For the love of God.
It’s a common phrase. For the love of God, can’t you pick up after yourself? For the love of God, why can’t someone do something about these potholes? For the love of God, who is calling me now?
But, for the love of God, we can’t seem to figure out how to love each other. In fact, too often, we use God as an excuse for hatred and violence.
From Muslims massacred in their mosques in New Zealand to Pittsburghers murdered at prayer in their synagogue to arson and vandalism of Catholic churches in France, the places that we find God have been washed in blood and fear.
And I cannot understand why.
I can understand a lot of things. I can make myself see both sides of almost any issue. If the devil has an advocate, I have definitely interviewed for the position. I can even force myself to understand a glimmer of math if the situation demands it.
But I cannot understand hating someone because of the way they worship. Even less can I understand hating someone in the name of God. On His behalf.
I cannot understand why the Sunni and Shiite factions of Islam cannot come together in peace, and I cannot understand the give-and-take violence between Muslims and Jews. I cannot understand the generations of brutality in Ireland between Catholics and Protestants, or how religion and racism were married in the Ku Klux Klan.
And more than anything, I cannot understand why we do not learn.
The Romans threw Christians to the lions. Catholics perfected the art of torture during the Inquisition. The Holocaust was an ungodly horror. Human beings have dragged our ability to hate someone who doesn’t believe what we believe in exactly the same way we believe it along with us as we have become more advanced and “civilized.”
And what has it gotten us? Perhaps the violence done in the name of religion is part of why fewer people are identifying with a denomination. As numbers of worshippers fall off, we are more likely to have someone say “Oh, I’m spiritual. I’m just not religious.” Others identify as “culturally” Catholic or Jewish, but do not practice.
Some will credit a more secular society with less room for God, but given the atrocities that occur in some of the most orthodox areas, I can’t accept that. I think aspects that should bring us together are being swamped by attention to the details that drive us apart, the amplification of the whispers that can become a drum beat of hatred.
We have to put a focus on the peace and the unity. The joy and the celebration. The forgiveness and the humility. They are the aspects that all faiths have in common, outside of the doctrine and the ceremony. They are the common ground where we can gather and hold hands and mourn and apologize and accept apologies and let hurts go.
And we should do it for the love of God.