Quelling the flames of hatred with courage, wisdom, and love

By Jeff Hedglen

North Texas Catholic

8/21/2017


In the days following the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia, I found myself wanting to post some kind of response on social media but I was afraid whatever I said would be either too incendiary or too cliché. 

Sadly, I have felt this way a lot lately with the news out of Venezuela and North Korea, as well as the ongoing wars in the Middle East and the seemingly daily acts of terrorism in cities throughout the world.

So, what are we to do when the problem is so much bigger than we are? What, if anything, can we do to impact the hate, bigotry, violence, racism, terrorism, death, fear, and the deep poverty of love that seems to permeate the world around us? What shakes me to my core is much of this is not “over there” with “those other people.” Not only are these beliefs present in people in the USA, but I see many of these ideas espoused on my news feed from friends, people I sit next to at church, and sometime even from relatives. 

I will admit I could not come up with a quick answer to what I can do in the face of all this hate and fear, so I turned to the Bible. Immediately what came to mind was: “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Clearly, here is one thing I can do and will do! This got me thinking about what else the Scriptures might offer.

The beatitudes sprang to mind, but they offered more conviction than comfort. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). As much as I love this verse, in the wake of current events I had to ask: “Do I really hunger and thirst for righteousness or do I just think it is a great idea?”

As I continued it did not get any better: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). Not those who love peace, but those who make peace. Again, I had to ask myself, what am I actually doing to promote peace in the world, in my community, in my parish, in my family, and in my own heart? 

Lastly: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matthew 5:10). I know I am not ready to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake because I shy away from possibly incendiary posts on Facebook, let alone in face-to-face conversations.

Yet, even though my perusal of Sacred Scripture left me with more questions than answers, I still feel outrage at the racism on display throughout the country, but I struggle to know how I am called to “throw over the tables.”

A phrase came to mind during all this reflection: Think globally and act locally. Trite as it is true, it is a place to start for all of us. We will not end discrimination or prejudice with a tweet nor will we change a white supremacist’s mind by sharing that perfect article we just read. But we can strive to have everything — word, deed, and thought be motivated by love.

Imagine how your day would be different if every word you spoke was free of the fear of persecution because it is rooted in love for the people to whom you speak. Imagine the impact of your actions if making peace was your main motivation. And imagine the attitude shift you would experience if every thought you had came from the hunger and thirst you have for righteousness — for those you love as well as those with whom you disagree. 

While these ideas seem doable, I must caution that even though we speak, act, and think with love and peace, we still have to stand for the truth. When the commandment says “You shall not kill,” the Lord is asking for more than we might think, for included in this command is the demand for us to denounce murderous anger and hatred as immoral (CCC 2302).

If we do this, we may lose friends, but we are not required to keep our friends. The prophet Micah sums it up beautifully when he says “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)

As with many things in the life of faith, what we are called to is simple, but not easy. The first step is to go to God daily in prayer asking for the grace and mercy to be who He needs you to be. Then, lean on the gifts of the Holy Spirit you received in Confirmation and proceed with courage and wisdom. Lastly, lean on the virtues of faith, hope, and love, never forgetting that the greatest of these is love.

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Jeff Hedglen is the diocesan director of young adult and campus ministry. He is also the founder and primary convener of Camp Fort Worth. For more information on Young Adult Ministry, including Theology on Tap, visit fwyam.org

 

In the days following the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia, I found myself wanting to post some kind of response on social media but I was afraid whatever I said would be either too incendiary or too cliché. 

Published (until 8/21/2028)
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