Chaplain's thought for the week

News & events

Chaplain's thought for the week

The only answer to hate is love

I’m sure that every one of us will be shocked and appalled by the attacks on two mosques in New Zealand. The gunman is a self-described white supremacist whose ideology is filled with hatred. He wanted to create an atmosphere of fear among Muslims and send the message that nowhere in the world is safe.

Hearing about awful atrocities like these raises lots of questions for us: What does it say about human nature? How can people become so warped that they commit such evil? How can we prevent people from being radicalised to this degree?

Yet, one of the most striking things we witness after an event like this is the unity that most humans share in condemning them; not just the string of world leaders queuing up to denounce evil, but each one of us as well. We don’t even need to think about it: ‘Those actions are wrong,’ we say.

What this shows is that most human beings have faith in the existence of some kind of moral values. But there is no proof that there is any such thing as a moral fact: you can’t reach them through logical analysis; you can’t measure them in a test-tube. To say that something is wrong – or indeed that something is right – is to make a statement of faith. And the way that most of us act within the universe is as if there is such a thing as good and evil.

Christianity and many other major world faiths suggest the source of love and goodness is God – or put in another way, Ultimate Reality, whose very being is Love. To me that seems a lot less difficult to believe in when you already have faith that there is goodness in this universe. It cannot be denied, of course, that many atrocities have been done in the name God, not least among Christians.

But to me the test of the genuineness of any faith or worldview – religious or non-religious – is whether it leads us to greater love, whether it helps us to overcome our own self-obsessions and desires for power over others. That is why I agree with the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, who says: ‘My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness’.

So as we reflect on events in New Zealand and rightly say that they are wrong, we also need to look at our own lives. There is no point in condemning large scale atrocities if we don’t try to create more goodness in our own lives. There is no point in denouncing the hatred we see in others if we don’t try to uncover and change the hatred we find within. There is no point in calling something evil if we act without any moral compass in the rest of our lives.

In the teaching of Jesus we find the idea that we need to overcome all of our hatreds. He says this: ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy”. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ The only answer to hate is love. In the words of Martin Luther King: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that’.

Let us work for a world in which there is more love.