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The steeple of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston/Wikipedia photo by Spencer Means

Hate crimes happen because of judgement, separation

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By Joe Niemiec 

I sit here not angry, but broken-hearted. It is 2015 and we have not yet, as a race, found a way to move beyond anger and outright hate in order to express ourselves. This writing is stirred by current news from South Carolina, while at the same time stirring up local experiences for me.

I walked in the Pride Parade last Saturday, with my wife and a number of other clergy, while at the same time in the protest area, Christian protesters were spreading what I term “hate and judgement.” You may say it was only a small percentage and you would be right…unless you consider there are hundreds of churches in the area and most have no desire to support people on their spiritual path unless that path totally conforms to theirs. There were nine Christian clergy in the march that I was aware of and I applaud them for their bravery in stepping out in support of the Pride Parade.

Let me be clear: I believe when we teach judgement we are teaching separation and hate. It is one thing to discern differences — opinions, lifestyle choices, etc. and another to judge. Discernment carries no sense of opinion around the perceived differences. By teaching judgment, we give permission to individuals to “right” perceived wrongs. When I teach my child, “they” are different from “us,” I am also creating the opportunity to believe that “they” are not as worthy as “we” are of being here.

I respect people’s right to choose their belief system, i.e. religion; however, I do have a serious problem when that religion is used to disseminate hate. When will we quit using ancient texts to justify our racism? When will we, as a country and possibly as a race, begin serious conversation on ending violence and opening a new chapter in human communication?

When can we open the news and not read of another racial crime, whether it be based on color or sexual preference?

Please join me in a prayer of seeing the good in all people, developing loving relationships, and finding a way of co-existence rather than separation.

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Joe Niemiec

About Joe Niemiec

The Rev. Joe Niemiec Jr. began his spiritual quest in 1986 when he walked out of a Houston jail and was struck by the realization that his life was in shambles.

He began his quest for ‘getting back on track’ with 12 step programs, followed by learning and practicing meditation with a local Redding, California, teacher.

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