Safety for Sanctuaries

Eyes on the Road, Hands on the Wheel


Driving through some Maryland backroads the other afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice many churches and synagogues. The faithful old Map Quest directed me through the lush communities instead of the speedier interstate.

Naturally the car radio was zipping up and down the dial. The iPhone would permit only voice directions, thus no incoming telephone calls or electronic mail beeps. Certainly a relief.

Moving along Route 26 and then various others, particularly Route 40, I thought incredible. Lots of spiritual citizens must be in control in these parts. I began to worry I was on the wrong road last Saturday.

I lost count but there were plenty of Protestants, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostalists, Roman Catholics, reformed Episcopalians, African Methodist Episcopal (AME), liberal, orthodox and reformed Jewish temples, Adventists, scientists, elegant and storefront independent churches with all types of welcome signs. I may have omitted some others. Let me assure I haven’t subtlety eluded mention of any other faiths. Mustn’t do that.

I was absorbing the buildings, the roadside banks, eateries and one home-style restaurant where hundreds of motorcycle devotees were nicely mobbed and happily greeting compadres. Lots of engine revving.

In reality these words struck from me times past “ah, keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel….” special girls and boys of today may remember those particular rides. No need to spell it out. I was solo on this trip.

Along about 2:30 Eastern Daylight Time, news interrupted the drive heading through Eldersburg, Maryland. Shots fired, four injured at Passover service at Chabad (of Poway, California) Synagogue.

No, not again I said loudly. The Baptist church sign on the right side of the road announced “National Day of Prayer” for Sunday. Appropriate.

With all of the different houses of worship, the question to me what is happening to the nation? The radio newsman reported officials were asking for prayer. Amen!

The usual babble would be coming from the politicians. Take away the guns. How sad again, killings in another synagogue. No need to recall other recent church tragedies. Heartbreaking.

When do we start changing the hearts of people? Freedom of speech is guaranteed teaching right from wrong and should be first and foremost. Good over evil? Then there is the discussion: “you don’t have a right to tell what’s right in your view.” We must do so these days more than ever.

Look at the mess in some modern public schools where teachers aren’t supposed to correct wrong talk, bad conduct. Let the kiddies run wild. Don’t allow dress codes.

Many “heathens” like describing church-goers as “Bible bangers.” Cute, huh? Maybe a smack in the head with a study Bible might help. No need to complain about my thought.

I completed the trip to Baltimore’s University of Maryland Medical Center. A busy place where miracles result daily.

Getting back on the roads, Map Quest was working. Making my way back, passing again through Eldersburg, network news had another blurb around 4:30. It was tragic. My heart sank. The older worshiper, Lori Gilbert Kaye, 60, the hero who had shielded Chabad of Poway Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, had died in the hospital. How sad.

The 19-year-old shooter was arrested, in custody. I’m going to point out, he is an admitted profound anti-Semite, Muslim convert. Can we note he is a cowardly copy-cat? Yes. For the faint of heart, we must use the word alleged.

Somehow the shootings in houses of worship and other places must be stopped. There is no easy solution but acceptance of “anything goes” conduct isn’t the answer either.

A decade ago at Sunday night services at Oxon Hill, Maryland, an interrupter pushed his way into the service. Ushering that night was an assistant pastor. The intruder was determined to make trouble. Loud, cussing, the air was blue. The usher, a retired D.C. police sergeant, employed an old fashioned headlock, made him kneel.

He did cry uncle and lost his switchblade. There’s more to this story. Sometimes a strong arm helps some bad souls to see the light.

This column has appeared in The Tentacle.