Sunday, July 31, 2011

Should we hate those who hate us?

This weekend I was at a conference (I will blog about this later) and I saw a magnet with the following saying by the Dalai Lama:
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive."

Later I started to reflect on how hard it is for us to have love and compassion for those who hate us; it is one thing to have compassion for those who ask for compassion and quite another to have compassion for those who hate us, those who want to harm us, or those who want to kill us.

I thought for example about the people that gave their testomonies to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the mid 1990's after Apartheid. The stories of discrimination, brutality, human rights violations, etc, given by people from all parts of South African society were heartbreaking. The legacy of abuses, hate, and suffering contained in the stories told during those hearings left many to wonder: would the country be able to move forward from this? Could people forgive those who did these things to them?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu (one of the major figures against Apartheid) and who was named chair of the the Truth and Reconciliaiton Comission once said:
"Don't look for somebody else to be the one who is going to do the reconciliation," he urged his fellow South Africans. "Each South African is going to have to say, 'What is the contribution I am going to be making to what will be a national project?"

Tutu understood this and so does his friend the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama could tell people to hate the Chinese for opressing Tibet, but he never has. And this brings me back to the quote I saw this weekend:
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive."
I truly believe that this is something that not only Christians like Desmond Tutu and Buddhists like the Dalai Lama can understand, but also every human being in this planet.

Once in regards to the situation of Tibet, the Dalai Lama was asked the following question:
How can you not feel hatred against those who seek to annihilate you?
Notice the is not about those who hated him, or who wanted to harm him but those who wanted to annihilate him.

He responded by saying that the question not only applies to him but also to the 'other'; he said that we need to think of the connection between the one that is causing harm and his victims. Then he added the following:
"I am going to give you a concrete example. In India I recently met up with a man I had known a long ago, the abbot of a monastery who spent twenty years of his life in prison and in labor camps in Tibet. While we were speaking together he declared to me that during the entire time of his imprisonment in Chinese jails the greatest danger he had encountered was that of losing his compassion for the Chinese."

I can only hope and pray that if I ever find myself in a similar situation, that I may touch the source of strength and love that would allow me to never loose compassion for those who would do the same to me...that would  allow me not to hate, but to feel compassion.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

100 politicians walk into a bar...

"But what is more divine, I will not say in man only, but in all heaven and earth, than reason? And reason, when it is full grown and perfected, is rightly called wisdom."

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."
(Gospel according to Matthew)

As I look at the last couple of weeks and I see our political leaders dealing with the current financial situation, including how to resolve the issue of the "debt ceiling", one reaction from a friend of mine was this: "this is a joke!" I can't blame him for feeling this way.

To me it is truly shocking how in politics the lives of human beings take a back seat to "being right" and defending the "truth". It is equally shocking how being inflexible is praised as being strong, but compromise or the idea of compromise is attacked (by politicians and political groups) as a sign of weakness, of not "sticking to your principles" or not "standing your ground".

Yes, sometimes to "stand our ground" is very important. But there is a difference between that and being inflexible. And while it is true that sometimes compromise can lead to negative consequences, it is also true that compromise can be a sign of strength, lead to great things and even more: sometimes it is the only thing to do. Sometimes compromise can also be part of the "truth" and of "being right". In moments like these in order to reach a compromise we need: reason, wisdom, and compassion.

It is my hope, that while in public our political leaders engage in threats, personal attacks and ultimatums, in private there will be a few voices of reason, wisdom and compassion to lead the way and come to a solution. When the numbers, financial analyses, studies, and predictions are done (along with the political threats, personal attacks and ultimatums) it still goes back to what this is all about: the choices made will affect the lives of human beings.

In the meantime, humor can be a way to remind ourselves that sometimes we have to step back, think, smile, and try again. And you know what, sometimes our political leaders can be the source of that humor. Two people in particular (former president Bill Clinton and former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld) gave us many "wonderful" moments of humor in our political history. It does not have to follow the model of '100 politicians walk into a bar' (of course feel free to share a few of those). Politicians like them are masters of language and the how to use language to their advantage, specially when it comes to answering questions. And whey they do we are left thinking "I cannot believe he said that!" or just a plain "What???" Then, I have two of many possible choices: throwing my remote control against the television, or to laugh...and I think is better to laugh instead of buying a new television.

