Hate, Justice, Forgiveness

Islamic centers in California got hate mail recently. At least one of the letters was addressed “To the Children of Satan,” and started with “You muslims [!] are a vile and filthy people….”1 Details are new, but the attitude is all too familiar.

Hating Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Catholics, or other ‘outsiders’ may be easier than coming to terms with personal issues. I don’t know why those letters were sent.

I also don’t know why a Somali refugee drove into a crowd at Ohio State University and hurt some folks with a knife this morning.2 He had been a student there, and now he’s dead. I’m not happy about that, but I think he shouldn’t have attacked those folks.

I do not think we should deport all Somalis, lock up college students, or ban knives and automobiles. I’ll talk about what I think would make sense, after explaining why I’m not upset about Americans who don’t look and act exactly like me.

About the “God Hates You” photo: those folks were getting attention on Veterans Day, 2010. They’re with Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church, a bunch of Hard Shell Baptist Calvinists from Kansas. They’re not typical American Protestants.

Nativism: Here We Go Again

(From Bishop Alma White’s “The Ku Klux Klan In Prophecy,” 1925: published by the Pillar of Fire Church, Zarephath, New Jersey.)

Folks who fear foreigners don’t, I gather, think of themselves as nativists.

They apparently think they’re patriots: defending their nation against folks like my ancestors. I think it’s a silly attitude for any American who isn’t descended from those who arrived via the Bering Straight, some 20,000 years back.

Who is seen as a foreign threat, and who isn’t, has changed over the generations.

Many if not most Americans have decided the Irish aren’t all drunkards, prone to violence and illegal voting.

That wasn’t always the case.

Asked about the family connections of an unsuitable person who was sniffing around her daughter, one of my ancestors said “he doesn’t have family, he’s Irish.”

The kids got married anyway. That eventually resulted in my father, who married a five-foot-nothing black-haired Norwegian. I married a Dutch-German-English-Swiss-whatever woman, and that’s another topic. (August 5, 2016)

Knowing my family history helps me sympathize with Muslims and other ‘un-American’ Americans.

That’s a good thing, since welcoming folks “in search of the security and the means of livelihood” they couldn’t find in the old country is what we’re supposed to do. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2241)

Treating newcomers, or ‘outsiders’ who have been around for generations, as neighbors isn’t a new idea. (Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:3334; Matthew 25:35)

I don’t expect divisions that predate Western Civilization’s current iteration to disappear overnight. But I think it’s wise to remember the Abrahamic religions’ common origin.

The current mess started with a domestic dispute described in Genesis 16:112 and Genesis 21:214. The Late Bronze Age collapse happened a few centuries later, so documentation is a trifle spotty, and that’s yet another topic.

“…the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind….”
(“Lumen Gentium,” Pope Bl. Paul VI (November 21, 1964))

I see humanity as a “unity.” (Catechism, 360361, 839845)

And, as I said yesterday — God loves us, and wants to adopt us. All of us. (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:35; Peter 2:34; Catechism, 13, 2730, 52, 1825, 1996)

Hate, Hymns, Forgiveness, and Justice

Nomader, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.
(“Picture I took from the crowd outside of the Charleston church shooting memorial service. As the church filled to capacity, people gathered outside, sung hymns, and listened to religious leaders talk.”
(Nomader, via Wikimedia Commons))

Someone, probably Dylann Roof, killed nine folks at a Bible study last summer. Mr. Roof apparently was part of a Lutheran congregation; but I don’t think we should register Lutherans, or keep more of them from entering America.

The Charleston church shootings are in the news again. I think we can learn from the example of folks who have forgiven Mr. Roof.3

That may need explaining.

