Yesterday, we received a call alerting us to the shooting at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom assisted living center complex in Overland Park, Kansas. I called a member of my small synagogue here in Pensacola, Florida, a native of St. Joseph Missouri, who I knew had a relative who lived at the Overland Park Village Shalom assisted living complex. When he returned my call he said he had spoken to his cousin who said he was secure in a lockdown of the assisted living complex. Like millions of Americans my friend’s cousin wanted more details on the innocent victims and the perpetrator of this heinous crime. All we knew at the time was that the perpetrator had been apprehended allegedly shouting “Heil Hitler”.
For some hours news media locally in Kansas City and nationally wouldn’t reveal anything about the identities of the perpetrator and his victims. Tragically, as the facts emerged, we learned that the alleged perpetrator was a known Supremacist and ex-KKK official, who in 2006 and 2010 had run on a white supremacist platform for both the US House Senate, 73 year old Frazier Glenn Miller of Aurora, Missouri.
Two of the victims were a well regarded Johnson County physician and his talented 14 year old grandson, Dr. William Lewis Corporon and Reat Griffen Underwood, a freshman at Blue Valley High School. They were at the JCC for a singing contest. Both Dr. Corporan and his grandson were members of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leewood. Dr. Corporon had moved to Kansas City from Oklahoma to be closer to his grandchildren.
The identity of the third murder victim, a Jewish woman shot in the parking lot of the assisted living center has yet to be identified. Similarly, the identity of the Jewish teenager being treated in a local hospital was shot several times and seriously wounded by Miller in the JCC parking lot Her identity has not been revealed.
Miller had allegedly stalked his victims with a question, “Are you Jewish”. His hatred was so febrile that without receiving an answer from Dr. Corporon and his grandson, Reat, he shot them simply because he presumed they were. Blind hatred knows no bounds; these Christian victims of yesterday’s mindless tragedy were simply in the way of his murderous anti-Semitic intent to kill Jews at the beginning of Holy Week. A period that celebrates the festival of Passover commemorating Freedom of Ancient Israelites from enslavement in Egypt and the resurrection of Christ on Good Friday, prelude to the Joy of Easter.
That imagery was evident in the remarks of Senior pastor at their Methodist church, Rev. Adam Hamilton, who said:
This is obviously a horrible, horrible thing that you wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through. They are really remarkable people. Being with them, what stood out was their strength of faith and confidence that this was not God’s will.
Reat’s mother, Mindy Corporon, speaking with amazing composure at an interfaith gathering at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in Overland Park said:
I am the mother of the son, who was killed. I came upon the scene very, very quickly, before the police, before the ambulances. And I knew immediately that they were in heaven. I know they are in heaven together.
We were having life, and I want you to know that we are going to have more life.
Watch this Kansas City Star YouTube video of Mindy Corporon’s remarks at the interfaith gathering in Overland Park, Kansas:
Pastor Hamilton in his remarks noted the support network in the community and the imagery of a Good Friday memorial service:
They have a great network who want to be there and care for them. They said we have the utter confidence that our son and dad are together with God now; that brings them comfort. Their hope is that something good will come from this. This evil thing this person has done will not have the final word here.
Somehow it seems fitting that on Good Friday, when Christ’s own death was taking place and yet out of that horrible evil there was going to be something good that would come from it. And that’s really part of what we’re looking at here.
The Southern Poverty Law Center noted the long dossier of the perpetrator Miller:
Miller has been involved in the white supremacist movement for most of his life. He founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and was its “grand dragon” in the 1980s. The Army veteran and retired truck driver later founded another white supremacist group, the White Patriot Party, the center said.
Miller was the subject of a nationwide manhunt in 1987 for violating the terms of his bond while appealing a North Carolina conviction for operating a paramilitary camp. The search ended after federal agents found Miller and three other men in an Ozark mobile home, which was filled with hand grenades, automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Miller tried running for U.S. House in 2006 and the U.S. Senate in 2010, espousing a white power platform each time.
President Obama offered his condolences to the victims of this hate crime by Supremacist Miller amidst FBI investigations along with local law enforcement officials in Overland Park, Kansas. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback vowed to bring the perpetrators and others involved to Justice, saying:
My heart and prayers are with all those who were affected by today’s events. We will pursue justice aggressively for these victims and criminal charges against the perpetrator or perpetrators to the full extent of the law.
Michael Siegal, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, said in an email comment that “no community should have to face a moment such as this one.”
But sadly we must remember the tragic assault eight years ago in July 2006, by a Muslim supremacist at the offices of the Jewish Federation in Seattle when the assailant penetrated security, shot six and killed one member of the staff.
Blind hate in Seattle and blind hate yesterday in Overland Park, Kansas were both spurred by supremacist hatred of both Jews and Christians.
EDITORS NOTE: The featured painting is titled “Consumed” by artist Jennifer Hansen. Hansen writes:
Before I became a Christian, I was oblivious to sin and the authority of Christ. I could care less for religious things, and hated anything that had to do with Jesus. I failed to see my need for a Savior; Let alone seeing Jesus as being the only way. My series “Wasting Away” reveals the effects, and reality of sin, which is rebellion against God. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” Romans 6:21. The work expresses human depravity, destructive desires, and suffering in desolate urban environments. It pictures the finiteness of people, and impending death. The absence of a single light source emphasizes the blindness of the individual against such conditions, and failure to discern the way out; which emphasizes the need for hope.
I work with graphite, charcoal, and oil on white gessoed canvas. My process includes many translucent layers of oil on top of dry media to show each layer and stage of the painting. This symbolizes the complexities of people and how we are each not yet completed; we are a “work in progress”. The viewer is meant to be able to “peer” through the window of the person, seeing ones vulnerability and exposing the deep recesses of the heart; which is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Jeremiah 17:9
Despite the dark tone of my work, the overall message is to magnify and communicate the hope of the Gospel: Jesus Christ died and rose again to save sinners according to the scriptures. Your sin is worthy of death before a holy and righteous God. But God being compassionate and merciful, sent His own Son, Jesus who was mocked, scourged, beaten, and crucified for our sin. He alone bore the penalty and satisfied the wrath of God, taking the punishment you deserve. Then, rising again from the dead, conquering sin and death, Christ is seated at the right hand of God ever living and reigning. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned: but he who does not believe is already condemned, because He has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation: that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” John 3:16-19.”