Here for now is one moment from years ago by Senator Joe McCarthy (when he was claiming that one government official was a Communist) and as you read it may I also ask all of you philosophy and logic enthusiasts (including Monty Python fans), what do you think of this:

"I do not have much information on this except the general statement of the agency that there is nothing in the files to disprove his Communist connections."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The tragedy of the "Crusades", and what can we learn from it....

Out of thought that we Christians would have been the last people who could gloatingly accuse another faith of nurturing violence, given our often so gory history. We should be hanging our heads in shame and contrition when we think of the Crusades, of so-called heretics being burned at the stake, or more recently Christians giving the world the Nazi Holocaust. Christians who supported Apartheid in South Africa, as being justified biblically. Or who were at each others throats in Northern Ireland, who committed horrendous atrocities in Rwanda and in Bosnia. No, we certainly should not gloat or think we are morally superior to those of other faiths.
(Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

As I was reading online reactions to "Campus Crusade for Christ" (an Evangelical campus ministry in many colleges) officially changing their name to "Cru", it reminded me of one of many 'elephants in the room' that Christians like myself have to deal with, including certain parts in our history and the words associated with it. In this particular case: the "Crusades".

This is from an article in the Washington Post, as Steve Sellers (VP for Campus Crusade for Christ) talked about the change:
“It’s become a flash word for a lot of people. It harkens back to other periods of time and has a negative connotation for lots of people across the world, especially in the Middle East,” said Steve Sellers, vice president for the U.S. for Campus Crusade for Christ, as reported by Christianity Today “In the ‘50s, crusade was the evangelistic term in the United States. Over time, different words take on different meanings to different groups.”

Indeed, "Crusade" in 2011 is a word that for many people (Christian and non-Christian) has a lot of negative connotation. I remember reading the excellent "Fear and Trembling" by Kierkegaard and feeling very uneasy with a term that he uses in the book. The term (again, to me) reminded me of the "Crusades": the 'knight of faith'.  (I should note that I do not believe that Kierkegaard was thinking of the "Crusades" when he talks about the 'knight of faith'; that connection was entirely of my own doing.)

In a very interesting article on the website Patheos, Dr. Timothy Dalrymple (philosopher/scholar of religious thought that I read regularly to get a serious, honest and intellectually solid Evangelical perspective) was interviewing Dr. Rodney Stark. Stark is a a sociologist and historian of religion and he was answering some questions about his latest book God's Battalions: the Case for the Crusades.

While I agree and disagree with some parts and responses given in the interview, I found it (on the whole) to be an honest discussion about the Crusades. However I got the feeling (and I know I could be mistaken) that in the end the "case for the Crusades" failed. Of course, that judgment is only based on reading the article and I would hate to fully judge the book without reading it.

Before I say anything else, I must give credit where credit is due: Dr. Stark was very clear that:
"What is overlooked about the Crusaders, and the knights and nobility of the 10th century and thereabouts, is that they were very bloody-minded. They had been raised since infancy to devote themselves to fighting." There was also an analysis of the historical background before the Crusades and other points, including the expansion of the Muslim empire and the effects of that expansion.

But then came this question regarding the sack of Constantinople that in the words of Dr. Dalrymple is taken as a classic example of the irrationality and ultra-violence of the Crusaders... In this I believe he is correct and then states the following question: 
"What of the sacking of Constantinople, when western Christians who had set out to reclaim the Holy Land decided instead to attack eastern Christians?" 

This was an excellent question and one I asked myself many times. If the Crusades were supposed to be about Christians reclaming the "Holy Land" from Muslims, then why did they sack the Christian city of Constantinople? Yes, they were Eastern Christians instead of Western Christians but they were Christians, and not Muslims.

Here is the full response:
"It seems to be pretty clear that, through about four crusades, the Byzantines had betrayed the westerners. In the First Crusade, they were supposed to send their army along, and they did not. They were supposed to supply the knights, and they did not. They tried to make separate peace agreements, which was virtually treasonous. This went on and on and on.

Eventually, the knights from the west, having backed a faction of the Byzantines, found themselves having been betrayed again and starving outside of Constantinople. So they sacked the city. It's a wonder they didn't do it sooner.

As we look at our past, it is important to try to understand why as human beings we did this or that. I applaud that Dr. Stark wants to give an honest take on the Crusades. But this explanation....well, it made me very sad since it made me recall a conversation I had a couple of years ago with an Eastern Orthodox priest.

