Hate Begets Hate and the Cycle Never Ends

“They shot the children in each chair. I couldn’t watch it. When I grow up, I will destroy their world, I will destroy their children — I won’t let them be.” An unidentified child survivor of the massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan. (Italics mine.)

It chilled me to the bone when I read these words in this article in the Huffington Post. I can wrap my head around a father talking this way, as much as I recoil at the thought of such an act; but when I realize that these words are coming out of the mouth of a child the impact of the horror is so much greater. It staggers my mind and tears at my heart.

This is where hate is born; and it is why blood feuds, jihad, and crusades continue generation after generation. No one would deny the need for the men who did this to be punished, least of all me. These men must be found and brought to justice; swiftly and publicly. But these words are not about justice, they are about revenge.

I will destroy their children“—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The lure of revenge is strong, seductive even, and not without a certain level of justification. It seems only natural that the way to end the pain is to visit it upon the ones who caused it. I dare say that if I was in their shoes I would feel the same way myself. But it seldom works that way.

It has been said that every human weakness is a human virtue gone out of control. It starts as seeking justice for the victims, a good, proper and righteous act. But it seldom stops there. The quest for justice is wrapped in righteous indignation and morphs into vengeance. Vengeance unrequited quickly devolves into revenge, which is fuelled only by hate. This is because revenge cares not who pays the price as long as somebody does, and even then it is rarely enough. The hate continues long after the perpetrators are dead. The cycle continues.

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6:27-28 English Standard Version (ESV)

This is hard—really hard. In fact, some would say it’s next to impossible; especially in this context. But there’s simply no other way to break out of the cycle of hate. For generation upon generation human beings have sought revenge to no good result. In these words Jesus shows us the way out. Now understand, he is by no means saying the guilty go unpunished. That is never the intention if this passage. But it must never go beyond seeking justice. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord and for good reason, we aren’t equipped to resist the lure of revenge. But to the one who burns with indignation Jesus words answer the question, “But what am I supposed to do?”

We must never return evil for evil, hate for hate, cursing for curses. It has never worked in all of human history and it never will. The solution is clear; battle evil with good, counter hate with love, return blessings for curses.

It is not easy, never has been. Not for me, or for you; nor will it be for the child who speaks of killing other children. My prayer for him/her and for all of us is that one day, when the physical wounds are healed, they and we will find the strength to turn aside from the way of hate and walk a better path.


Seen and Not Heard #3

Seen and not heard
Seen and not heard
Sometimes God’s children should be seen and not heard.
Too much Talk
Not enough walk
Sometimes God’s children should be seen and not heard.

(Petra, 1990)

It truly makes me wonder when people make knee-jerk statements about current events that are more about their own personal agendas than they are about solving the actual problem; especially when they do it in the name of God.

I am a Christian, a fairly devote one at the risk of sounding arrogant, but I really wish those who claim to speak for God would think a little before they spout off to the media or on the Internet. Would I like to see prayer allowed in the schools? Yes. Do I think it should be part of the daily curriculum? Not really; no one should be forced to endure the rubrics of any faith not their own, however prevalent said faith may be among the general populous. Freedom of religion should mean if a child or teacher or group within a school wants to pray they should be allowed to in a manner or at a time that is not disruptive. Mandating it for everyone is beyond reasonable.

That said, however I might lament the removal of the freedom to pray from schools across the continent I most certainly do not think that removing prayer from the schools is why 61 different school shootings have taken place in North America over the last 30 years. It is just too superficial a response.

The secular drum beaters are no better.

Does America need better gun control? Certainly it does, but allowing people to own a handgun is not the issue.  Many Canadians own handguns, but they do not kill 10,000+ people a year. Many more Canadians own rifles, but again they don’t go around killing people as a form of anger management. But the alleged gunman Adam Lanza didn’t use handguns; he used fully automatic, military grade rifles that fire 100+ rounds a minute. I have no issue with properly vetted civilians with clean criminal records having a rifle or a handgun, but I can’t make a case for any civilian having that kind of military grade fire power.

But even America’s lax gun laws aren’t the most important issue. Even if he had no guns whatsoever, in all likelihood Adam Lanza would have killed his mother and others by some means; just not nearly as many. And that’s the issue – Why did Adam Lanza feel he needed to kill?

The real question that needs an answer is not why can’t we pray in schools, or why do we need guns. The real question that must be addressed is why do so many young people come to the conclusion that the only way out of the life situation they find themselves in is to kill themselves and others?

The din of the noise being made by the religious right and the various pro and anti gun lobbies is so great the cry of the primary victim is rarely heard. And when someone does bring it up the cacophony of the lobbyists just gets louder and more vicious. It’s hard to think of the 28 children and teachers as corollary damage in these situations, but in some respects that’s what they are. And saying that doesn’t mean the loss of life is meaningless; it isn’t.

But before the shooting starts there is another victim. The primary victim is the shooter. This person was so messed up by something, somewhere, somehow, that they felt killing was the only solution. But no, it’s far easier to dismiss the killer as a crazy and focus simply on reducing the body count.

But the body count is only a symptom; the disease that lies at the heart of the issue infects the one holding the gun. They are the ones who need healing.

What kind of society is it that so disenfranchises their youth, that suicide is seen by far too many as the only way out? What kind of society creates such despair in a young person’s heart and mind that killing children and teachers is seen as the only solution? Until the gun lobbyist and the prayer lobbyists shut up for a minute and let the real issue come to the forefront, nothing will ever get solved.

