US Catholic Faith in Real Life

We shall overcome: Faith and the Tulsa shootings

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

There was plenty of somber news this weekend regarding the tragic shootings that took three lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but there was one interview that caught my attention.

In a brief radio interview on Sunday morning, Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett confirmed the arrests of two suspects in the shootings and was then asked about how the city of Tulsa was coping with the situation. He acknowledged the racial and geographical divides that pull people apart but pointed to one thing that, above all, has been a uniting factor for the city--the influence of religious communities. 

"Tulsa, as most cities in the mid part of our country, is a very religious community," he said. "We have a lot of churches, a lot of involvement by the religious community and I've become very convinced that the religious community--the entirety of the religious community--has a strong capability of overcoming a lot of whatever could be either economic divisions or racial problems, certainly gang-related issues, because they cross all lines."

Bartlett, who is a practicing Catholic, went on to say that not only is religion able to help people overcome their differences, it is a determining factor in helping people get their lives on the right path.

"[Religious communities] have the ability to bring people together into a family environment and give people a chance of trying to make a determination of whether or not their lives are going down the right path or if they might see an option of doing something that would improve their lives," he said.

We know that often religion itself can be a dividing factor that pulls people apart and pits groups against one another. But here, in the midst of tragedy, it was refreshing to hear an elected representative say that we need religion to help us overcome our differences. Unlike politicians who use their faith as a campaign talking point, Bartlett made no mention of his own beliefs. He didn't put a spotlight on any one church or even invoke the name of God or Jesus. He just pointed to faith as being the key to recovery, no matter what religious tradition it might be.

For others who are experiencing their own turmoil, Bartlett's words serve as a helpful reminder of just how valuable a resource our religious communities can be.