The priest (who from other conversations with him makes me think that he would agree with a lot of what Dr Stark said in the interview) has heard similar explanations to the sack of Constantinople before and, every time he hears them it makes him sad, mad and furious, specially when those explanations come from other Christians. And more to the point, the talks between us happened in the comfort of his parish in 21st century America, far removed from the events of the Crusades. I believe that if an Eastern Orthodox priest back in Constantinople after the city was sacked and, as he was seeing the bodies, the crying, the suffering and the destruction caused by the Crusaders would have heard a response like that...well, I think he would be sadmad and furious to say the least if he was sitting here with us reading the article. Then I also think "what of the people of the city?" Would they accept this 21st century explanation?

When I look at events from the past, I try my best (sometimes I fail) to remember that history goes beyond words in a book. Real people of flesh and bones have, are, and will, be part of history. When it comes to events in history that involves Christians and/or Christianity, we as Christians have to be extra careful. When Archbishop Tutu tells us that as Christians we should be hanging our heads in shame and contrition when we think of the Crusades is not I believe to say that all Christians are evil or that Christianity itself is evil; that is a discussion that I have many times with Christians and non-Christians. No, I do not believe that. I believe what he (and I agree with him) understands is that when people that call themselves Christians commit horrible acts then, before we say anything the first thing we should say is: "that was a horrible act, and that horrible act caused suffering." Then I believe, we can continue to talk about it.

So what can we learn from the tragedy of the "Crusades" (and we must include everyone involved) as we move from one day to the next day? In the 21st century, we are less likely to repeat acts like the sack of Constantinople. Yet history has taught us that just like human beings are capable of doing wonderful and great acts in the name of Christianity and religion (fighting slavery for example) the same human beings are also capable of doing horrible and terrible acts in the name of the same Christianity and religion (supporting slavery as another tragic example). The legacy of Christianity (and I am part of it as a Christian) is full of both wonderful and terrible acts.

I hope that I misunderstood the answer given by Dr. Stark. But the following is clear:

Yes, it was war.
Yes, both sides (Christians and Muslims) did horrible acts.
Yes, there was animosity between Eastern and Western Christians and there were many reasons for this.
Yes, the Crusaders outside of Constantinople were starving.

But, in the end it was not these things that sacked Constantinople but human beings...human beings wearing the sign of the cross and acting with their freewill did. 

The same can be said for human beings who considered themselves Christians and caused the Holocaust, and this included the Christian theologians and Christian ministers that provided reasons to support the Nazi regime. (Note: I should also point out that other Christian theologians and Christian ministers, for example Dietrich Bonhoeffer, fought against the Nazi regime and paid with their lives for doing so.)

I wonder how many Crusaders had to go back home later and struggle with the memory of that act, how it changed them...I wonder how that same act changed the lives of the people that were left...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ending child marriage helps communities across the developing world

After reading this, I had to share it. Please take the time to read this.



Ending child marriage helps communities across the developing world

(by Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu)

Dhaki is from the southern region of Ethiopia. At age 13, instead of going to school, Dhaki was marrried and tended cattle for her family. Her husband, 11 years older than she, regularly forced himself on her. Her nightly cries were ignored by her neighbors, and she was shunned by her community for not respecting the wishes of her husband.

Sadly, millions of girls worldwide have little or no choice about when and whom they marry. One in three girls in the developing world is married before she is 18 - one in seven before she is 15. The reasons for child marriage vary: Custom, poverty and lack of education all play a part. Boys are married young, too, but a far greater number of girls are affected and it has a much more devastating impact on their lives.

Because they are young, child brides are relatively powerless in their families and often lack access to health information. This makes them more vulnerable to serious injury and death in childbirth - the leading cause of death in girls in the developing world ages 15 to 19. Child brides are also more likely to experience domestic violence and to live in poverty than women who marry later.

Child marriage is just one factor in the lives of many girls and women, but it affects not just their health, education and employment options but also the welfare of their communities. We know that empowering girls is one of the most effective ways to improve the health and prosperity of societies. Child marriage perpetuates poverty by keeping girls, their children and their communities poor.

To realize change, we first need to provide greater options for girls by investing in them and supporting their families. Changing national laws is not enough. Most countries with high rates of child marriage have outlawed it. Lasting change requires local leaders and communities to agree that child marriage is harmful and make a collective decision to end the practice.

Innovative grass-roots programs to end child marriage already exist. From Cameroon to India, communities, humanitarian aid organizations and women's rights groups are pioneering efforts to encourage investment in girls and discourage child marriage. As a starting point, they are fostering community conversations about the health risks for very young mothers and the benefits of education. Over time, communities are beginning to question traditional practices and ask what can be done to improve the lives of their daughters.

