Haß ist ein Gift!
Song of Solomon 8:6 English Standard Version (ESV)
I was reminded this week of the address by The Most Rev Bishop Michael Curry … the first black presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of the US Evangelical Union at the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. In that rousing wedding speech, which some say stole the show, he himself quoted none other than Martin Luther King and, perhaps less well-known to Joe Public, the Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest, scientist, scholar and mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The former talked of the power of love: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.” The latter said that the discovery, invention or harnessing of fire was one of the greatest of all scientific and technological discoveries in the history of human kind”. He went on to ask what miracles we could achieve if we were able to truly harness the power of love in a similar way!
The date of 18th May 2018 is forever etched on my memory, but for another reason: whilst the nation celebrated the joining of a young and famous couple, Trinity’s beloved Joan went to be with her heavenly Father! Thus was the theme of the power of love crystallized.
These last few weeks since the last time I wrote, it seems that we see less and less of the power of love, yet more and more of the power of hate and the love of power.
Some years ago, about 7, I think, I found myself accompanying the school German exchange to Oppenheim, a small town near to Mainz and itself close to Frankfurt am Main in the State of Hessen. My teacher host was the scarily named, yet kindest and most generous of guys you could ever wish to meet, Rochus Wolf. My erstwhile Head of Department and long-time friend had established the link some years prior to this and in a different school. We have all remained the best of friends. As well as being a brilliant linguist and speaker of English, Rochus, I found out, is a very accomplished musician too – principally as a pianist and singer. Over the weekend we were there, I tagged along to an open-air gig in a nearby town where he and his band (including his two sisters) were performing. The music was amazing, though the weather was the complete opposite: the rain siled down and put a huge damper on the enthusiasm of the crowd gathered at this small sleepy town of Hanau as it celebrated Demokratie für Sport.
Imagine my shock and surprise when I heard of this latest atrocity to afflict the German nation. I thought I was hearing things and was not even sure that I had remembered correctly. A man had attacked two shisha bars and killed 9 people before returning home to murder his elderly mother and then turning the gun on himself. I contacted Rochus immediately and he told me that I was right, though he and Christine were away in Austria on a skiing holiday. I was struck by that same desire, experience so many times already, to turn the clock back, so that some quirk of fate or divine intervention might change the course of events and spare these unfortunate souls this abject and random waste of their lives. Rochus revealed the chilling fact that the perpetrator of this heinous crime had been at the same school as he had and that he had been in the same year group as one of his sisters.
What drives such people as these? What happens to change them? What turns them into monsters? What have we learnt from history, if anything? What can we do to prevent these things happening again? The questions keep coming, whilst the answers continue to evade us.
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, was quick to respond: “Haß ist ein Gift… Rassismus ist ein Gift”. The word “das Gift” is a ”treuloser Freund”, a false friend, in the fullest sense, for it has a meaning far removed from the assumed. Rather than being something you would wish to give to your best friend, it is something to be avoided at all costs, because its meaning is “poison”! So she said “Hate is a poison… Racism is as poison.” The poison seeps into a person’s body, bloodstream, muscles bones and organs until it occupies every part of the body and mind and, sooner or later destroys the life of the individual. There is only one antedote to this poison, that of love borne of forgiveness.
Surely, no-one could have remained untouched by the recent tragic death of Caroline Flack nor could have truly appreciated the pain and suffering she must have been feeling in deciding that the only answer was to take her own life. How many of us, again must have wished that the clock could be turned back and that someone could have convinced her of the power of love, borne of forgiveness. The real sadness and tragedy is that this scourge on our society is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK:
Suicide is a significant national social issue in the United Kingdom. In 2017 there were approximately 5,821 registered deaths by suicide in the United Kingdom, equating to an average of 16 suicides per day in the country. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the country. (Wikipedia)
Worse than this is the fact that the numbers are increasing in men year on year, where suicides amongst women remain at a consistent rate:
- In 2018, there were 6,507 suicides registered in the UK, an age-standardised rate of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 population; the latest rate is significantly higher than that in 2017 and represents the first increase since 2013.
- Three-quarters of registered deaths in 2018 were among men (4,903 deaths), which has been the case since the mid-1990s.
- The UK male suicide rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000 represents a significant increase from the rate in 2017; for females, the UK rate was 5.4 deaths per 100,000, consistent with the rates over the past 10 years.
These are just numbers and behind every single one lies a real-life human tragedy with enormous ramifications and touching the lives of many thousands of others. Each case is an opportunity missed to minister the power of love borne of forgiveness.
A constant theme running through my thoughts and prayers is that of the power of the media… and particularly social media, to spread hate. It is hard to believe the level of cruelty perpetrated by many who hide behind the screen of anonymity. What drives these people to do what they do? What hurt do they feel in their own personal life which justifies this action? What do they hope to achieve? I pray that they may see the light and power of love borne of forgiveness in their own lives, because it is clear that they are living in darkness.
Nor do we see the light in many of those in the highest positions of authority in the country, who seem to be driven by the love of power without forgiveness. Irrespective of political persuasions, people are being cast aside, because they do not agree on everything with the central caucus. This is up there amongst the largest threats for democracy, together with an over-powerful media and the proliferation of unelected SPADs (Special Advisers) in this Disunited Kingdom.
We as Christians have to be the light to others, leading the way to the power of love, borne of forgiveness through Jess Christ.
It may be one of the most of quoted passages of the Bible, but we al need a reminder!
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Cor 13: 4-13
Peter Lambert – March 2020