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A sermon on hatred

| Friday, December 4, 2015

A current Notre Dame senior administrator’s spouse — a fundamentally conservative Catholic who unquestionably follows every entrenched exclusionary edict espoused by the likes of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan — several years ago told me to leave Catholicism if I did not like it. To this day it angers me to recollect that moment of segregation, which fortunately today Pope Francis has rejected in favor of ministry, forgiveness and inclusion. I, a card-carrying lector and weekly attending parishioner at St. Matthews Cathedral with just as much right to worship as anyone else, chose to fight for change within the Church structure. Unfortunately, others with a low tolerance for confrontation from a similar slight simply channel their rage in other tragic, lethal ways, most notably mass shootings.

Obviously, violent mass shootings like this week’s massacre in San Bernardino that killed 17 unarmed health department employees emanate from some form of derangement, rage or hatred. Authorities have yet to determine the exact motives behind U.S. citizen and local county health inspector Syed Rizwan Farook and his foreign-born wife, Tashfeen Malik. The couple, dressed in body armor and black tactical warfare gear, brandished 223-caliber assault rifles, semi-automatic handguns and explosive devices. The husband-wife team met through an Internet dating site where Farook identified himself as a Chicago-born Muslim with the username “farooksyed49.” Authorities are still working to unravel their history.

Some theorize the wife, Malik, may have created a nexus to foreign terror in this case when she radicalized her husband to the point of inciting him to prepare for and retaliate against something — the government, religious infidels or possibly fellow county workers. We do not know as of this publication, but eventually the mystery will be unwound. Whatever their motives, they mark this year’s 355th mass murder as defined by four or more casualties and calculated on the crowd-sourced “Mass Shooting Tracker” run by a collection of Reddit users. As these numbers of mass shootings multiply, our sensitivity to murder numbs and a copycat contagion increases the likelihood of other domestic bloodbaths.

How does our nation maintain a civilized society in light of legislative loopholes regarding gun sales, background checks and registrations while at the same time neglecting to prohibit assault weapons? Nationally, more than 300 million guns are currently in circulation. In fact, the FBI recently handled an all-time daily record-high 185,000 background checks on Black Friday alone. The National Rifle Association — from which I received certificates as far back as my high school years — claims we simply need to enforce the laws already on the books. That claim has been the NRA’s refrain since I first began working on Capitol Hill in the 1970s. In light of their resistance and congressional failure to strengthen gun laws, our nation’s only hope is to check the hatred that fuels disturbed, angered or sensitive individuals to wage gun-related carnage.

Barely two weeks ago, Oklahoma Wesleyan University President Dr. Everett Piper attempted to address his Christian liberal arts campus with a Thanksgiving holiday homily he described as “a sermon on love,” from Corinthians 1:13 that focused on the love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Surprisingly, a student complained to Piper that his message of love “victimized” the student who felt badly that he (the student) did not exhibit love. In response, Piper posted an open letter on the University blog in which he stated the campus was not daycare while characterizing the student and others like him who felt hurt or considered themselves victims as “self-absorbed and narcissistic.”

Piper has identified how uncontrollable hatred springs up in many ways throughout various cultures across the world, including our comfortable, self-absorbed American way of life. For many who are challenged and made uncomfortable — regardless of whether through major religious or political differences, misinterpretations of a simple love sermon or a minor perceived disrespectful personal insult — their warped hatred identifies others as haters, oppressors and bigots. Piper writes that discomfort stems from one’s conscience, and the goal is to learn to be selfless rather than self-centered, to be more interested in practicing personal forgiveness than political revenge and to avoid playing the hater card rather than confessing your own hate.

My sermon on hatred contains principles universal and undeniable. With the absence of respectful discourse and civil disagreement come revulsion, suppression and hatred. When free thought and expression are limited to conform into a comfortable majority, abhorrence springs from perceived differences of thought, lifestyle or action. History is littered with numerous examples of nations warring over perverted policies that attempt to mold others into one monolithic society. That is the current premise behind the Islamic State, which must end through conversion or destruction before peace can reign.

Hopefully, the first positive and unifying aspect of fighting a common ISIL enemy moving forward will be to lessen the hatred within every nation’s boundaries. Moreover, such a collective and constructive better understanding around the globe will unite religious and political leaders in their commitments to uniformly say, “Enough hatred!”

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