This change, however, is taking place on a small scale, very slowly. We can all play our part in encouraging change on a larger scale. The United States is stepping up: The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, legislation that has bipartisan support, was passed unanimously by the Senate last week. This act illustrates how support for securing a just and healthy life for every woman and girl transcends politics.

As members of an independent group of leaders who were asked by Nelson Mandela to use our influence to address major causes of human suffering, we have never been involved in supporting a specific piece of legislation before, but we believe that investing in efforts to prevent child marriage is critical to global development and the achievement of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. We applaud the Senate for passing this forward-looking legislation and urge the House of Representatives to follow suit.

We know that these efforts can have real impact. We are pleased to report that Dhaki received support from a local development program that enabled her to leave her husband and continue her education. She now teaches others about the risks of early marriage and the benefits of going to school. The United States has the opportunity to help millions of girls like Dhaki realize a different future for themselves and their daughters, and in the process, transform entire communities worldwide.

Mary Robinson is a former president of Ireland. Desmond Tutu, the recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, is archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa. Both are members of The Elders, a group of global leaders focusing on conflict and humanitarian issues.

Monday, July 11, 2011

When we hear/say "God is love", what does it mean?

"God is love". I have said this myself many times and I have heard many people in my life say the same thing. So, I am currently meditating on a couple of scripture passages including this one:

So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 
(1 John 4:16)

More on this later, but for now I leave you with the following: when we hear/say "God is love"what does it mean?

Friday, July 8, 2011

No really, what the heck is an "Episcopalian"? (Part 2)

One of my earliest blog entries No really, what the heck is an "Episcopalian"? was an attempt to explain what being an Episcopalian is and what it means to me. Back then I listed the "reasons" given by comedian Robin Williams as a way to look at this with humor but with the intention of giving it more thought and eventually posting something about it. I just realized that it has been a while.

"Episcopalian" in many ways is a "label" because let's face it, we are (for better or worse, like it or not--in a Facebook or non-Facebook way) a society of labels. When it comes to "Christians" there are many labels: Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, etc. And those are just the so called "denominations" and their according labels in Christianity. An interesting new thing I noticed is more churches changing their titles to something that rejects any denomination. Example: a church that used to be called "First Baptist Church" in one town may now be known as "First Christian Church", replacing Baptist with Christian; this is part of the effort that embraces the "non-denominational" label (in the end for all practical purposes it is a label) that is becoming more popular to many Christians. I am not saying that I approve or disprove of this, just that it is something I observed.

Even my friends in the Atheist and Agnostic circles cannot escape labels. Last year I attended a meeting of the "Society of Non-Theists at Purdue". The purpose of that particular meeting was for the members to have an open discussion of the pros and cons of using the Non-Theist label.  I have some friends that identify themselves as atheists, others as agnostics, skeptics, other. Ah, the other label...that's a discussion for another time.

So when I use the label and I "identify" myself as an Episcopalian, what do I mean? What is it and what does it mean to me? First what "is" an Episcopalian? I think many would agree that an Episcopalian is a member and/or has some formal or informal association with the Episcopal Church.

As part of the "I am Episcopalian" campaign by the Episcopal Church, the following is what they came up with:
The Episcopal Church welcomes you.

As Episcopalians, we are followers of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Episcopal Church has members in the United States, as well as in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Haiti, Honduras, Micronesia, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the Virgin Islands.

We strive to love our neighbors as ourselves and respect the dignity of every person.

The Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and traces its heritage to the beginnings of Christianity.

Our liturgy retains ancient structure and traditions, and is celebrated in many languages.

We welcome men and women, married or celibate, to be ordained as bishops, priests, and deacons.

We believe in amendment of life, the forgiveness of sin, and life everlasting.

Lay people exercise a vital role in the governance and ministry of our Church.

Holy Communion may be received by all baptized Christians, not only members of the Episcopal Church.

We uphold the Bible and worship with the Book of Common Prayer.

We affirm that committed relationships are lifelong and monogamous. Episcopalians also recognize that there is grace after divorce and do not deny the sacraments to those who have been divorced.

We affirm that issues such as birth control are matters of personal informed conscience.

We celebrate our unity in Christ while honoring our differences, always putting the work of love before uniformity of opinion.

All are welcome to find a spiritual home in the Episcopal Church.

