The late, great humorist Sam Levenson once said something to this effect: “Disliking people because they belong to a certain group is ridiculous when there are so many perfectly legitimate reasons to dislike people on an individual basis.”
It seems that in our country, we have given up on disliking individuals and have decide to save time by just being against entire segments of the population. One of the many problems with this approach is that we’re not even really sure who it is we are hating on. It’s just so confusing. A Lebanese Christian can look surprisingly like an Iranian Muslim. Or is that a Pakistani Hindu? And which one of those are we not supposed to like again?
The shooting in the Sikh temple in Wisconsin is the ultimate example of what happens when stupid meets hatred. First of all, let me say that shooting anyone is just plain wrong. However, if your intent is to take out people you have imagined might be terrorists, you couldn’t get further from the mark by going in to a Sikh temple—unless you chose to invade a Quaker meeting house…or maybe a Mennonite church. Eradicating the threat of violence by killing the pacifists. Brilliant.
Recently a co-worker of one of our church members was at a movie when the preview for the film “Life of Pi” came on. A member of the audience shouted, “Raghead!” at the lead character. After the movie, our friend’s co-worker approached the man to say that he wanted the man to know that he was offended by what was said. He told the man that his daughter was born in India, and he hoped she didn’t have to grow up hearing slurs like that.
The hurler of slurs replied, “Well, you ain’t been over in Saudi where they’ve been killing our boys.” Okay, first of all, the man in the movie at whom the insult was directed was Indian, not Saudi. Those are, in fact, two very different places. Different countries even. And last I heard, our boys (or girls) are not engaged in combat with the people of Saudi Arabia. But perhaps all the buzz about the new Republican vice presidential candidate has overshadowed news of this new conflict.
Jesus was pretty clear about the fact that we are supposed to love one another. Whether the other is Jew or Samaritan, male or female, a socialite or a societal pariah, rich or poor. But if you decide to ditch Jesus and go with hating people, please, at the very least, make sure that you know exactly who you are hating and why. After all, if you’re going to use your energy hating people, you don’t want to waste it on the wrong ones.
The Rev. Anne Russ is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of North Little Rock. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.