Passage from Proverbs Gives insight to hate - Column for Las Cruces
Sun-News - March 23, 2017
For 15 years, while I was serving Temple Beth Sholom in Topeka, Kansas, my wife Rhonda and I witnessed a small group of people foment hatred through the picketing of businesses, religious congregations, schools, the local university, musical and dramatic performances, government offices and ,eventually, military funerals. The Westboro Baptist Church expressed hatred against many groups of people over those years, and does so still. One of their signs I remember all too well said, “God’s hate is great!” It was a statement that elicited within me a profoundly negative resonance.
Many people throughout the Topeka community worked hard to make alternative declarations about hate, about greatness, and, of course, about God. At that time, in my own search for words that presented a different perspective than that four-word picket sign, I looked to this passage from the Book of Proverbs (Chapter 6). It takes a very different approach to what one can hate (and not whom):
“Six things the Eternal One hates, seven are an abomination. Haughty eyes (excessive pride), a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, A mind that hatches evil plots, feet quick to run to do evil, A false witness testifying lies, and one who sows discord among brothers and sisters.”
I thought of that passage when I attended the screening, at the Las Cruces International Film Festival, of the 1992 film, “School Ties.” Brendan Fraser, who starred in the movie, spoke to those assembled about one pivotal scene that dealt with prejudice and morality. Fraser’s character, David Greene, was a high school quarterback (who happened to be Jewish) who, in the mid-1950s, was recruited in his senior year from Scranton, Pennsylvania, to lead a Massachusetts college preparatory school’s football team to victory. Greene did not reveal his identity to his classmates, especially after hearing anti-Semitic comments soon after his arrival. He easily made friends by “fitting in.” Once his identity became known, he was the victim of hatred and harassment from his peers.
Toward the end of the film, a student who cheated on an exam (an act witnessed by Greene) publicly accused Greene of being the one who cheated, thereby violating the school’s honor code. Greene immediately revealed that he saw his accuser breaking the rules. A committee of students privately met to judge which student was guilty. Fraser explained that, during that class meeting, everyone’s masks came off. The students’ views were exposed. Some assumed that Greene was guilty merely because of his background. Others believed that Greene’s personal sense of honor was proof of his innocence.
We are living at a time when, more than in recent decades, people’s masks no longer conceal unfortunate expressions of hatred and prejudice against too many different groups of people.
Whether we are part of a faith community or not, the words from Proverbs still speak to us in the here and now. They apply the concept of hatred to the process of ridding ourselves of specific behaviors. They can lead us to dedicate ourselves to the values of humility, truth, peaceful and cooperative engagement, seeing the goodness in everyone, and finding ways to resolve conflict. They call on us to run to do good, and to find more partners to join us as we move forward.
It is up to each one of us to decide in which direction our feet, our minds and our hearts will go.