Terror and Hate: A Pastor’s Response to the Austin Serial Bombings

The Austin serial bomber took his life once surrounded by police officers in Round Round, North of Austin.

Although his motive is still under investigation, it appears causing destruction and mayhem was his goal.

As a result, two African American men were killed by package bombs in East Austin within 10 days of each other. The families of Anthony Stephan House and Draylen Mason lost their loved ones due to a cowardly act of senseless violence.

Before these tragedies, the two families knew each other with family members who all attended the same church.

These men were dearly loved and remembered fondly by friends and family.

On the same day, Draylen died and his mother was injured, 75 year old Esperanza Herrera was injured by a package bomb. Apparently, the package was addressed to a different house number.

These first three bombs were all placed on the doorsteps of homes in East Austin. All three bombs injured or killed people of color.

During the investigation, the police did not call this a hate crime in order to keep their investigation broad.

During the investigation, the police did not call these crimes an act of terrorism while they gathered evidence.

I don’t know the semantics of labeling crimes, but regardless of the official designation – These bombings were fueled by hate. These bombings were an act of terror.

In the past few days, another bomb activated by a trip wire injured two young white men who were walking around their neighborhood in Southwest Austin.

Another bomb exploded in a Fed Ex facility an hour outside of Austin. Investigators discovered it had been sent from the Fed Ex on Brodie Lane where my daughter and I often go working on photo albums. These last few bombs led police to the perpetrator.

Targeting Austin?

I love Austin. It’s a beautiful, vibrant, artistic, and an increasingly diverse city.

At the same time, as one of the fastest growing cities in America, it can also be a lonely place.

As the site of South by Southwest, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, and headquarters for several international tech companies and startups, Austin is known for innovation, live music, and amazing food.

Yet, in spite of it’s progressive reputation, Austin has also had a history of segregation, gentrification, and division.

Even as only 13% of the city attends a local church, the level of cooperation between churches from different denominations and different ethnic backgrounds is quite remarkable.

Together, people of faith can be the mobilizing force for healing.

So how should we respond?

1. Turn to God.

Tragedies like this remind us how powerless we actually are as human beings. Life is fragile. Life is precious. God is bigger than our circumstances.

If you are afraid, ask God for courage. He can help us step out in faith.

If you are angry, tell God. He can handle our emotions.

If you are mourning, let yourself mourn.

At a memorial event last Friday, the community who came in support of the families of those who were victims of the attacks sang “Amazing Grace,” a beautiful reminder of God’s love for us even when love is so lacking in our world.

Our society is sick. Bombings and school shootings are symptoms of our brokenness.

  • God can bring peace to those of us who have lost someone we love.
  • God can bring healing to those who are hurting, anxious, and angry.
  • God can forgive us and heal us as we turn to Him.
  • God can bring justice in this terrible situation.

2. Know your neighbors.

You can live in Austin for years and never know your neighbor. This can be true in other big and fast-growing cities.

We need to get off the couch and walk across the street to meet our neighbors.

Invite them into your home. Hear their story. Find out their passions, their hopes, their dreams, and find out ways you can serve them.

When the time is right, ask how you can pray for them.

Rather than binging on Netflix, turn one night of the week into a time to connect with your neighbors.

Austin has a small town feel even though we are a growing metropolis.  We can build community right where we live.

3. Take care of each other.

We can start by serving those who have been directly affected by the bombings.

If you don’t know them, look for someone else needing help where you live or where you work. The search for the bomber created a lot of anxiety and revealed how disconnected we truly have become.

Rather than hiding in our homes, we need to engage with others around us. We need to be vigilant and intentional – looking out for those around us.

This broken world needs us to become the people God created us to be.

We can turn what was intended to foster hate to mobilize us to love.

We can turn what was intended to foster fear and terror to mobilize us to bring peace.

 

 

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