Our first day on the trip was incredibly interesting. To me travel is about learning. I love to learn about new and interesting places and people.
There was a lot of news this weekend about violent attacks by so-called domestic terrorists in the U.S. Both incidents were deliberate attacks on religious groups. One occurred in New York, the other in Texas.
In New York a man was accused of stabbing 5 people with a gruesome machete at a Hanukkah party at a rabbi’s home. It left the Jewish community in Monsey New York reeling, not only because of this attack, but because this was the 13th attack on Jewish people in New York in recent weeks.
In Monsey there was another attack, about a month ago, when a 30-year old Rabbi was attacked on his way to synagogue just before dawn. It seems like Jews are under attack. Why is that? The alleged attacker in the most recent incident had a journal at home that contained references to Jews, anti-Semitism, and Adolf Hitler. Internet searches on a phone recovered from his car included repeated searches for “Why did Hitler hate the Jews” as well as “German Jewish Temples nears me,” and “Prominent companies founded by Jews in America.” Clearly, he had a special interest in Jews. Yet he has no known history of anti-Semitism and according to a family member was “raised in a home which embraced all religions and races.” They also claimed he is not a member of any hate groups.
New York Mayor Cuomo was quick to denounce the crime as “an act of domestic terrorism.” President Donald Trump tweeted referring to the stabbing as an “anti-Semitic attack.” Trump also said, “We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism.” Of course, Trump ignores the fact that he has enabled haters in the past by statements such as his equating White Supremacists with people who resisted their venomous ideology. He claimed there were “good people on both sides.” Statements like that gave encouragement to the White Supremacists.
In a city called White Settlement Texas near Fort Worth a gunman identified as Keith Kinnunen who was unknown to the police, attended a church service at the West Freeway Church of Christ Parishioner Isabel Arreola said she sat near the gunman. She had never seen him before and began to feel uneasy about him when she thought she noticed he was wearing a fake beard as a disguise. Then she saw him take out a shotgun and starting firing. Abruptly within seconds members of the congregation approach the gunman and in fact one of them shot him dead with one shot. Arreola said “I was so surprised because I did not know that so many in church were armed.”
In September the laws in Texas were changed to permit weapons in places of worship unless the facility bans them. This church was reorganized once the law was changed and now Texans are praising the effectiveness of the new law. Church security became an important issue in Texas after a previous gunman walked into a church in Sutherland Springs 2 years ago and fatally shot 26 people and wounded 20 others.
This time Texan parishioners believe that the church responder saved “untold lives.” I don’t know if the new Texas law is good or not. I know I was surprised when Texans took that approach after the previous attack. But it seems to have helped in this case. I always think a bunch of vigilantes are about as dangerous as a lone wolf domestic terrorist.
What really interests me about these 2 incidents however, is trying to understand what is happening in houses of worship that is putting parishioners at such risk. I always tend to think this is an American problem because it is such a violent society. But similar incidents have occurred in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, France, German and elsewhere. Why is religion leading so much to violence? Are the perpetrators also led by religious zeal? What is going on in modern society? Does anyone know? I wish I did.