Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, February 27, 2009

"Hate is the Perversion of Religion"

I am proud of my colleague and friend, Rev. Jacqueline Luck of the Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church for this opinion piece in today's Johnson City Press. She writes important words for our times. Thank you, Jacqueline.
In all great religions there is one common moral law: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or put another way, “That which is hateful to you do not do to your brother,” or, “No one truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

Hate is not a central tenet of true religion. Hate is the perversion of religion.

Our country and our world are facing extremely difficult times on many levels. Many have forgotten the tenet of loving their neighbor and have practiced greed at all costs oblivious to the warnings being sounded. Many were blind to what we were doing, and what was being done to us; many were not.


There is much to rectify and heal. I don’t know how much is going to collapse around us, but I believe we in Northeast Tennessee will be some of the luckier ones during the times ahead.


Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his 1933 inaugural speech: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”


It is this fear that I have been thinking about and the toll it takes on human beings. As Roosevelt said, fear paralyzes us; it reduces our ability to think clearly and to reason; fear can reduce us to superstition and cruelty. Fear can reduce us to our worst selves as individuals and as nations. We need to resist our fear, master it with courage as best we can.


Courage doesn’t come easy, but as a teen I learned two quotes that have stood me well, though differently: “God is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear?” (I substituted “what shall I fear” fairly often) and, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.” Wryly I remember as well: “It’s easy to be brave from a safe distance.”

I am not a politician. I am not an economist, and I am not an environmentalist. I do, however, know a bit about the souls of men and women, and I understand that we need to be good neighbors to each other as our religions and common decency ask us as we strive to survive together what lies ahead.


As we know, a good and warm heart is the dwelling place of the holy, not one filled with hate, and yet there are those who are willfully trying to fill hearts with hate in these most difficult and dangerous times. For the sake of our very lives, we must refuse to listen to, or read, their spewing of hate.


Times of uncertainty are the most difficult, and it is very easy to get swept up in impassioned name-calling and hate-filled rhetoric, and that is very dangerous. Its intent is wrong, and in such times it can result in evil.


Rather, let us be reminded daily to: “Love our neighbor as ourselves,” “That which is hateful to us let us not do to our brother,” and “No one truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Amen.
Amen. Those with ears, let them hear.


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