I read the news today, O boy.
The Westboro cult ( I refuse to call them a church) is coming to San Francisco on August 12. They plan to protest at tech companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley which, they say “cram sodomite propaganda down everyone’s throats.”
So here’s what I say: Let’s not get ourselves all a-Twitter and Google-eyed about this. Instead, let’s declare a Summer of Love in their honor. For every ounce of blasphemous vitriol, we will respond with a ton of unconditional love.
Not easy, to be sure. Much easier to respond to hate with hate – or at the least, righteous anger.
But what if we could see this as a real opportunity to put the teachings of Jesus into practice:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for your persecutors. This will prove that you are children of God.
And of the Buddha: Hatred will not cease by hatred, but by love alone. This is the ancient law.
And of Mahatma Gandhi: It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.
I also like these words of wisdom from Maya Angelou: Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.
If we can be so steeped in these teachings and so spiritually grounded that we can withstand the hatred of these people, who will be gone in a blink of the eye, maybe we can also learn to act in love towards the ones in closer proximity – the ones in our families, at work, in other churches. You know who they are. Maybe you’ve written them off as lost causes, far beyond meaningful dialogue.
And maybe they are. But they’re not beyond love. And love is like a virus. It can spread. The Buddha would advise being non-attached to any outcome of such love. Maybe they’ll never change.
But we will.
So, while declaring a Summer of Love may sound like a hippy-dippy thing to do, I’m totally serious. Let’s welcome Westboro with open hearts. Don’t get me wrong: I am not condoning anything they do or say. All I’m saying is that we don’t have to agree with someone in order to love them.
Still sound impossible? At the very least, it’s an opportunity to test our faith. Are you with me?