Some of the things above may or may not be familiar to you. If you are a Christian, you may agree with some of them, most of them, or disagree with some (or most) of them. As I was reading it I imagine this took many meetings by a committee that eventually agreed on this. It would be interesting to know the agreements and disagreements over a particular point, word or term.

There are some Episcopalians that say: I believe what's on the "Nicene Creed". (Note: for more on that you can look at the "Creeds" section of the Visitors Centers page at the EC website.) There are some Episcopalians who say "I am a Christian", others who say "I'm an Anglican" (another interesting label) and there are many more, including the connection to the "Baptismal Covenant" to name a few.

I also left out how other Christians see the EC.  I have been told everything from 'so you are a Christian' to 'you are not a real Christian' to 'never head of it' to 'you're from the gay church', etc. The what is a real Christian is something I may write about one of these days, since it also came up to my mind a few days ago when I was reading some letters that were part of my copy of the "Jefferson's Bible" titled The life and morals of Jesus of Nazareth by Thomas Jefferson. He tells you what he thinks a real Christian is. The part about being a 'gay church' is also very interesting.

Finally, what does being an Episcopalian mean to me? I admit that I never use the exact same explanation every time. Yet, when I think about it, and when I think of how I have responded in the past it seems to me that every time it contains a variation of the first couple of things that were listed in the "I am Episcopalian" campaign:

As Episcopalians, we are followers of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


We strive to love our neighbors as ourselves and respect the dignity of every person.

In addition, many Episcopalians like myself believe that along with "scripture" and "tradition", there is also "reason". And in, out and between all of those, along with reason I believe there must always be love. My favorite passage from the Bible has the word "love" all over it:

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (from the Gospel according to John 13:34-35)

Love in all of its "ways" and "forms" is something that I try to "understand" and will continue to do so for the rest of my life, with all the successes and failures that will come with it. I have many great discussions and chats on "love" all the time with Christians and non-Christians on what does "love" means and what does it mean to live a life with love and in love.

As an Episcopalian I also like the following words from the 20th century thinker (one of my favorite writers) Thomas Merton, and these are the same words that I use as part of my "electronic signature" for my emails:

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bullying in any form to anyone is never "peer pressure" and is never "healthy".

Bullying is many things...and for someone it is "peer pressure" and "healthy".

A few days ago I was writing about the "other".  As an example I was talking about the city of Boston back in the 19th century and how the "other" were members of the Irish community. Today in our society for some of us the "other" are members of the LGBT community, and tragically we treat them in ways that make me feel angry, sad, and confused. But a couple of days ago I read something so shocking that for a while made me speechless.

An activist with 'Tea Party Nation' (called Rich Swier) made some statements regarding a report by a group called "Gulf Coast Gives" that 77% of all bullying victims are picked on due to sexual orientation, gender identity, or the perception of either. LGBT youth are up to five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts. (That quote can be found here as part of the "Stamp Out Bullying" campaign by "Gulf Coast Gives")

 In response Mr. Swier used the familiar terms of "gay agenda" and "radical gay activists" in regards to people and groups that started anti-bullying efforts in our society. Of course, I wonder if Mr. Swier is aware that many in law enforcement, the police and similar groups fully support anti-bullying efforts. For example: in 2010 the Dallas Police Department started to enforce a zero tolerance policy in schools against bullying. I don't think Mr. Swier would accuse Dallas police officers of pushing a "gay agenda" when they try to protect Dallas school students from bullying.

However, it was not his views on the "gay agenda" that made me write about this issue. According to Mr. Swier when a student is being bullied because he is gay, she is a lesbian, etc, is not bullying:

This is not bullying. It is peer pressure and is healthy. There are many bad behaviors such as smoking, under age drinking and drug abuse that are behaviors that cannot be condoned. Homosexuality falls into this category.

Homosexuality is simply bad behavior that youth see as such and rightly pressure their peers to stop it. In Sarasota County over 70% of all HIV/AIDS cases are due to male sex with males.
I agree with Gulf Coast Gives that “LGBT youth are up to five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts”. Homosexuality, like drugs, harms young people if they experiment [sic] with it. That is the greatest tragedy.

I simply could not believe what I was reading. The "greatest tragedy" was him saying those words.

