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1999 NCC News Archives

NCC National Ministries Executive Reflects On Smith Killings

See related NCC News Brief (7/13/99 -- NCC "Moratorium On Racism" Set For Spring 2000)

July 13, 1999, NEW YORK – The Rev. Dr. Staccato Powell, National Council of Churches Associate General Secretary for National Ministries, offers the following reflection on the recent killing spree in Illinois and Indiana by Benjamin Nathaniel Smith:

"What causes hatred and hopelessness to so invade the human heart that indiscriminate violence and vengeance can be inflicted on innocent victims who are perfect strangers? How much hatred is necessary to erase the category of "human" to those that we meet? Is it a death wish or a death fixation?

"Once again our sensibilities have been shaken with the recent shootings in Illinois and Indiana by a solitary gunman. What is more alarming is that the thought process of Benjamin Nathaniel Smith aka August Smith was in part shaped by the teachings of an organization known as The World Church of the Creator. From all preliminary information and investigation, the adherents to this movement may not actually be involved in a church as we know it, and they certainly have a distorted view of the Creator and the Creator's mandate for creation.

"Jesus of Nazareth provides the very foundation for what men and women of good will and heavenly intention embody as a religious code of ethic. "By this shall all people know that you are my disciples, that you have love one for the other," "Love your neighbor as yourself," "Love ye one another as I have loved you." This is the Creator's credo.

"Murder, intolerance, racial polarization and bigotry, all serve to unravel the delicate fabric used to weave the beloved community. The tattoo "Sabbath Breaker" proudly sported on the chest of Benjamin Smith became a self-fulfilled prophecy as he struck outside a Jewish synagogue Friday evening (the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath), wounding several' as he shot a Korean worshipper leaving church; the drive by felling of a clergyman, and the assassination of an African American father walking peacefully with his children.

"What could so embitter a 21-year-old, suburban bred, university trained young white man? Whatever the cause, the cure and the precautions are the urgent and unavoidable priority of the day.

"The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, with its 35 Protestant and Orthodox member denominations and their 52 million congregants, cannot sit passively by and stew in quiet outrage.

"The Racial Justice and Reconciliation ministry of the Council is planning to convene an historic "Moratorium on Racism" March 30- April 1, 2000, in Chicago. It is the aim of the Council to convene in the heartland in order to speak to the heart of America.

"The healing of this nation's racial divide rests within the collective power of our will. The mainline faith community can not continue to be complicitous through the sin of silence."


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