The Legitimization of Hate

It was inevitable, really. A mass killing, larger than the last biggest mass killing. It was probably inevitable too, that a minority group of some sort would be the target. With months of hearing debates over bathroom laws, it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise that a gay bar was the target. How much of the Orlando killing spree was a terrorist attack and how much a hate crime, remains to be sorted out.

I do know the legitimization of hate has risen to new heights in this election cycle. While it was a 2nd generation American with roots in Afghanistan, naming ISIS as his reason for mass murder, it was an immigrant preacher from Venezuela, who praised the deaths. Roger Jimenez (who claims to be a Christian) made a point of telling his congregation there was no reason to mourn the people shot in Orlando. Instead, he said he wished more had died. Both have been fed a barrage of anti-gay sentiment. Their purpose was hate. Their need was to attack a group of people who are deemed less worthy, by some in our society.

Whatever the tortured state of mind of Omar Mateen, he latched unto legitimized hate as justification for his decision to carry out an attack. Fueled by ISIS attacks on anyone who is different, he justified himself. Afterwards, Jimenez, latched onto legitimized hate to launch his diatribe against all gay and lesbian people, who he believes are destined for punishment. He says, that God has already put the “death penalty” on them, so why should anyone care.

A few days back, a close relative of an old friend was attacked by a person, who mistook his tanned skin, as that of a Muslim. Feeling righteous anger, the man knocked him to the floor and began to beat him up. He felt his hatred toward Muslim people, legitimized in today’s rhetoric, gave him the right to do injury and harm to a stranger.

It’s not to say I believe in reincarnation, but sometimes I think that in God’s great wisdom, justice would be served by sending Orlando’s shooter and Pastor Jimenez back to be re-schooled in compassion, reincarnated as young gay men in Saudi Arabia or some other intolerant society.

I hope that we come to a consensus on guns, mental illness and better strategies of tracking people who pose a threat to others, soon. More than that, I pray a new attitude of compassion will flow through this country. An attitude which loves, even people who we disagree with – whose life style, may be contrary to our own view of the world. An attitude which refuses to buy into the politics of hate. Jesus had it right, when he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Jeremiah – “Oh That I Might Weep Day and Night”

Today is another of those moments when we try to make sense of violence. We wonder if Mohammad Youusef Abdulazeez’s act in Chattanooga at two military recruiting sites was motivated by a mind twisted by radical Islam. There is no logic to the shootings which are too prevalent in our nation. I don’t understand how Dylann Roof could convince himself that walking into a prayer service at a church and slaughtering people is somehow noble or just. Equally, I don’t comprehend how Andreas Lubitz. a person with personal problems could take it upon himself to fly a plane into a mountain as happened a few months back on a Germanwings plane. There are certain moments in life that can only be defined as evil. Evil rooted in the mind and heart of a person through illness or subverted truth.

The question of evil is one that we will always wrestle with. We know that we live in a fallen world . . . A world where sin and evil exist. At times, when we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that evil exists even in us. We may never understand what caused the anger, rage and violence of yesterday’s Chattanooga attacks, but we do know ourselves and our own hearts.

Still, we wonder why God allows the kind of evil which targets the innocent. Why doesn’t God stop evil in its tracks? Is God indifferent? Does God care? Where is the will of God is all of this? Jeremiah was a person who often struggled with that question. He lived in the sixth century before the birth of Christ. In 587 BCE Jerusalem was overthrown. Much of the population was taken to Babylon where they would serve as slaves. Jeremiah had spent his life trying to prevent that catastrophic event. When he fails, Jeremiah’s heart breaks for his beloved city. He cries out to God with these words, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? Oh that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!” (Jeremiah 8:22-9:1 NRSV) He cries out to God in his anguish, his pain and his sorrow. His tears of sorrow are a prayer, bewailing a world gone mad.

Evil spills into the lives of innocents, ripping hearts in two. This is never something God wants to have happen. Call it free will. Call it anything but God’s will. God’s desire has always been to save all of creation. For that reason, Jesus was sent into the world. While there are moments when evil seems to rule, God’s ultimate will, will be done. That ultimate will and purpose of God cannot be defeated. Nothing can happen which finally defeats God’s purpose and plan for each of our lives. Evil will have its moment, God will ultimately overcome, for God is greater than evil.

Today we grieve again, for lost lives and broken hearts. We pray to learn something from our losses, to grow as a nation and as a people. We pray to open our hearts to God’s wisdom and truth. We pray that troubled souls will find peace in God. A peace that turns hearts and minds from darkness to light.