EXPRESSIONS OF FAITH
End cycle of hate with love
By the Rev. Sam Cox
The Rev. Bill Hybels, pastor of the well-known Willow Community Church, made these opening remarks at a recent nationwide event: The world today is bitterly divided into hatred along racial, religious and other lines. The times we are living in now require "radical inclusive love."
He challenged the predominantly evangelical audience to be the first to reach out across these divisions.
This is a formidable charge! Every day we read, hear and see news accounts of horrific violence worldwide. Hatred begets hatred; the cycle never ends. These acts of hatred are often justified in the name of religion. No religion is immune, including our own.
As an adolescent in the South during the civil-rights struggles, I witnessed racial hatred and bigotry firsthand. It was preached from the pulpit in many white Christian churches and justified with Scriptures. Since all I saw was the hatred, I turned away from the religion of my childhood.
Now, as I look back from the perspective of my senior years, I see that God's "radical inclusive love" was at work even in the midst of this bitter hatred. It was the black churches, which were sometimes burned, that reached out with this nonviolent inclusive love. I recently revisited my childhood church and marveled at the transformation. The large congregation is now racially well-blended and glowing in God's love.
Hawai'i has a reputation of being very tolerant and inclusive of all ethnic and religious groups. The East-West Center brings rising young leaders from other states and the Asia-Pacific region to Hawai'i to participate in the New Generation Seminar, which this year takes the theme "Challenges of Religious Diversity."
Why is Hawai'i unique? Perhaps it is the "spirit of aloha" of our host culture. Perhaps it is because we have one of the highest rates of interracial and interfaith marriage in the world. Perhaps it is because we are all minorities.
Religious and ethnic hatred around the world has increased since 9-11. Yet, the level of interfaith dialogue has never been greater. Many religious groups are reaching out to understand each other through mutual visitations, dialogue and partnerships. We still have challenges to meet.
We have not done a good job of including our gay brothers, sisters and their families in this "radical inclusive love." They have been alienated and rejected, sometimes from the pulpit justified by the Bible.
Neither have we done a good job of including those who hate in this inclusive love. This is perhaps the most difficult of all. We need to listen with an open heart, pray for them, and encompass them in our love. The endless cycle of hatred can be overcome only through love, compassion and forgiveness.
Far from diminishing our own faith, interfaith dialogue can be a source of great personal enrichment and our faith will broaden. Yes, our times do call for "radical inclusive love." Let us be among the first to reach out.
The Rev. Sam Cox is the e-mail coordinator for the Interfaith Open Table. He is the visitation pastor of Kailua United Methodist Church.