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You Can’t Fight Hate with Hate

We continue to see violence. This Saturday, August 3rd, there was a shooting in El Paso, Texas at a Walmart. The death toll now stands at 22 with more than two dozen injured. Law enforcement officials say the evidence points to it as a hate crime against Mexicans.

Then, during the night there was a separate shooting in Dayton, Ohio with 9 dead and numerous wounded. In this shooting the shooter is dead. However, in El Paso, Texas, the shooter is alive and in prison. The prosecuting attorneys have announced their intent to seek the death penalty.

I am both not surprised by their intent to seek the death penalty and very saddened by it. I see the death penalty as responding to hate with more hate. What good does it do?

Death penalty supporters call it justice. I see it as revenge. As long as the criminal is caught and locked in prison, what does the death penalty gain that is not achieved by life in prison?

Many may be feeling “anger“. We should be upset but we need to keep our anger in check (remember anger is another of the seven deadly sins). We should let our anger motivate us to act for changes but there is another emotion that should govern our actions, compassion, compassion for the victims. Our compassion should motivate us to work for changes in mental health diagnosis & treatment and for proper gun laws that balance the right to bear arms guaranteed in the Second Amendment with the need for public safety.

Those who support the death penalty point to Leviticus 24:20 in the Bible where it says “eye for eye” to justify their position. In looking at the Bible, we need to look at Matthew 5:38-42 where Jesus speaks against anger and Matthew 5:44 where Jesus tells us to “love your enemies.” Justice must be done but let it be God’s justice, not human revenge.

Jesus’ words above come from his Sermon on the Mount. Jesus begins this sermon with the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12a. There He speaks of being “poor in spirit.” That means surrendering ourselves to God’s Will. He says, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” We need to offer comfort to the victims who survive these shootings and for the families of all victims. We need to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16), motivated by our compassion to make the world better as we pray “thy kingdom come.”

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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