Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D.
We are a nation that kills children. We are a nation whose protectors do not protect children. We are a nation whose justice system does not render justice for children.
We failed Tamir. We failed Ayanna. We failed the children of Newtown. We failed every child shot since Newtown. We failed the multitudes of children whose names we will never know in spite of the proliferation of body cameras.
We do not have the excuse of being held in thrall by a tyrant like Herod with an army at his disposal. We have the power of our votes and our voices. What we do not have is collective will. We face a different kind of tyranny with a different kind of army.
Today the church remembers the Holy Innocents slaughtered by Herod as he sought to kill a king whose fame in infancy threatened him: When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Matt 2:16
Herod didn’t invent state-sponsored genocide. Nor did it end with him.
My people are being slaughtered in the street, in our doorways, in our homes, in our beds, in our churches, in jail cells.
We can be murdered in public, on film and then be blamed for our own murder, with none held accountable.
Rachel, the heart-mother of Israel was said to have wept for the slaughter of the Holy Innocents as her spirit did in Jeremiah’s time, (Jer 31:15; Matt 2:18). She refused to be comforted because her children were gone.
These precious children are gone. Whatever you believe about the next life does not change that their lives and gifts here among us have been snatched away in horrific violence, that they died terrified and uncomforted.
I sit with my hand over my mouth because if I take it away I might start screaming and never stop.
The Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas and is an Episcopal Priest canonically resident in the Diocese of Pennsylvania and licensed in the Diocese of Fort Worth. A former member of the Dorshei Derekh Reconstructionist Minyan of the Germantown Jewish Center in Philadelphia, she has co-taught courses with and for the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Seminary in Wyncote, PA.