Killing those folks was a bad thing, and should not have been done. Murder, deliberately killing an innocent person, is wrong. (Catechism, 22682269)

That’s because human life is sacred. Each of us is created in the image of God. The divine image is in each of us; no matter who we are, who our ancestors are, or what we’ve done. (Genesis 1:27; Catechism, 357, 361, 369370, 1700, 1730, 1929, 22732274, 22762279)

What we do with our life, and the lives of those around us, is up to us: for good or ill. (Catechism, 17011709, 2258)

All human life is sacred, but taking action which results in an attacker’s death can be legitimate defense. (Catechism, 22632267)

I’ve talked about that before. (July 9, 2016)

“So Hate Won’t Win”

(From BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(” ‘Everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So hate won’t win’, a relative of one victim told the suspect”
(BBC News))

Forgiving someone is a good idea: and not the same as pretending that an injustice never happened. That would be crazy. Respect for the “transcendent dignity” of humanity demands that we work for justice. The trick is hating the sin — not the sinner. (Catechism, 976980, 19291933, 2820)

I keep saying this. I’m expected to love God, love my neighbors, see everyone as my neighbor, and treat others as I’d like to be treated. (Matthew 5:4344, 7:12, 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 1789)

It’s simple: and far from easy. We call the folks with the heroic virtue it takes to live as if those principles matter “Saints,” and that’s yet again another topic. (Catechism, 828)

The sort of love that’s required can’t be safely abstract. I must act as if love matters. My concern for justice, for example, can’t stop with my family or folks who look like me. Our Lord’s story about the Samaritan makes that clear. (Luke 10:3037)


Feeling angry about mass murder or hate mail is a natural reaction. But we’re supposed to think.

Letting anger build into a desire to harm or kill someone else is a very bad idea. (Catechism, 17621775, 23022303)

Controlling my actions isn’t easy. I think controlling what happens inside, in my heart, is harder: but that’s also required. (Matthew 5:2122, 15:1819)

Emotions happen. What matters is how I deal with them: how I use my will and reason. Feeling emotions is part of being human. So is using my brain, thinking before I act or speak. (Catechism, 1951, 1730, 17631767)

Emotions can indicate that something requires attention. After that, my job is using reason to decide what I should or should not do. (Catechism, 1763, 1765, 1767)

Now What?

As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20, “…our citizenship is in heaven….” Meanwhile, I’m supposed to be a good citizen here in America: contributing “…to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom….” (Catechism, 2239)

If I take loving my neighbors, all my neighbors, seriously, social justice is a priority. (Catechism, 19281942)

That starts within each of us, within me, with an ongoing “inner conversion.” (Catechism, 1888)

“…The answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the twentieth century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty….”
(“To the United Nations Organization,”4 Pope St. John Paul II (October 5, 1995))

That doesn’t mean forcing everyone into one cultural mold, or insisting one ‘correct’ form of government. We’re not supposed to be all alike. (Catechism, 1901, 18971917)

Building the “civilization of love” will take time, lots of time. But I think it makes sense. (November 27, 2016)

More of my take on acting like love matters:

1 The hate mail is international news:

California mosques targeted by hate mail
BBC News (November 27, 2016)

A US civil rights group has called for more police protection after several mosques in California received letters calling Muslims ‘vile and filthy’.

“…A police investigation was under under way into what was treated like a ‘hate-motivated incident,’ San Jose Police Department spokesman Sgt Enrique Garcia was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.”

2 I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing this in the news for days, at least:

3 Death at a Bible study, in the news:

Charleston shootings: Dylann Roof ‘fit’ to stand trial
(November 25, 2016)

A white man accused of shooting dead nine black people at a church in Charleston is competent to stand trial, a federal judge in the US state of South Carolina has ruled.

“A psychiatric review of 22-year-old Dylann Roof was performed after a request from his defence team.

“He is accused of killing the nine parishioners during their Bible study class in June 2015….”

Charleston relatives ‘forgive’ shooting suspect in court
BBC News (June 19, 2015)

Relatives of some of the nine churchgoers shot dead in South Carolina have addressed the suspected gunman in court and said they forgive him.

“Dylann Roof, 21, appeared in court in Charleston to face nine murder charges.

“He showed no emotion as relatives of the victims addressed him directly. ‘I forgive you’ said one victim’s daughter, fighting back tears….”

4 The civilization of love, background:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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