Updated: Jul 4, 2019
By Barbara Sloan
A Texas church, a Pittsburgh synagogue, New Zealand mosques and now Christian churches in Sri Lanka. All have been attacked by haters who believe that others do not have the right to worship as they wish--or even to live.
Just a few years ago a similar tragedy was averted at my own synagogue in Myrtle Beach, SC, by the actions of law enforcement authorities and the bumbling of the would-be white supremacist attacker.
Hundreds have died due to these haters and this hatred, most recently in Sri Lanka. They use many labels: white supremacists, anti-Muslim activists, Islamist terrorists, anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, etc. But they all have one thing in common: Only they are the rightful arbiters of society. Only they know what’s right and proper for their own country. Anyone who follows another, but lawful, path is fair game.
In Myrtle Beach, an avowed white supremacist purchased a gun and threatened to attack the Temple Emanu-El synagogue. Thankfully, he was unable to pull off the attack he first mentioned online in December of 2016. But he made it clear that the Charleston, SC Emanuel AME church shooter, Dylan Roof, was his role model.
“[I]n my heart I reckon I got a little bit of hatred,” he said in a recording with an FBI agent. (The would-be killer’s name is not being used here to avoid giving him further publicity.) Only an FBI sting that ended in a 33 month sentence stopped this now-32 year old man from murdering people as they worshipped in the long-established Myrtle Beach synagogue.
Having been sentenced for illegally purchasing a handgun as a felon, he will soon be out of prison, back in the community and perhaps further radicalized. After all, he learned his white supremacist credo during an earlier prison sentence.
While this event cost the synagogue’s congregation tens of thousands of dollars to increase security, including an armed guard at all services, perhaps the largest cost was the loss of a sense of safety in their religious home of more than 50 years. Other synagogues in the area have also taken precautions.
But, synagogues are not the only places of worship that must take precautions on South Carolina’s Grand Strand. Ushers at one well-known and long-established church in the middle of Myrtle Beach checks purses, backpacks and other items as people enter, according to a lifelong member there.
Now we have a man in the White House who stirs up hatred and a sense of entitlement to act on hatred. That must stop. We as a country must change. The world must change.
It’s time to encourage love, as simplistic as that sounds. It’s time to emphasize what we have in common with others, rather than dwelling on our differences. It’s time to recognize that embracing our differences makes us stronger as a people and a world.
Not Fake News welcomes Barbara Sloan as a new contributor. She is a retired mental health and addictions counselor, the developer and manager of several dual-diagnosis treatment programs and a freelance writer. We are delighted to offer her perspective to our readers.