Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:20
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Our nation has a proud tradition of promoting the dignity of all people, a principle enshrined in the Declaration of Independence – “that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Sadly, our nation has not always upheld this principle. There has always been a segment of people who have not been dedicated to the dignity of all people. “Hate groups” have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. Organized hate groups as well as individuals who share their views have always been present in our society. The instances of discrimination, persecution, murder and other hate crimes and hate activities throughout our history (sometimes perpetrated even by elected officials) are far too numerous to list here.
When our society has been most faithful to its founding principles (not to mention being faithful to the teaching of all religions), the beliefs and actions of hate groups have been firmly and clearly opposed by all strands of civil society – from the home and family and houses of worship to the highest elected officials.
In our society hate speech is legally protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution (so long as it does not promote imminent violence). But for people of faith hate speech is never morally protected nor should it be tolerated. It must always be opposed with the light of the truth of God’s Word.
As beloved children of God we are called to love God and neighbor. “Love” is an action verb – it is not just a feeling. Love of neighbor requires that we be active – not complacent or passive or avoidant but active – in response to anything that is harmful to another. As Martin Luther reminds us in his explanation of the Eighth Commandment (in the Small Catechism), we are to come to the defense of our neighbors.
The recent wave of anti-Jewish and anti-Islamic hate crimes and hate activities locally and across the country call us to redouble our efforts to speak and act boldly against all forms of hate speech and activities and for the dignity and respect of all people.
I encourage you to accept the invitation which the Interfaith Center and the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia recently issued to all of us to commit to promote peace in our homes and community, to work with others to eliminate the causes of hatred, to honor the dignity of all people, and to be instruments of God’s peace. Click here for more information. Much more information about the activities of hate groups is available at the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Let us shine the light of God’s love for all people on the darkness of all forms of hate.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Wayne Matthias-Long