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.
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.
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.
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)
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 16:1–12 and Genesis 21:2–14. 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))
(“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.
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, 369–370, 1700, 1730, 1929, 2273–2274, 2276–2279)
I’ve talked about that before. (July 9, 2016)
(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”
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, 976–980, 1929–1933, 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 5:43–44, 7:12, 22:36–40, Mark 12:28–31; Luke 6:31 10:25–27, 29–37; 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 10:30–37)
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, 1763–1767)
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)
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))
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:
- “Advent and Being Prepared”
(November 27, 2016)
- “Mercy: Still Practicing”
(November 20, 2016)
- “Hating People: Not an Option”
(November 15, 2016)
- “Satan Didn’t Make Me Do It”
(November 13, 2016)
- “Shopping Center Attack: Why I Care”
(September 20, 2016)
- “CAIR: California mosques receive letters calling for genocide”
Rolando Zenteno, CNN (November 28, 2016)
- ” ‘Hateful letters’ sent to California Muslims”
Aljazeera (November 27, 2016)
“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.”
- “Ohio State attack: Police identify suspect as student”
The Columbus Dispatch (November 28, 2016)
- “Ohio attacker Abdul Ali Artan was ‘Somali refugee’ ”
BBC News (November 28, 2016)
“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….”
- “Caritas in veritate”
Pope Benedict XVI (June 29, 2009)
- “Dialogue between cultures for a civilization of love and peace”
Pope St. John Paul II, XXXIV World Day For Peace 2001 (January 1, 2001)
- “To the United Nations Organization”
Pope St. John Paul II, Apostolic Journey to the United States of America (October 5, 1995)
(From w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/1995/october/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_05101995_address-to-uno.pdf (November 26, 2016))
- Evangelium Vitae”
Pope St. John Paul II (March 25, 1995)