I’m not saying prayer in the schools and stiffer guns laws will do no good. Changing policy regarding spiritual and moral instruction in our schools and changing the gun culture will have definite benefits. But simply decreasing the body count is not enough. The heart of the issue, the real solution lies in finding and helping the Adam Lanzas of this world before the despair they feel drives them to such extremes.

Then America and indeed the entire world will truly start to see a difference.


It’s Not About the War

In Flanders Fields memorial at John McCrae birthplace, Guelph Ontario

Memorial, with the complete poem “In Flander’s Fields” at the John McCrae House in Guelph, Ontario Canada. (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

It comes as no surprise to me that many Christians, and especially pastors, struggle with Remembrance Day, or Veterans Day as it is called in the United States, Armistice Day in other parts of the world. The struggle is born out of the fact that war is generally considered to be a bad thing, and not all wars are created equal. Some it is easy to see the necessity of the conflict and so can be regarded with some degree of honour; others, unfortunately, are much harder to justify and are the source of the philosophical struggle. How does one honour the fallen in an unjust war without giving credence to the conflict we opposed so strongly?

The most common response to this is, “We are not honouring the war; we are honouring the soldiers.” But for many this is a difficult concept to buy into because in their minds if the soldiers refused to fight there wouldn’t have been a war. As is often the case this idealistic approach can rarely play out in the real world.

In the real world diplomacy often fails. In the real world governments feel pressure to ‘send a message’ and ‘issue a measured response.’ In the real world some countries are governed by genocidal regimes that simply must be stopped. The average soldier in combat boots and fatigues with a rifle and a fifty pound pack isn’t in a position to make a judgment call on the bigger picture. They can object to specific acts, such as burning a village full of women and children, but the beyond that; well, they rarely get to see beyond the next hill.

So, keeping this in mind I would like to suggest a slightly different wording for the statement above.

We are not honouring the war; we are honouring the sacrifice!

Being a soldier is by and large an act of faith. In good faith soldiers lay their lives on the line believing that their leaders would not ask them to engage in an unjust war. In good faith they answer the call of duty believing that the best interests of their nation are at stake. In good faith they sacrifice some measure of their own freedom and all too often their own lives in the belief that doing so will bring some measure of freedom to others and allow them to live better lives.

It is that faith which puts them in a position to go to war. It is that faith which leads them to make the ultimate sacrifice. It is that sacrifice of faith that we pay tribute to on Remembrance Day.

Another aspect of the real world, regretfully, is that faith is often betrayed. However; and this is the most important thing I wish to convey to you, the betrayal of that faith by the government of the day does not in any way diminish the value of the sacrifice made by the men and women in uniform.

You see Remembrance Day is not about government policy; it’s not about international politics; it’s not even about whether war is just or unjust, right or wrong, of necessity or of opportunism. Remembrance Day is about the men and women in the tanks, trucks and trenches, the fighter planes and bombers, and the ships at sea and under the sea who, in good faith, answered the call of duty and ultimately sacrificed their lives by doing so.

And that is all it is about.

That sacrifice, made in good faith, must never be taken lightly. It must never be dismissed because we disagree with the politics of the day. It must never be demonized because of our own pacifist beliefs. If that faith was betrayed, if that faith was misplaced, it in no way diminishes the value of the sacrifice; and the fact that sacrifice was made must never be forgotten.

This is why I think it highly appropriate that the U.S. elections are held in the shadow of Remembrance Day. I wish that federal elections in Canada were held at this time as well. Holding elections so close to Remembrance Day reminds us that in a democracy the leaders who send the men and women of our armed forces into battle are selected by the people, by you and me, when we cast our votes. If our leaders have engaged in an unjust war it is because we gave them the power to do so. Few leaders in the Western world can declare war on their own; they require the support of their governments. Those governments were put in place by the people. Which is why the sacrifice of those men and women must also be important to you and me; to all of us.

So on November 11th, regardless of your political leanings, regardless of your philosophic or theological approach to war, please, take a moment to remember the sacrifice made in good faith by men and women who fought to oppose evil and promote freedom on our behalf.

One More Reason to Ride – Jack Layton’s Cancer Battle Not Over

NEWSTALK 1010 – IN-DEPTH RADIO :: BREAKING NEWS: Cancer Forces Layton To Step Aside As NDP Leader.

I’ve just finished listening to Jack Layton’s press conference on the radio and at first I thought it was someone reading a prepared statement on his behalf. But no, it was Jack Layton, sounding incredibly unlike Jack Layton.

It turns out Jack’s battle with cancer is far from over. Though he seems to be winning the battle with prostate cancer, a new unspecified cancer has caused the NDP leader to take a leave of absense from the leadership of his party and the Official Opposition in Parliament. It should not be so!

I’ve never been a supporter of the NDP, and there have been times I’ve wondered what Jack was smoking; but, I would never want to see him taken down by anything other than a worthy political opponent or one of his own mis-steps. To be struck down by the most relentless disease on the planet is a fate that no one deserves. I will be praying for Jack’s healing in the days to come. I ask you to do the same if you are a person of prayer.

I will also ride for Jack in the 2012 Ride to Conquer Cancer in June of next year, as I do for everyone I know who has been struck by this disease.

I have been fortunate; blessed by God and the dedicated professionals in Ontario’s excellent health care system, I am cancer free and will fight to remain so. But for Jack Layton and millions of others the battle continues. Help me help them in the fight. Jack is receiving treatment at the Princess Margaret Hospital. To donate to continue funding for the PMH’s world leading research and treatment programs please click on the banner on the right and support me in the 2012 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.