For a little longer, we need to remain in our brokenness.
Mournful. And suffering.
Yes, it's difficult to sit with such pain, for these are jagged, post-traumatic days. Ever since Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez shot and killed a Navy sailor and four Marines in the heart of the city on Thursday — more Marines killed here in 2015 than in Afghanistan — we have been walking through our own 21st-century valley of the shadow of death.
So we are tempted to rush headlong toward a false sense of strength, grabbing for the easy strawmen of sensationalism, suspicion and eye-for-an-eye revenge. But beware the carnival barkers and their cries for a fear-based response.
Beware the Islamaphobic witch-hunt.
For that's just what Abduladeez would have wanted — his narrow violence met with a narrow response.
Instead, our salvation and healing must come from the transcendence that is only achieved through the great multiplier that is community, the place where two become one, the land where divisions fall away.
We must remain vulnerable to one another. And open. We must sit with our grief, and let it reach the far shore.
This is the place violence cannot touch.
This is the big heart of Chattanooga.
"Five lives were lost that day, not just four," said Robin Fazio, before anyone learned that the fifth shooting victim, a Navy petty officer, had died early Saturday. "I keep thinking of the Marines, and I also keep thinking of that kid."
Fazio is a former U.S. Marine Corps reservist, a Spanish teacher at Baylor School and a dear friend. Along with 1,000 other Chattanoogans, he and I sat together, wept and hugged together during Friday's interfaith service at Mount Olivet Baptist church.
It is one thing to mourn the Marines, and to support their families, as so many in the city have done.
It is quite another to also find the big-hearted compassion to mourn for Abdulazeez, his family and the tragedy his life became.
"What in his life was missing?" Fazio said.
There is only one answer to that question.
"For all faiths, all colors," said the Rev. Clay Thomas of Rivermont Presbyterian. "Strong in our love, and how we love each other."
Thomas was one of a long line of ministers, rabbis, priests, politicians and soldiers who spoke during Friday's service. As it was in Charleston, so it may also be in Chattanooga, as Friday's service held a redemptive and healing power most acutely found in the American black church. At one point, a thousand Chattanoogans held hands and sang "This Little Light of Mine." High above, in the sanctuary stained glass, a white dove took flight.
There were families, white and black. Lawyers, activists, teachers. Soldiers in uniform. Veterans.
Around 150 local Muslims came to the Olivet service on a day otherwise known for its celebration. For Muslims throughout the world, Friday was the global holiday known as Eid, the end of Ramadan.
Here, Muslims canceled their Eid service, which is the equivalent of Christians canceling Christmas services.
"For Chattanooga Muslims, there is no celebration," Dr. Mohsin Ali, a member of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, told the crowd. "We have come for solidarity. To mourn our fallen heroes."
Since Thursday's mass shooting, I have spoken with a nearly dozen local Muslims, most of whom are friends, all of whom were visibly shaken in their sadness. One woman sobbed. Theirs is a triple grief: they mourn as Chattanoogans, as Muslims, and now as people in fear of retaliation.
In one of the most powerful moments of the service, Ali asked Muslims to please stand out of allegiance to the city — they did, immediately. (As a Christian, I have never been asked to show my allegiance in the face of Christian violence, most recently, for example, when a white Christian on Signal Mountain allegedly plotted to blow up a Muslim community in New York.)
"We unequivocally condemn the action, and are grieving like every Chattanoogan, possibly with added grief that the perpetrator claims to be one of us," Ali said after the service.
In the wake of Thursday's shootings, it is crucial to say loudly and clearly: I stand alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters as well as our Marines. This city, their city, our city.
"The barriers that divide us crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease," said the Rev. Ann Weeks.
Within the big heart of Chattanooga, ours must be a strength not found in the false hopes of nationalism and militarism, but through the vulnerability of a love that cherishes all people, drives out violence with nonviolence, transforms enemies into neighbors, and understands why the rain falls on the just and the unjust.
Blessed are the weak cities, for they will be made strong.
In the big heart of Chattanooga, all will be well.
Contact David Cook at dcook@ timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook at DavidCookTFP.