Pastor Jones, the Clanging Cymbal

09/10/2010 11:20 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I attended a wedding this past weekend that included a reading from 1 Corinthians 13. No surprise there, since that seems to be the favored selected reading from the Bible for most marriage ceremonies--at least the ones I attend. It's a positive, uplifting selection; much more preferred than let's say Ephesians 5:22-24, which instructs wives to submit to their husbands in everything. So when the bride's family member began reading from Corinthians, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal," I couldn't help but think of that pastor from Gainesville, Florida who was creating quite a stir by his intentions of burning the Koran on September 11th because he believed that Islam is of the devil and even posted a sign outside of his church stating as much.

It had been tempting to write about this ignorant yet, no doubt, sincere man quite some time ago, but, first, I didn't want to give him any more attention and, second, I felt I'd written so much already about these kinds of preachers from my essays My God Can Beat Up Your God and One God Over a Nation that it seemed redundant. Yet, here I am once again beating the drum for reason while wondering why people, such as Pastor Jones, are more willing to become well known as a critic of Islam and be the clanging cymbal than simply loving their neighbor.

The thing is, no matter what holy book, if any, is used as a compass for life, most people tend to focus on the verses that are rational and live as closely to them as makes sense in their daily routine while attempting to explain away those more sensational verses that espouse intolerance and hate. Without a doubt, though, no matter the holy book, there are verses that are cause for concern in the hands of a fundamentalist: women are allowed to be stoned when accused of adultery, homosexuals are going to hell, and children should be beaten so that they can get into heaven. In turn, those who believe that they are speaking for their Supreme Being are determined to do so by upholding the laws with violence while justifying their prejudices.

My question is, when this supposed higher power is of love why is it so much easier for believers to hate?