I was standing in line at McDonald's in Hawthorne, NV. The man in line ahead of me looked like he might have been a biker. Longish hair, droopy mustache, a muscle shirt. The shirt is why I noticed his triceps. Along the left tricep was written the word "WHITE". Along the right tricep was written the word "PRIDE". It gave me pause.
That aggressive statement of racist feeling struck me harder becasue of something a good friend is dealing with. She has just discovered that another good friend of hers is a Nazi. She had known he held a racist ideology, but she only recently discovered the depth of his hatred for ethnic minorities and even greater hatred for whites who befriend ethnic minorities.
I had also just read in the newspaper that Aryan Nations is actively organizing in Northern Idaho again. I honestly didn't know they had stopped, but apparently there was a hiatus of several years. Now they are back.
Were hate groups always so active? Am I just noticing it more now? Or is the Department of Homeland Security right that the emerging threat to our national security is more from home grown right wing terrorists than Moslem infiltrators from the Middle East? Homeland Security was picking up on a violent (not meaning intense, but literally violent in its propositions) opposition to the Obama administration, the proliferation of guns, and the economic distress and untreated PTSD afflicting too many veterans. Strangely, this Homeland Security memorandum was decried for disrepecting veterans. It seemed to me it was an alarm that we absolutely must do more for veterans.
Guns and violent opposition to the government: The day before I saw the White Pride guy in Hawthorne, a shopkeeper in Austin showed me a $O bill with President Obama's picture on it, showing him smoking and looking disreputable. He got the bill from someone who got it at a Gun Club in Reno.
It seems to me there is a tide of demonic hatred loose in our time. There is a tremendous amount of hope and light to celebrate. But the great lesson of the 1930's is that we cannot ignore the "blood-dimmed tide loosed upon the world." If we do not ignore it, what are we to do about it?
According to today's New York Times, the Enlgish have banned a number of people from their shores. Some are Muslim militants, as you would expect. But the list includes several Americans with established track records of hate-mongering: The Rev. Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper (who have brought their message to Nevada more than once and on the most bizarre pretexts); Michael Savage (San Franciso radio talk show host); Eric Gliebe (web radio broadcaster); Donald Black (of Florida, former KKK grand wizzard, whose web site they say stirs up violence); and even a militant Jewish-American, Michael Guzofsky. I don't know about any of these folks myself, except Fred Phelp who just amazes me, not with the depth of his animosity, but the breadth. His contempt for so many people is astounding.
I don't blame the English for not wanting our people spreading hate in their land. But what are we to do here? Especially, what are we as Christians to do? I don't believe it is to respond in kind. Our ire and contempt will not help. Our righteous indignation will not help. We must be more creative, more clever, and more kind than that. But I don't know how that should be carried out. I would love to hear your thoughts on how Christians should respond to hate in our time.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
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I wonder if "responding to violence" is the most helpful concept. My experience is that the violence of today is a newer, stronger, and more desparate violence. For me to respond means to acknowledge and to attempt to refute, or in some way eliminate. Perhaps, as Christians, our best shot is to carry on as Christians and "respond to need" among the lost, the lonely, the violent, etc. One exapmle that comes to mind is the need among those with PTSD. It is huge, painful, dangerous, violent, and unaddressed. As Christians and as a Church, we have the ability to respond to this need in many ways from food through spiritual care to good clinical pastoral counseling. Let us pray that if we can mobilize the Christ within ourselves, we can respond to the desparate, violence producing need in others, thereby calming it. Peace.
One of the many things that motivated me to become a priest is the recognition again and again in every situation that the only way to reach the roots of many of the world's problems is to change hearts.
People who turn to violence are invariably afraid of something. If we can only get them Jesus' message, "Fear not."
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