Make America Not Hate Again

The FBI released a report on Monday that mars the beauty of our country. The federal agency announced that last year hate crimes increased by 6.7 percent overall. What’s more painful is the massive increase by 67 percent in crimes against Muslims here in our country. Violence against blacks, Jews, and the LGBT community rose 7.6, 9, and 3.5 percent respectively.

Indeed, hate has no place in our country, especially since it is grounded in and was founded on our Judeo-Christian ethos.

Data show that Catholics were powerful in voting in the recent presidential election. Some commentators have suggested that Catholics were a key demographic group in the stunning election of President-elect Donald J. Trump. If we have the power to make history in an epic election, might we have the same power to reverse the trends of hatred and division?

No evidence suggests that Catholics are guilty of hatred or hate crimes. But, what evidence shows that Catholics are leading our nation out of this spiraling movement? It is time for us to provide proof of such leadership.

A kumbaya moment is not in order. Rather, a movement of grace, service, and gentleness can both counter and quell hatred before it grows further. Pope Francis will conclude the Jubilee Year of Mercy this weekend. We have been intoxicated by preaching on mercy in our churches and faith communities. We hope that our souls have been softened and strengthened as our sins were showered in the mercy of our loving God.

Might the Year of Mercy unfold into a Campaign of Mercy that eradicates hate from our nation’s heart? When Pope Francis wrote on April 11, 2015 the letter inaugurating the Jubilee Year, he did not know it was during a period of inordinate violence against Muslims and other groups in the United States. Nevertheless, the pope’s words were beyond instructive and exhortatory; they were prescient:

There is an aspect of mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church. It relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy to be one of God’s most important attributes. Israel was the first to receive this revelation which continues in history as the source of an inexhaustible richness meant to be shared with all mankind. As we have seen, the pages of the Old Testament are steeped in mercy, because they narrate the works that the Lord performed in favor of his people at the most trying moments of their history. Among the privileged names that Islam attributes to the Creator are “Merciful and Kind.” This invocation is often on the lips of faithful Muslims who feel themselves accompanied and sustained by mercy in their daily weakness. They too believe that no one can place a limit on divine mercy because its doors are always open (Misericordiae Vultus, 2015, no. 23).

I trust that this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with these religions and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination.

As Christians, we are the Body of Christ. Christ’s body was beaten, spat upon, crucified, and abused. We would never want that for another person. When any person is harmed, we all feel it in some way for we are “one body, one spirit in Christ” (Eucharistic Prayer II). In our conversations, word choices, attitudes, decisions, and actions, let us quell hatred and choose love so that America will never hate again.