Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter voiced solidarity with “our Jewish neighbors and friends in cities and towns across the country” in the aftermath of Saturday’s mass shooting inside a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“We condemn ideologies of white nationalism and white supremacy that motivate support for domestic terrorism against Jews, Muslims, African Americans, political rivals and persons of color,” Paynter said in a statement the day after 11 people died during a Sabbath service at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
The attack, believed to be the deadliest on the Jewish community in U.S. history, eclipsed other recent acts of violence including the Friday arrest of a 56-year-old Florida man accused of attempting to mail bombs to liberal politicians including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Earlier in the week, a man with a history of mental illness killed two African Americans in a Kroger store in Louisville, Kentucky, after failing to gain entry into the historically black First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown.
President Donald Trump called the mass shooting in Pittsburgh an “evil anti-Semitic attack” on Twitter. After push-back that his own rhetoric may have helped fuel right-wing extremism inciting such violence, the president tweeted back on Monday blaming “inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news.”
“The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open and obvious hostility and report the news accurately and fairly,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “That will do much to put out the flame of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!”
In a study released the day before Saturday’s shooting, the Anti-Defamation League reported a “marked rise” in anti-Semitic attacks on social media coming from far-right extremist groups including the so-called Alt-Right in the run-up to midterm elections.
“The campaign of online attacks has two real-world impacts,” stated the ADL press release. “It has led to physical threats against Jews in the public eye, and it is bringing anti-Semitism into mainstream politics.”
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 297 mass shootings in the United States so far in 2018.
“Slaughter and shoot-outs in the sanctuary can’t be the only answers to the terrible gun violence crisis plaguing our nation,” said Rob Schenck, president of The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, an organization focused on gun violence as a Christian concern.
“The time is now for religious leaders to come together with civic and political authorities to find and enact solutions,” said Schenck, an ordained evangelical minister who made a name for himself as an anti-abortion activist in the 1990s. “Mass shootings cannot become a way of life in America.”
News of the synagogue shooting reached Pastor Frank Pomeroy of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, as his family prepares for the one-year anniversary of a mass shooting inside his church that killed 26 worshipers, including his 14-year-old daughter.
“I know what media things they’re going to go through,” Pomeroy, who was out of town on the tragic Sunday of Nov. 5, 2017, told Texas Public Radio.” I know these god-forsaken truthers that are going to come and give them such a horribly hard time. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”
The pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine worshipers were gunned down in 2015, meanwhile, took exception to a suggestion by President Trump that the outcome might have been different if the synagogue had employed an armed guard.
“You make it seem like you don’t own any of the responsibility, but you want to shift blame,” Pastor Eric S.C. Manning referenced Trump in his Sunday sermon. “No, your words do matter.”