Frazier Glenn Cross (known mostly as F. Glenn Miller Jr.) has a point scale for murder. One point for killing an African American. Twenty for a Jew.
I don’t think he had planned on awarding points for random Christians, though he is suspected of having killed three last Sunday.
It’s better than likely that he was after Jews. For one thing, he advocated killing them. For another, he is reported to have shown up at two Jewish institutions outside of Kansas City for a hunting trip.
Jews have been targeted so often and for so long that the hunt itself has become a national pastime (and not just in Germany under Adolf Hitler, either). When I teach courses on the history of European anti-Semitism, my students usually have some idea about the big-name persecutions (the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust). During the semester they become witnesses to the forgettable smaller stuff – expulsions from this or that European town, a local slaughter of all the Jews. They look through timelines listing the incidents of forced conversions or pogroms, about laws sanctioning the enslavement of a local Jewish population or their enslavement, about their ghettoization. It’s pretty regular stuff. Every few years, somewhere in Europe, some Jews are being hunted.
So it is probably no wonder that I mentioned the KC killings at my first night seder.
But maybe it was a wonder: After all, six of the ten people at our seder were devout Christians (one an ordained Protestant minister). I also invited two agnostics to the meal. But Jews and non-believers were outnumbered that night, and for a reason.
I wanted to prove to myself (and to the others at my table) that there are universal messages in the Passover seder — messages about human cruelty and oppression, about the evils that emerge when we control and abuse others. I wanted us to sit around my round table without leaders or followers. I wanted everyone to see the face of every other. I wanted to remind myself that there is reason to believe in humanity.
I wanted to ask: Who is humanity, exactly?
In The Train of Life, a film about a small shtetl in France that attempts to deport itself in order to escape the Nazi wholesale destruction of European Jews, the town fool, Shlomo, offers wisdom a rabbi must pay heed to.
Shlomo: God created men in his image. Sounds nice. Shlomo is the image of God. But who wrote that sentence in the Torah? Man, not God. Man. With no modesty whatsoever he compared himself to God. God may have created man but man, son of God, created God in order to invent himself.
Rabbi’s wife: Can you repeat that?
Shlomo: Man wrote the Bible so he wouldn’t be forgotten. He didn’t care about God.
Rabbi: We have enough problems.
Shlomo: Rabbi, we neither love God nor pray to him. We beg him to help us get by down here. But we don’t care about him. We care only about ourselves. The real question is not whether God exists but whether we do.
To exist, what must we humanity become? Are we, on some level, yet to exist at all?
To control, to abuse – to murder and destroy – if we class these things as inhuman, then Shlomo is correct: The question is whether we exist, not whether God does.
I gathered eight loving people around my seder table.
To prove that we do.