadow the joy of living.

Browse more posts by: Susanna Weslie Southard, Phillips Faculty
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