Last week, our local paper featured a story about a wedding in Israel between a Jewish woman and an Arab man. Hundreds of conservative Jews showed up to protest and indeed, to try to stop the wedding. The police kept the protesters far enough away that the wedding could proceed. Still, I don't imagine the virulent rhetoric and threats of violence made for a very happy wedding day.
Then there's the recent item about the talented and charismatic choir leader at a Catholic church, who was fired because he was gay. I wasn't surprised when I heard about this, just extremely sad. How could anyone believe that this decision was a righteous one?
I don't normally write about politics or religion. Every individual is entitled to his or her own beliefs, and I don't want to stir up controversy by pushing my own. However, these two stories seem symptomatic of the spiritual poverty that seems to afflict us in these early years of the twenty first century. Everywhere I turn, I see senseless and brutal violence. Everything I read seems laced with ridicule and hate for "the other side".
Violence begets violence. Peace cannot be achieved through war. We've seen this again and again. Yet we still lash out at one another, from Ferguson, Missouri to Aleppo, Syria, from Gaza to the Central African Republic.
I'm a romance author. I write about love. And from what I can see, the world needs an awful lot of that these days. When people can't choose to love one another without risking ostracism and even physical attacks, I know we're on the wrong track.
We all know the Golden Rule: "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Is it really so hard to apply?
I get a lot of political and activist email. I sign quite a few Internet petitions. I don't know if it does any good, but it makes me feel a little better. Last week I signed one disseminated by a group called Faithful America, an organization devoted to religious freedom and mutual respect. I happened to notice the slogan next to their logo:
Love thy neighbor. No exceptions.
Wow. Now that's a really powerful idea. No one is unworthy of love, no matter what his or her race, religion, gender orientation, nationality, or political affiliation. Every individual deserves respect, compassion and a chance to live a satisfying life.
Even the jihadis from ISIS.
Now that's hard to swallow, isn't it? And yet, Jesus never said, "Love thy neighbor, unless he's a terrorist."
If we were doing better at practicing the Rule, maybe there would be fewer terrorists in the first place.
I'm not trying to start an argument here. As I say, I'm not going to push my beliefs on you. Still, the "no exceptions" addendum makes the Golden Rule a lot clearer, for me at least. It shines a light on my own prejudices. I see how in my daily life, I often attack people and organizations I don't agree with. I recognize how patronizing I can be (or at least feel) about people who's actions or positions seem ignorant or misguided. Sure, I'm not about to go shooting people, but I see that I don't always react with love and compassion.
I'm not telling anyone what to do. As for me, I'm going to try as best I can to keep the Rule front and center in my thoughts. Because I do believe that every one of us who chooses peace can make at least a small difference.
More than by signing a petition, anyway.