A few months ago, we were all grief-stricken with the shooting of Jewish worshipers in a Pittsburgh synagogue. We all wondered how one person could brim with so much hate that he felt it expedient to walk into a synagogue where innocent worshipers had gathered for prayer and solace, and unleash his fury in the form of bullets, cutting short the beautiful lives of people he did not know, but only hated. I often wonder, "What if something similar happens here, at Christ Church?"
That sentiment which fueled the killing in Pittsburgh isn’t any different from the one which gave rise to the recent carnage in Christchurch, New Zealand. It is a sentiment built solely on the rejection of the other, hatred of the other, hatred of the self - if you ask me - and hatred of everything decent, ethical, and honorable. I think that sometimes the word "hate" is not even a strong enough a word to describe an act so despicable, one that offends every sense of human decency.
What surprises me most is that others not only find great comfort in such atrocities directed at the other, but they look to justify them - just like an Australian Member of Parliament who suggested that the violence was a likely result of the growing emergence of Muslims in Australia and New Zealand. He may be right about the upsurge but the question is, should we even try to explain why someone would be so compelled to walk into a mosque to shoot and kill Muslims? Or should we justify any act of violence perpetrated against the other, simply because there’s some quaint reason for doing so?
There are times when some people assume that killing of another - the object of our hate - inevitably solves whatever problem we may have had with them. But it really doesn’t. Think about the story of Cain and Abel, in Genesis 4:1-16. That is the first recorded murder in Scripture. These men were brothers, biological children of Adam and Eve. This is such a somber story of hatred, death, and punishment. Both men offered a sacrifice based on their line of work. God accepted Abel’s offering, but did not accept Cain’s. He was so upset over the rejection of his sacrifice that he rose up and murdered his brother, Abel. But the killing of Abel didn’t solve Cain’s problem, nor would the killing of forty-nine (49) Muslims solve the problem of White supremacists.
Some have said that real hatred is only possible because of our desire to see ourselves in the object of our hate. The point is, our own moral failings make it impossible to see ourselves in the people that we hate. We want to be like the people we hate because we find in them something attractive, something meaningful, something powerful - a kind of weapon more potent than a nuclear bomb. We find, in the people we hate, something that we, ourselves, do lack.
Here are some thoughts about the Christchurch tragedy: We cannot understand why they have just about nothing, yet they appear to exude incredible joy. We cannot understand why they came from far away, but seem to value what we have more than we do. We cannot understand why they desire to gather for worship when they do not even have a space to worship. We cannot understand why they enjoy the company of each other, when we don’t even know our neighbors.
I could go on and on, but I am sure you get my point. The basis of Cain’s murder of Abel was simply because Cain saw in Abel what he was capable of doing, but could not do. Cain saw in Abel the person he desired to be. What are you capable of doing? We are capable of many things, both good and evil.
During this season of Lent, I'd like to remind you that one more thing we are capable of doing is not to seek for love, but to seek and find the barriers within ourselves that we have built against love, and work towards dismantling those barriers. Maybe, if the perpetrator of this heinous crime had sought and found within himself vestiges of self-hatred which have become barriers against love, we would be telling a different story.
There’s carnage in the streets of Christchurch. The blood of innocent strangers who have become neighbors cry out - not for revenge, but for a wise populace. And if only we would be wise enough to change ourselves, we could wipe the blood on all our streets with the towel of brotherhood and love.