Views on god and religion vary widely, of course. My own views are likely rather transparent to those who pass this way routinely, but are immaterial either way. We may, I trust, agree -- whether we endorse a god of personal attachment, a god detached and dispersed to the far corners of the cosmos, or no god at all -- that preacher and parishioners in that church in South Carolina were worshiping principles of love and solidarity, not divisiveness and hate. Perhaps the godliness of those ideals is sufficient to make us all members of that congregation, whatever the deity, or want of same, to whom they attach.
The particular deity for that particular congregation is, of course, Jesus. Jesus taught love and mercy, compassion and connection. Famously, he renounced his perennially ill-tempered father's inclination to poke out eyes in retribution for eyes poked out, and instead- to turn the other cheek.
Reflecting on that, I hate the fact that I'm thinking surely even Jesus would by now have run out of unbloodied cheeks to turn. Surely even a wellspring of forgiveness would at some point be unwilling to forgive. What becomes of us all when every cheek is already battered?
My thoughts are drawn to that congregation, of which I pledge myself a member in ways I think matter most. I find myself drawn to those grieving families and feel the weight of their loss and pain. I hope that even this unimportant expression of our human bond and common burden lightens the load some trivial bit. I feel, fleetingly, love.
But then my thoughts turn to hate. I hate the disgraceful excuse for a human being who perpetrated this crime. I hate those who raised within his hateful soul those hateful inclinations.
I hate him, and nothing that can happen to him now is as bad as he deserves. Nothing is bad enough to satisfy.
I worry that this primacy of hate over love means he and his kind have won something. I worry that my unwillingness to find forgiveness means I am surrendering something. I worry that for evil to prevail in the world it may be enough for bad people to make good people hate.
If so, the better destiny of the world must depend on people far better than I. Because I was far away, and uninvolved, and unbloodied. And yet I was there -- and I hate him.
Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center; Griffin Hospital
President, American College of Lifestyle Medicine
Editor-in-Chief, Childhood Obesity
Founder, The True Health Coalition
Author: Disease Proof