71°F
weather icon Clear

Faith eclipses racial hatred

As Father Bob Stoeckig began his hopeful and heart-felt homily on keeping the faith in the face of storm and tragedy, a thought occurred to me:

At about the same time he was offering his insight into a passage from the Gospel According to Mark to the parishioners of St. Andrew Catholic Community Church in Boulder City, all over America people of myriad faiths were sitting in places of worship struggling to find the right words to comprehend the indescribable: A young man fueled by racial hatred walked into a Wednesday night Bible study group at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., pulled out a gun and shot to death nine parishioners.

Even in a society jaded by senseless gun violence and the mass murder of innocents, the racial hate crime managed to cut through the malaise. The murders, which some called an act of domestic terrorism, generated questions about just how far our country has come on the rocky and dangerous road to civil rights for all people. Once again a nation’s faith is being tested.

In the Catholic church in Boulder City, a priest illuminated the part of the Gospel that finds the apostles in a boat on troubled waters with Jesus asleep in the back when a storm blows up. They are afraid, and their faith is rattled by the tumult. Father Stoeckig reminded those gathered, “Do not let any terror take away your faith, your commitment to go on over to the other side.

“Jesus speaks directly to the storm, ‘Peace. Be still.’ Peace is never merely an absence of conflict. It is the presence of the Spirit who charges us, despite the storm, to pursue peace with everyone.”

This past week, an amazing thing happened in South Carolina and Alabama. Conservative politicians, who for generations have parlayed and exploited the fears and failures of the Confederacy by audaciously placing its battle flag in public places of honor, were at last moved to take down the symbol that is so offensive to so many Americans. The arguments of Southern “heritage” and “tradition” were swept aside in the wake of the killing of unarmed black Christians in a house of worship by an avowed racist.

Without mentioning the flag controversy, the priest offered, “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.”

The removal of the Confederate flag from view was one of many remarkable occurrences.

At an arraignment for the alleged killer, family members of some victims implored the troubled man to confess his sins and get right with God.

And where there might have been endless lamenting and tears, shouts of joy and praise were heard from the indefatigable, indestructible Mother Emanuel church.

That ought to make the racists of this country scatter like roaches from the light. The despair caused by an evil act hadn’t shattered the faith of the congregation. It had bolstered it.

Their calls of praise echoed throughout this troubled land, where violence in places of worship has become an all too common event.

“In the past seven years in the United States, there have been at least six other shooting incidents in churches or other faith-based institutions,” Stoeckig said. “One of the first messages to the people at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston last week came from the members of the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, who faced a very similar situation in 2012. Several of them began the drive down to Charleston to volunteer wherever they could help. And to have conversations with those who mourn.”

Last week at a funeral service for Mother Emanuel parishioner Ethel Lance, grandson Brandon Risher said, “She has to represent something we all know is there — love. She is a victim of hate, but she can be a symbol for love. That is what she was in life. Hate is powerful, but love is more powerful.”

These are stormy times in America. Where words ultimately fail, a message of faith slices like a ray of daylight through dark clouds.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Find him on Twitter: @jlnevadasmith

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
United Methodists edge toward breakup over LGBT policies

There’s at least one area of agreement among conservative, centrist and liberal leaders in the United Methodist Church: America’s largest mainline Protestant denomination is on a path toward likely breakup over differences on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBT pastors.

Iconic Salt Lake Temple closing for major 4-year renovation

An iconic temple central to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faith will close for four years for a major renovation to help it withstand earthquakes and be more welcoming to visitors, leaders said Friday.

Devotees nailed to crosses on Good Friday in Philippines

Several Roman Catholic devotees were nailed to wooden crosses in a gory Good Friday ritual in the Philippines, and others flogged themselves or took part in religious plays to reenact Jesus Christ’s suffering.