Pray Out Loud

Pray Out Loud

A reflection from Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo on the shootings at Fort Hood

From Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ “Witness for Justice” Newsletter

Praying out loud was not what we did as family.  We prayed quietly, assured that God would hear us because our noise was not needed to activate God’s listening.  However, as time has gone on, I’ve learned that prayer is not just for God’s hearing; it is for our ears as well.

So I write to appeal for prayers—prayers in whatever way you do that.  We must pray from the Quran, the Torah, the Bible, or use our own spiritual practice that includes none of these, but we must pray out loud so others can hear.  We pray for our brothers and sisters in Fort Hood, Texas.  We pray for those who lost their lives and their loved ones and those who are recovering from injuries.  In addition, I ask for prayers for Muslim brothers and sisters across the country, because their world was turned upside down as well.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan is a military psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people and wounding 42 others; it is a tragedy beyond imagination.  We do not know what was going on in his mind —what kind of trauma lingers deep in his own psyche.  Military reports say that Major Hasan had received deployment orders, but we’re not sure whether he was to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.  Since 2001, Hasan had been telling his family that he wanted to get out of the military because he could not bear to fight and kill others of his faith, but he was unsuccessful in achieving that goal.  We do know that his family had been taunted and harassed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, simply because of their Muslim faith.

We do know that Fort Hood is the largest military deployment center for personnel heading into war zones.  We do know that they are highly trained in the use of weapons to engage in warfare.  We do know that a person must de-humanize the “enemy” is in order to carry out the task.  We do teach our military personnel to kill people.  Then we wonder why we are seeing the enormous impact on their emotional health.  We must pray out loud to demand that our military systems provide emotional support for those returning; our nation should provide emotional support at the same level that we provide training for warfare.

Now throughout the country, because Major Hasan is Muslim, the entire Muslim community once again lives in fear of the backlash.  I sadly submit that if he were Christian and/or White – the entire White Christian population would not be held responsible.  The kind of blaming we see today did not happen following the tragic Oklahoma City bombing carried out by Timothy McVeigh, a veteran himself obsessed by neo-Nazi beliefs.  In our “out loud prayers,” we need to ask why it is acceptable to taunt Muslim brothers and sisters simply because of their faith.  Major Hasan’s actions are not acceptable to anyone and certainly not to those of his faith tradition.  On Veteran’s Day, we honor those who have served in the military throughout our history.  As we do that, let us pray out loud in our own way.  Let us pray for all who have courageously served, no matter what their faith tradition.

The United Church of Christ has more than 5,700 churches throughout the United States.  Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation.  UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.