Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, June 20, 2016

Calling it by the proper name. EVIL - Rector's Rambling for June 19, 2016

With our editing and publishing deadline, I write this column on Monday morning for you to read on Sunday.  I do get a quick chance to make any last minute corrections Wednesday morning when it comes back from our ‘extra set of eyes’ (Chris Sayers is good enough to look over the completed chronicle for obvious or subtle errors) and before it is sent off to the publishing company.
This lag in time means that that which is on my heart on Monday (or Wednesday for that matter) may in fact be ‘old news’.  The instant gratification, 24/7 news cacophony makes a topic HOT, but like a meteor streaking across the night sky, it frequently also burns out quickly and is forgotten for the latest, scariest thing.
Today (Monday) I sit at my desk with a heavy heart over the news of the shooting in Orlando, Florida.  Even though it happened overnight Saturday/Sunday, I hadn’t heard the news on my drive in that morning - quiet time praying on my way to church on Sunday is the preferred drive method.  A parishioner asked between services if I had heard about the shooting in Orlando and I thought they were referring to the shooting of the woman singer who had been on one of the television voice competitions, which had happened on Friday night.
It was only after I got into my car to go to the 1:30 Mass at Independence Village retirement home was I bombarded with the details of this gruesome incident via satellite and AM news radio.  The 35 minute drive was filled with latest breaking news and contradictions, and when I got to the location earlier than usual, I then perused Facebook and Twitter quickly to see what other details were unfolding there.
Before stepping out of the car and trying to regroup spiritually for the upcoming celebration of the Holy Communion, I posted to Facebook and Twitter -
Terrorism?  Hate Crime?  Actually, it is EVIL, a DEMONIC ASSAULT on human life.  Lord have mercy upon us all
     It did not take long, by the end of the 1:30 Mass, for the tenor of the radio broadcasts to have changed from one of shock and compassion to rancor, politics, and blame.  Within 12 hours people were looking to point fingers, try to assign blame (perhaps sometimes correctly, but not always), and demonize each other.  This was evident not only on the radio broadcasts, but the darkening of the tone of posts on Facebook and Twitter as well. 
             “If you don’t believe _______ then you are a part of the problem” was thrown about by all sides, with pat, political blame and suggested political solutions immediate thrown about from elected official to the common caller to the radio talk show.  By 5 PM I was burned out on it all, and with the exception of a brief time to get updates this morning (and interesting to hear the contradictions form the day before’s reporting) I have tried to absent myself from the furor and noise. 
     Two notable exceptions today was when I responded to a priest who suggested “the time for prayer is over, and _______” suggesting a political solution.   I asserted that the time for prayer is NEVER over.  And I also was queried by someone about my belief that pride is a sin - they assumed it was a bash at this past weekend’s gathering in Detroit and elsewhere, rather than a basic, true, theological statement in general.  Pride is not only still a sin, it is still the foundation of ALL the deadly sins.
   By the time you read this the incident will be a week old - ancient news for our 24/7 instant late-breaking information-saturated media.   And I am sure the facts of the entire tragedy will continue to be fleshed out and re-hashed.
   But behind all this is the reality I stated before -  it is EVIL.  It is the devil, preying on our fallen, sin sick nature to try to draw us away from love and forgiveness and ultimately from Our Lord.  And trampled in it all is the pain of real people mourning the loss of loved ones.  Sorry Fr. ________, but now more than ever it is time to pray.  Because prayer changes us, changes others, and by God’s grace makes the world better one person, one moment at a time.  Life on earth will be hard and at times awful and tragic.  But Jesus Christ has ultimately conquered sin and death, and it is He whom we seek in prayer for comfort, solace, direction, and hope.