From the Switchfoot YouTube video of The Sound (John Perkins’s Blues)

I have been struggling for the right words since I learned of the Charlottesville tragedy. Of course, I denounce the hate-filled act that took a life and put others in the hospital. I denounce racism in all its ugly forms. I joined in with other voices to acknowledge that this was an act of terrorism. Plain and simple.

But, when the dust settles and the loud cries for justice fade to a simmering  fury, it isn’t that plain and simple.

How did we get here? More importantly, how do we escape this rat trap that seems to have perpetually bound us to the doom of repeated history?

I listen to the clamor of voices, and I just want to weep – so much heat and very little light. More knee-jerk reactions are not sufficient to counter the forces that have lead us to this place and have entangled people in their grip since the first man clubbed his brother to death. We desperately need something more!

While the reactions whirl with centrifugal forces that perpetually hold us in the simplistic and wholly ineffective gravitational pull of black and white, the issues and the solutions to those issues are nuanced.

You are not the essence of hate, and I am not the essence of love. We are all admixtures of the two influences that have made us what we are. We are capable and fully able to gravitate to one end or the other of the spectrum, and bounce back and forth in consecutive breaths.

This was the message of one, Eli Wiesel, who I had the experience of hearing talk in person when I was in college. He was a Holocaust survivor. He knew of the evil, and of the love, of which he spoke, and he knew that both forces are in the breast of every man and woman.

We make the mistake, then, to become self-righteous in times like these, though that is surely the direction our hearts would take us, like the speeder saying to the officer, “I wasn’t going that fast! I wasn’t going as fast as that other guy!”

We are not innocent of hate.

Jesus said, if anyone is angry with his brother or sister, he has committed murder in his heart.[1] How many people have you (would you have) murdered in your life? You may not have committed the act, but your thoughts judge you as my thoughts judge me.

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.”[2]

Can we afford to hate the haters?

Jon Foreman recently said, “By hating the haters, I become one of them. I create more of the very thing I wish to remove.”[3]

More poignantly, this was the ongoing theme of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate,
violence multiplies violence,
and toughness multiplies toughness
in a descending spiral of destruction….
The chain reaction of evil —
hate begetting hate,
wars producing more wars —
must be broken,
or we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength To Love, 1963

Jon Foreman poetically adds that “a rant on social media is unlikely to change anyone’s world views. And a punch in the face will do less. [And] neither logic nor violence can change the hearts of angry men.”

We cannot afford to see the haters as less than human. They are like us, but they have succumbed to hatred and its vent, violence. Listen to the stories of men who have been there. Byron Widner came from a broken home, raised by an alcoholic grandmother. He joined a group of skinheads and began getting tattoos, “just to piss people off”… before he knew the politics. It was simply a vent for his anger.



Christian Picciolini joined a white nationalist group called the Chicago Area Skinheads as a “lost and lonely” teenager. He says, “People become extremists not necessarily because of the ideology…. the ideology is simply a vehicle to be violent…. people become radicalized, or extremist, because they’re searching for three very fundamental human needs: identity, community and a sense of purpose.”[4] He adds that “underneath that fundamental search is something that’s broken”.

The people who become violently racist are people who have been victim of and allowed the forces of hatred to well up and overcome the forces of love within them. They may not even know or and may not have experienced what love feels like. Hatred may be all they know.

Responding in kind to them is responding with the very thing they have embraced, and it only fuels their fire!

Returning to Jon Foreman, he observes, “These white nationalists are driven by feelings of anger, frustration, and fear…. Logic cannot make you ‘un-feel’ what you feel…. The acts of terrorism are done by deeply-troubled individuals who are looking for a way to matter…. These young men are very literally dying to matter. And anger, not logic is driving them.”

Logic can’t combat the illogic of hatred driven by feelings that don’t take direction from logic. So, “Where can we turn?” Foreman asks.

The answer is to a man like John M. Perkins, the civil rights leader cut out of the mold of Dr. King, who has lived a life of loving and non-violent protest. “Love can go where logic cannot, ” says Foreman echoing Perkins, but “by hating the haters, I enlist their tools. I become one of them.”

We cannot afford to allow ourselves to become haters. I believe like King, like Perkins, like Foreman, “The road to healing is a difficult path. But it’s paved with forgiveness and compassion. Not hatred and violence.”

As John Perkins prophetically says, “Love is the final fight!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[1] Matthew 5:21-22 (“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”)

[2] 1 John 4:20 (“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”)

[3] On Charlottesville: Why I Refuse To Hate The Haters, posted on line at Huffpost by Jon Foreman, Contributor and lead singer and guitarist for Switchfoot.

[4] A Reformed White Nationalist Speaks Out On Charlottesville, posted on line at NPR.org August 13, 2017.

Postscript


Love is the Final Fight

3 thoughts on “Love is the Final Fight

  1. Reblogged this on Defendinghope and commented:

    My heart is truly saddened and my thoughts a clouded mess from these current acts of hate and terror. Although I would have initially liked to express in my own words the enormity of the situation, there are others who have a wonderful God-given talent to write and speak truth…

  2. Reblogged this on Defending Hope and commented:
    My heart is truly saddened and my thoughts a clouded mess from these current acts of hate and terror. Although I would have initially liked to express in my own words the enormity of the situation, there are others who have a wonderful God-given talent to write and speak truth…

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