Pause to remember. Resolve to be part of the solution.

Thirteen years ago, shortly after midnight on October 7, Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die outside Laramie WY. His death on October 12 galvanized the gay community and straight allies. His memorial service was held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Casper WY where he had been an acolyte. Read the entire article on The Lead

The article in The Lead first quotes Noah Baron writing at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. After describing the crime and reviewing what has and has not happened so far, Mr. Baron concludes

It is not enough, then, to simply refrain from homophobia or refrain from violence. Rather, we must speak out, to stop the violence, to stanch the blood of our neighbors. Matthew Shepard was not simply a victim at the hands of his attackers; he was the victim at the hands a society that sent the message that who he was as a person was wrong. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said, “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.” We are all responsible; every additional week that we do not work for justice, every day that passes in which we do not imbue in our children an ethic of acceptance and uprightness, every moment of our silence is an act of violence against our LGBT brothers and sisters.

As the Mishna tells us, “It is not our responsibility to finish the task, but we may not refrain from starting it.” It may be that we will never eradicate homophobia – or Islamophobia, or transphobia, or anti-Semitism – in our lifetimes; the task itself often feels overwhelming. But that is no excuse, for silence is not an option.

This put me in mind of a meditation by a German pastor which I have shared (and will continue to share) widely:

First They Came
attributed to Martin Niemoeller (1892-1984)

First they came for the Communists,
– but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists,
– but I was neither, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Jews,
– but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.

And when they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out for me.

This poem is ascribed to the German pastor Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984), who protested Hitler’s anti-semite measures in person to the fuehrer, was eventually arrested, and then imprisoned for eight years at Sachsenhausen and Dachau (1937–1945). The poem describes the passivity of German intellectuals as the Nazi’s purged group after group of targeted people. The poem comes in many slightly different versions, and its exact origin is the subject of debate. Accessed 28 Aug 2011 on the Journey with Jesus Webzine

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