Saturday, March 5, 2011


[Based on the homily of this past Thursday, 3-3]

Two radically different approaches to law were in evidence this past week:  Shahbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani leader and a Catholic, was murdered for his openness to reform of that country's blasphemy laws, in which pretty well anyone can be convicted and given a death sentence (especially a Christian) on "evidence" the quality of which would have been laughed out of court at the Salem witch trials. 

On the other hand, the US Supreme Court voted (8-1) to uphold the rights of a Christian sect in Topeka, KS to go around the country protesting at the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq, on the ground that they see this as a guarantee of freedom of speech from the First Amendment.  Of course, to protest is one thing:  to be vulgar and offensive is another.  But our High Court said that even in such cases, the right is the right. 

My concern here is not so much for the structure of the two countries that either through vigilante action destroy freedom of speech/thought, or through legal precedents protect offensive freedom of speech/thought.  My concern is primarily for the depth of hatred and anger that fuels both the Topeka sect on the one hand and the extremist Islamists on the other.  What leads these groups to believe that it is acceptable either to kill another, or to celebrate another's death, in the name of God/Allah?  What hope is there for reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual co-existence in a world marked by such hatred?

More to the point:  what is the depth of anger and hated in my own heart that might (if pushed far enough) turn me into that kind of person?  Lent is just the time for examining what St Paul knew about his own heart (Rom 7:13-25).  I pray that we might all take these next weeks to make the journey within, to examine and name the Beast, and bring it to heel.

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