You've probably seen it by now, it's gone viral after all. A North Carolina Baptist preacher, saying his solution to the gay marriage controversy is to round up all the gays and lesbians and put them inside electric fences (separated by gender, of course), drop food via helicopter for them and just wait for them to die out, then there will never be a gay person on the earth again (huh?). In his mind, this solves the "problem".
Two fallacies come to mind here: (1) that's about as loving and Christ-like as Hitler's "great solution" and (2) I don't think he understands that gay people are born from consummation by straight people. Must've missed that biology class when he was out on a field trip to prove the earth is only 6000 years old.
I refuse to give the guy any more free press, so I am not posting the footage here. Suffice to say it's a pretty sickening thing to watch, but if you want to see the video, it's on YouTube. And CNN. And Huffington Post. It's out there, as are this pastor's hateful beliefs.
However, my reason for posting this is not to talk about how much I'd like to drop this dude from a helicopter into the mosh pit at a Streisand-themed Cirque du Soleil show. No, I'm sure we all have our thoughts on how we'd like to school this dude, but I'm gonna try not to go there. Much.
Instead, I'd like to ask how one reconciles compassion for the compassionless. When I first commented on this mess on Twitter, a likeminded Buddhist Tweeter (hey, there's a fun phrase) asked me, "So here's the Zen koan in all this: how do you find compassion for this guy? Because mine runs out long before it gets to his ilk."
I'm with her. I could sit for a lifetime and ponder that one. Yet, it's exactly these folks who likely need to not be repudiated with an eye-for-an-eye mentality, mostly because that's their forte. What catches them off balance and makes their conscience start to blossom is when you respond to their hate with something resembling....(gulp!)...love.
And that's the hardest thing in the world to do. Forget Everest, this is the summit we're charged with scaling in life, and I'm not sure more than a few handfuls of folks have managed to pull it off. In fact, most of the ones who were on their way to such noble heights were murdered and martyred by guys like this one.
And yet, men and women like this pastor are the very same people that need their frighteningly hardened hearts softened, their venom-encrusted eyes opened. And I am at a loss - for him, for Westboro Baptist Church protesters, for Islamic radicals, for anyone who walks through this world so filled with hatred for a group of people based on different dogmas or desires. Where do we begin? It's easy to vent with an anonymous comment on the internet. Yours is bound to stand out above theirs, after all, because it will utilize correct spelling and grammar. But that's not the answer either. I've tried it. It makes me feel better, until one of them writes something back aimed at me - typos and all - and then the serve and volley has begun. We just keep this circle of samsara going, and these sharks feed on our righteous anger as much as we feed on their close-mindedness and misspellings.
No, somehow we're supposed to rise above the dreck and the vitriol and represent something more noble. But when you see such ignorance being spouted with such arrogance, how do you reach for the dharma instead of the tire iron?
Don't look for an answer here because I don't have it. Most of us don't.
They say that after this video went viral, the church's phone lines were constantly busy, his home machine was full, and his email box began to bounce back missives. One can assume they were all flooded - some with sick little cheers of support, some with equally twisted threats of violence, and hopefully, somewhere in there were some people who broke through the extremes and spoke with measure and mindfulness. And maybe, just maybe, one of them said something so full of truth and compassion that won't let this guy sleep at night until he thinks things through a bit more.
I guess the best I could hope for if I got sixty seconds on his voicemail would be to tell him about some of my lesbian and gay friends - many of whom share his faith - and all of whom want the same things out of life he wants: to be treated fairly, to have a chance to raise a family, to be looked at without harsh judgment, and to not be told they are excluded from freedom or a shot at whatever they define as salvation. Doesn't sound like too much to ask, but there always seem to be a group of people bent on denying others these opportunities. It's usually the same group of people.
How this fella is gonna get to the other shore across a River Styx of his own making is beyond me. My job is to get myself there by not giving into the baser emotions I feel about him and others like him. I can't fix him. I can only make me a little better by recognizing his bile as baggage, his hubris as suffering.
People like this make the journey difficult. But they're out there. And how we handle them can change the entire spiritual landscape. If not for them, at least for ourselves. But it ain't easy.
No one said it would be easy.