“Don’t speak to me about your religion; first show it to me in how you treat other people. Don’t tell me how much you love your God; show me in how much you love all his children. Don’t preach to me your passion for your faith; teach me through your compassion for your neighbors. In the end, I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as I am in how you choose to live and give.” This is one of my all-time favorite quotes spoken by Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey, whom I absolutely adore!
I totally agree with his statement. Living by example is such a greater influence and testimony than any words we could ever speak. Have you ever heard someone say they stood for one thing, but then heard them speak words that completely contradict what they say they believe? We see this in a lot of churches in particular (not all). We say God is Love, that Jesus taught kindness and compassion, and yet we hear too many words of hatred coming from the pulpits, books, and articles, and that’s sad. I can just see Jesus looking at our world with a tear streaming down his cheek and saying, “What part of loving one another do you not understand?”
We’ve all heard about the recent horrific tragedy with the church shootings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. People from all over the world are sending their condolences to the family, friends, and church members. Why is it that we have to have this kind of heartbreaking catastrophe to unite us and bring us together on a greater scale?
This is one church that “gets it.” Instead of reacting with violence, they held a service of healing, and it was reported that every Charleston church and over 100 more across the country rang their church bells at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 21, to show solidarity. Not only that, over 20,000 people gathered Sunday night to join hands across the Ravenel Bridge for the Peace Unity event in support of those affected by the church shootings. People from the community and all across the country came in the spirit of love and unity.
Rev. Dr. Norvel Goff, Sr., who led Sunday’s service, said that people were astonished that some of the relatives of the people killed had spoken “of forgiveness and didn’t have malice in their hearts” when speaking of the man who committed this atrocity. People were expecting them instead to riot. But Goff stated, "They just don't know us because we are a people of faith, and we believe that when we put our forces and our heads together working for a common good, there is nothing we cannot accomplish together in the name of Jesus." This is a church whose foundation is unconditional love, the very things Jesus taught. This is a church that is a great example as to how churches should be.
We’ve already been hearing church leaders, politicians, and media hosts ranting and making all kinds of speculations. Some are saying this was a war on Christianity. No, it is not, and it has been proven otherwise. This crime was committed by a young man who was in so much pain that he was either going to take it out on others, himself, or both.
Hate is taught. It is taught in so many of our homes, and believe it or not, it is taught in so many of our churches. Get on the Internet and you can find YouTube videos of ministers propagating the vitriol in their sermons. We’re also hearing it from the media (hate-talk TV and hate-talk radio), as well as from many politicians. When are we going to say ENOUGH!?!?!?
Hate is taught, but so is love, and unconditional love is a much stronger force than any hate could ever be. We have to plant the seeds of love in everyone around us, particularly our children, and it doesn’t have to be just our own children. Hate and racism will never go away, but with enough love, we can lessen it with time. We’re already doing it! People who commit these ghastly crimes are actually teaching us to love and they are bringing people from all over the world together in peace and harmony!
Martin Luther King, Jr., stated, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Darkness is only the absence of light, and if enough of us join together in the collective consciousness of love, peace, compassion, and kindness, then we can embrace that darkness with our light and bring healing to our world.
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 26, 2015.