How Do We Respond To Hate?

More suffering comes into the world
by people taking offense than
by people intending to give offense

–Ken Keyes

The offended ones feel the need to offend back
those who they think have offended them, creating
defensiveness on the part of presumed offenders,
which often becomes a new offensive–ad infinitum

–Richard Rohr

It is seven o’clock on Tuesday morning, and the men at bible class are gathered for the weekly class. Pastor Bob puts the day’s scripture on the board, then sits. “I suggest we not read the scripture today. Why don’t we just talk a bit?”

We agreed, and began to share our grief for the horrific loss of innocent lives in the Orlando massacre over the weekend. We found it inconceivable to imagine the hate in the mind of this particular shooter. But this kind of hate is nothing new. One of our fellow members of the class is a gay man. He is 89 years old. “I have known hate ever since I discovered my sexuality at age thirteen. It came first from my father and my mother,” he told us. For most of his life, the only place to find acceptance and peace was a gay bar. Disrupting the lives of the LGBT community is a very old story.

The question, then, was what should be done now? Was it to be gun control? Profiling suspected terrorists? Restricting travel? There was no agreement. Then Pastor Bob said, “What should we as Christians do?

He wrote two names on the board:

Joan of Arc

Mother Teresa

Joan of Arc, the activist, would have everyone arm themselves and join in the battle against injustice. Mother Teresa’s choice is to take care of the poor, and let others lead the charge for change. Which model should we choose? As activists we would need to be all in to hope to get anything done, which means letting our normal responsibilities slide. Is it right to turn inward, focusing strictly on the well being of our own families and businesses? Both models are incomplete. Then Bob shaded the area in between both names and said, “What would this space in between the two look like?”

The next day, Wednesday, at the invitation of the clergy and congregation of Community Church, an interdenominational service of prayer, sorrow and healing was held. At six thirty that evening, the pews of the sanctuary were filled with people of all faiths.

The Imam from the nearby Mosque, the Rabbi from Temple Immanuel, the Swami from Kashi Ranch, and clergy from other Christian churches joined the ministers of Community Church in reciting prayers, poetry and songs. The message from all was that love is the answer to anger, hate, and injustice.

At the end of the service those in attendance  brought lit candles to the alter, and ended with song. Perhaps the most joyous part of the evening was the time right afterwards when everyone went out into the courtyard and greeted one another. There were hugs and tears and laughter, too. That is what the space in between St. Joan and Mother Teresa looks like to me



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