Monday, September 22, 2014

Answering Hate

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—
let them be caught in the schemes they have devised…

Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under their tongues are mischief and iniquity.
They sit in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places they murder the innocent.

Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert;
they lurk that they may seize the poor;
they seize the poor and drag them off in their net…

Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed.
Why do the wicked renounce God,
and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”?

But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you;
you have been the helper of the orphan…

O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
so that those from earth may strike terror no more.

Psalm 10: 1-2, 7-9, 12-14, 17-18

Reflection – We return to our regular scheduled programming with the Monday Psalter. Psalm 10 is quite a lengthy one, so I have simply given sufficient excerpts to give the gist of it. It seems to me that this psalm is powerfully relevant in our times. There is a spirit of violence at loose in the world, in case you haven’t noticed, a true spirit of war and hatred and savage attack on the innocent and the helpless.

I don’t need to go into all the details of this spirit in the world today—if you aren’t aware of the tragic events unfolding in so many places, you probably aren’t the sort of person who reads my blog, I would venture.

I have been aware, though, of a real danger in the midst of all these situations. It is perhaps one that is perpetual in humanity, confronted with true evil and injustice. Namely, there is real danger of belligerence, rage, vengeance, a meeting of violence with violence, hatred with hatred. ‘You want to kill us? Fine – then we’ll kill you first!’ That kind of thing. Bring it on, baby, and let’s see who has the most guns.

I am not a pacifist, properly speaking. There is a time and a place, there are situations where armed resistance to evil-doers is sadly necessary. And in a sense I am not even thinking of those sorts of situations—we may well have to go to war against ISIS, for example—I truly hope not, but it may come to that.

I am thinking, though, more of a general attitude of bellicosity, a tendency to meet force with force, anger with anger, that it seems to me comes up in many places and situations in the world today, not just geo-political ones. And it seems to me that this is a deep spiritual malady which this psalm addresses.

There are people who hate, true. There are people who are set on courses of action that are genuinely wrong and evil. They may have varying degrees of culpability, but the evil done is real and grave. There may be people who hate me, and who are doing evil to me, and of course that is very hard to deal with.

The great temptation is to meet evil with evil, force with force, violence with violence. Anger for anger, blood for blood. It is the great temptation of humanity, and always has been, and has left our world awash in blood, choked with anger.

Psalm 10 opens for us another door, another path, a path which will only be fully revealed in Jesus Christ. ‘I offered no resistance to those who tore at me… turn the other cheek… Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ This is a very serious call in our days of violence, this season of war in the world. We are Christians; we are called to love our enemies, and this love must be real and incarnated, not some vague meaningless abstraction.

It’s not really about what’s happening in Iraq or Syria or Ukraine, although of course it applies there. It’s about what’s happening at the office or around the supper table, in the neighborhood or the parish, online and offline and in every other line. We are to love, and we are to look to God to show us how the injustices or wrongs of our world are to be healed. The way of violence heals nothing; the way of peace and of love is the hope of the world.