A few weeks ago, my Facebook newsfeed had some disturbing stories and comments scattered through it. The primary target was Steve Scalise, the Republican senator who was shot several months ago. He had recovered from his serious injuries and returned to work. The problem was he accepted an invitation to speak at a gathering sponsored by a Christian organization. Makes sense, the senator claims to be a Christian and fights for Christian values.
Clearly, there are people who will disagree with his political positions. But what I was seeing made my heart grow faint. Friends of mine, not just Facebook friends that I have no other relationship with, but actual friends of mine, were wishing Senator Scalise had died in the shooting. Because he opposes gay marriage, one of my gay friends wrote, “He (Scalise) is despicable and was not worth saving. She (gay police officer) should have let him die.” Another comment on the same post said, “I wish Scalise and all Christians would be shot and none survive.”
Another post lumped Christians in with white supremacists and insisted they “spew hate.” In my 50 years of church attendance and associations with para-church organizations, I must know thousands of Christians. I can’t think of one who hates anyone, and I’ve never heard one spew hate at someone else and certainly not wish someone dead. I know there are some knuckleheads who claim to be Christians who might do that, but none of the Christians I personally know would do that. I wanted to ask these friends to think of the Christians in their lives. Do they really know Christians who hate people? Do they really want those Christians dead? If they do, then that would include me.
Around the same time the posts occurred, our neighborhood was inundated with hate mail. It was personalized by what the sender had observed at each house–Proud American (flag on porch), Cat Woman (sign with a cat in front yard), Penn State Fan, etc., not things you would know from looking at Google maps. Someone walked around our neighborhood to create personal hate mail. The notes had drawings depicting hate of Jews and Muslims. This expression of hate hit a little too close to home. Fortunately, our neighborhood banded together and committed to watch out for each other and do all we can to build strong relationships within our community.
But, really, the hate mail didn’t bother me as much as the Facebook posts. The mail came from a white supremacist group in NY. The Facebook posts came from just regular, ordinary people–people I know. My biggest fear is that ordinary people don’t value life anymore. Authorities can’t find a reason for the Las Vegas shooting. He simply didn’t care about the lives of other people. These same ordinary people condemn those who disagree with them, and in doing so, spew the very hate speech they rail against. They cry out for tolerance and diversity but only if those diverse people have a different skin color. If their political views are any different, or their religious views are in opposition to their lifestyle, then they are haters and should be dead. Where’s the tolerance and diversity?
I had thought about writing this post a few weeks ago, when we first received the hate mail but changed my mind. But yesterday a shooter killed at least 26 people at a little Baptist Church in a little town in Texas. There you go, you got your wish. I opened Facebook and looked for the outrage over this shooting. It had been full of outrage at the Las Vegas shooting and the Pulse night club shooting. But my newsfeed is eerily silent. I had to wonder, are they happy about this? Christians are dead. Children are dead. Innocent people gathered for worship are dead. Do they care?
Yes, there will be calls for more gun control laws. But where is the outrage that 26 people, ages 5-72 were murdered in their church? Where are the well wishes for the families affected? There are none. None. Then I wondered, what if it had been my little church in my little town? What if it was my family, including my Pastor son and his children? Would these “friends” grieve? Would they come to my funeral and maybe shed a tear? Would they say we deserved to die because of our political views? Would they offer our family words of sympathy? I wonder.
I attended a funeral last week of a dear lady. She was a gentle soul with a contagious smile, full of joy and always looking for the next adventure. People spoke of her investment in her community, volunteering and leading numerous organizations. She was instrumental in rescuing a Cambodian family in the 1970’s from Pol Pot’s genocide. The church purchased a home for them and helped them find jobs and adjust to their new life. They came to our town and our church, and they came to her funeral. She was a positive influence on countless people. This is a person my “friends” would want dead. Do they understand who they wish dead?
Do they realize Christians are just ordinary people, too? They are teachers, nurses, letter carriers, UPS drivers, reporters, athletes, mechanics, Little League coaches–just ordinary people we all interact with everyday. The difference is Christians are called to love others, regardless of how they are treated by them. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matthew 5:43,44,46)
The church in America has not experienced persecution as it has in other parts of the world. But it is coming. The good news is that when the church is persecuted, it grows and strengthens. The really good news is the Gospel of Christ, that he gave his life while we were his enemies to give us peace with God and eternal life. Do Christians wish their enemies were dead? No, on the contrary, we wish they would find life and peace. If my death would cause that to happen, so be it. But while I am still here, I will continue to follow Christ’s example and love those who hate me and pray for those who persecute me.