Thank goodness the Texas terrorist is no longer among the living to vent his rage at anyone else. Yes, if one wreaks hate and vengeance upon anyone, and creates fear in a person’s heart, that person is a terrorist. Although this terrorist did not get to kill the person he obviously hated with all his life, he still “needed” to let out his rage and vengeance on that little church full of worshipers, killing 26 innocent people instead, hoping one would be his mother-in-law, the object of his hate.
Yet the sad part of even that good news is that the killer-terrorist will never now be able to understand his rage, how and why it grew to that explosive level, and how he could have done something about it to avoid the devastation he caused to those innocent people — to say nothing of living without all that hate and enabling himself to live a more peaceful and normal life.
I know — the first reaction is to hate the evil embodied in that killer-terrorist and not give a fig about him personally. Of course our initial share of empathy rightfully goes to the victims and their families, and it does, and not a shred of regard or empathy would generally go to the shooter.
While I am far from a religious fanatic, and am definitely not a fan of violence in any form, I am also not a fan of just blaming, hating, and looking for some kind of revenge or punishment to inflict on the perpetrator, should he still be alive in order to receive such punishment.
One does not have to be a born-again (or any other kind of) Christian to believe in God, Jesus, the power of prayer, and the fact that God is our Father in heaven (the source of all) and loves and cares about us all. We are NOT taught that God only cares about Christians, only loves the “good,” or those who follow the dogma taught in this or that particular church or house of worship, and “hates” those outside that narrow window of perception.
WE (none of us) are special in the eyes of God because God plays no favorites. If he did, “salvation” would be rigged and many of us wouldn’t have a chance (in hell?) to enjoy eternity. Does that sound anything like the kind of God any one of us would even want to be real? (It’s not hard to understand the lack of belief in God by some when we see so much devastation and slaughter of even those against whom the shooter himself had no particular issue. Could we really worship a God who had personal preferences and prejudices? — and what if God was prejudiced against us or “our kind”?)
People naturally want God to match up with how they perceive him. But would they go on believing in him if they took him at his word that he does not wish even one soul to be lost? That means the shooter’s soul as well. It is not our job to know what’s in another’s heart, or how that thought or feeling got in there. It is sufficient for God to know, and for us to deal with such individuals who harbor hate and harm toward those who are the targets of their hate and harm. It is certainly not God’s wish nor desire that anyone be slaughtered because of the rage and hate of another.
While it may appear that God (the “unacceptable God” that people don’t want to believe in) had a hand in allowing all the recent — and even way past — tragedies that we human beings have had to endure, the only part God had in any of all that is to allow it, as in letting the natural consequences of man’s actions play out, just as he allows the damage that hurricanes do.
Some people, on the other hand — considering an outcome that causes more misery and heartache than joy — may actually blame God for their own poor choices that led to their own messed-up life, which can in turn nurture hate until it is ready to explode in a fit of rage, such as we recently saw in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Such actions ensue from a very bruised, battered, and hurting heart and soul — yet didn’t Jesus say that he loved ALL of us, not only those who obey the laws and are kind to their fellow man?
Is there anything at all that any one of us could have done to prevent that explosion of devastation and slaughter? Yes, but we would have to go way back in time to before the thought of such an explosion of hate was in his mind. It serves no good purpose to blame in reverse, which cannot do anything about the future, but we need to look at what we always do and see how we might be contributing to bringing out the rage in another. We cannot control another, but we can control our own words and actions.
No, I am not in any way blaming the victims of the shooter’s rage, nor am I giving him — or any other shooter-terrorist — a free pass to express his raging beliefs or his anger. As preachers of all stripes talk about turning to God and coming together in his name in prayer, and putting our trust in God, we cannot put all our stock in that. Every human being is a vessel containing all of his thoughts, beliefs, intentions, pains, sorrows, and feelings of being wronged or hurt, or loved and blessed. We can see the outside of that vessel, but not the inside. When the pain goes so deep that it can do nothing but explode, it is like a volcano that needs to erupt. Yet God still does not wish to lose even that one soul.
Yes, praying as a nation can send that prayer-energy to the hearts of the victim’s loved ones, helping to soothe their soul and perhaps even soften their deep-seated pain. Perhaps learning more about the cause of mental illness and what we can do when see such signs of that condition, which is far more prevalent today than any of us can know — just as we try to understand PTSD when we see it in our returning servicemen and -women. It might seem easier to hate in return for hate, even though love is actually more contagious than hate; but remember, Jesus taught us to love our neighbor (that’s everyone) not only as we love ourself, but as he has loved us. We need to ask ourselves if we do.
Perhaps if we knew that love means the desire to do good to others, and that in so doing, we might be able to help a person heading into hate and rage to take a step back and allow the rage to subside, that might be one person less to shoot up a church, or a school, or a community.
We didn’t get lessons from the Man of Peace to teach us to love those who already love us and treat us with kindness. While even Jesus knows there’s a time for war as well as a time for peace, we need to remember that the more we can all desire to do good to others as we go about our everyday living, hoping to make our love contagious, the less rage will likely build in the hearts of any would-be haters.
Prevention is far better than any action after the fact.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.