First, let us put aside for the moment Mr. Swier's views on "homosexuality". My first question is:
Does Mr. Swier understand what "bullying" is? Let us see what the FBI say about 'bullying' as part of "Bullying in Schools":

Bullying has two key components: repeated harmful acts and an imbalance of power. It involves repeated physical, verbal, or psychological attacks or intimidation directed against victims who cannot properly defend themselves because of size or strength or because they are outnumbered or less psychologically resilient.

Of course any talk of bullying in the 21st century must also mention "cyberbullying". This following definition of "cyberbullying" is from the "Computer Emergency Readiness Team" at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

Cyberbullying refers to practice of using technology to harass, or bully, someone else. Bullies used to be restricted to methods such as physical intimidation, postal mail, or the telephone. Now, developments in electronic media offer forums such as email, instant messaging, web pages, and digital photos to add to the arsenal. Computers, cell phones, and PDAs are current tools that are being used to conduct an old practice.
Forms of cyberbullying can range in severity from cruel or embarrassing rumors to threats, harassment, or stalking. It can affect any age group; however, teenagers and young adults are common victims, and cyberbullying is a growing problem in schools.

Now, that we have some understanding of what bullying is (in theory of course since perhaps you or someone you know has experienced some form of bullying) we go back to what Mr. Swier said and I ask another question: what is his reasoning? If a straight student experiences repeated physical, verbal, or psychological attacks or intimidation it is bullying. But if a LGBT student experiences repeated physical, verbal, or psychological attacks or intimidation it is not bullying but it is instead peer pressure and is healthy since according to Mr. Swier "homosexuality" is a "bad behavior" similar to smoking?

I will not continue to try to understand the logic of such words, including how he compares 'smoking' to 'homosexuality' and so a student being bullied for being gay should simply stop this "bad behavior" and change his "lifestyle" just like a smoker should just quit. What would he say to a straight student that was bullied because someone spread a rumor around the school we may never know. At the least I am glad that Mr. Swier is not a police officer, a prosecutor, or a judge. It does terrify me that there is the small possibility that he could be part of a jury on a bullying case. But that is not the only thing that terrifies me.

To show such a total lack of compassion for other human beings is unbelievable. Anyone that has ever been a victim of bullying would cringe to hear his words, and any parents of a bullying victim that have lost a child to suicide because of bullying would have many things to say about this.

Why do some of us choose to treat a group of people in such horrible ways and justify it? Because to some of us they are the "other", and sometimes the "other" can become something more: a scapegoat. To Mr. Swier it appears that the LGTB community is one of these scapegoats. To him ...In Sarasota County 70% of all HIV/AIDS cases are due to male sex with males. To use statistics in that fashion reminds me of the feelings that fueled the paranoia of the 80's when some people thought shaking the hand of a "homosexual" could give you AIDS.

To turn a whole group of people into a scapegoat is not only tragic, but dangerous. But why, why do we do this to people?

Thomas Merton once said that sometimes we oversimplify; we look at a particular group of people (sometimes it can be a "particular nation, class, race, ideology system" for example) and we create a scapegoat. Then we do the following:

We discharge upon this scapegoat all the virulent force of our hatred, compounded with fear and anguish, striving to rid ourselves of our dread and of our guilt by destroying the object we have arbitrarily singled out as the embodiment of all evil.

I don't believe that Mr. Swier thinks that the LGBT community is responsible for "all evil". But a political activist knows the power of words and he can use those words to influence others. I hope someone from the Florida press is doing a follow-up on this. I also wonder if 'Tea Party Nation' is aware of what he said and if they are then what would they say or do about it?

Finally, I have one last question: what can we learn from all this?

Let us not commit the mistakes of the past. The communities that we perceive as the "other" should not be turned into the latest scapegoat and the reason for what is wrong in our lives.

Let us stand together against bullying in any form that it takes and the suffering it causes. Let us be there for anyone that has been a victim of bullying before they come to the tragic conclusion that is better to leave this world forever.

They will need our love, our support, our help with the healing process and this can take a long time. Even when the physical wounds are healed, the emotional wounds can be horrible.

Also, let us remember that many that engage in bullying are victims themselves of domestic violence, emotional problems and even of bullying by others. We also need to help them before it is too late.

Educate yourselves, talk to your friends, to your children.
If you are a victim of bullying tell someone.
If you suspect bullying report it.

Let us also tell those that justify acts of bullying to stop.
There is nothing "healthy" about acts of physical or emotional violence.
There is nothing "healthy" about repeated acts of intimidation.
There is nothing "healthy" about harassment.

There is nothing "healthy" about bullying. Nothing.