Recent news of Aryan Nation leaders desiring to reside in Grant County has sparked many conversations about how to respond and react to such news. The news has been disturbing to many people of our community because we do not want to become a county or a community known as hate-mongers or as a community associated with such groups.
As a concerned clergy in this county, I have the same concerns. However, I also have a concern about how our community responds. It is crucial we don't violate our own principles in order to oppose such groups. Let us not resort to a hateful response in order to combat hate. How did Jesus respond to all the hate going on in his day? In that day there was great hate and animosity between peoples; much prejudice and resentment. What did Jesus teach?
In John 13:34-35, Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
The response to how we ought to combat such hate-mongers is love. Jesus taught that the way to combat hate is to love one another. When there is a solidarity of love for one another amongst the people, even people that are diverse, there is no room for hate to breed. Groups such as Aryan Nation capitalize on turning people against each other. They capitalize on people's suspicion and animosity against such diversity as another race, or another culture, or even another church denomination. The great way to combat hatred is love for one another.
Loving one another doesn't mean we have to roll over in our convictions. And it doesn't mean we have to welcome such hate groups with open arms. But it does mean we need to respond with love in ways that do not allow hatred to rule the day.
I always think of how love works in difficult situations as a parent. Love doesn't mean I roll over and allow my kids to do whatever they want, especially when it is wrong and it is bad for them. Hatred doesn't mean I will roll over in my convictions of what is right and wrong. What it does mean is that however my response, it will be rooted in love. What it does mean is that sometimes I will respond with tough love. That means, as a parent, because of love, I have to stand very firm on what is right and wrong, but do it with love. Sometimes I have to strongly say, "No, you can't do that."
In the same way, responding with love, we can stand up and say we will not allow hatred to breed within our community through these hate groups, but neither will we bow down to the same tactics of fighting hate with hatred. We will strengthen our solidarity of love within our community and for one another. We will reach out in love to the disenchanted and those who feel alienated from the church, targets of these types of groups. We will encourage solidarity rather than animosity between the churches in our community. We will work toward loving one another as Jesus taught, and there will be no room for hatred to breed.
Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Dan Wiese is the pastor of the Church of the Nazarene in John Day.