On October 27, an unspeakable tragedy was inflicted upon the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in United States history; eleven people were killed and six were injured.
The sole suspect, a 46-year-old man, was arrested and charged with 29 federal crimes and 36 state crimes. Using the online social network Gab, the shooter posted anti-Semitic comments against the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), in which the Tree of Life congregation was a supporting participant.
Referring to Central American migrant caravans and immigrants, he posted on Gab shortly before the attack that “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
In the aftermath of the tragedy, the image of a church banner, encompassing all the differences that fueled the hate that drove the shooter to attack, among others, became viral. The banner reads:
“Love your neighbor who doesn’t look like you, think like you, love like you, speak like you, pray like you, vote like you. Love your neighbor. No exceptions.”
The banner was created by the All Souls Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. Their rector was walking past another Episcopal church that had posted a banner encouraging people to love people, with a long list of very specific characteristics. It inspired him to design a banner to put in front of their church that would transcend any particular political ideology, since all over Washington, DC, one can see banners and signs about many different positions.
The development of the sign echoed the sermon by their presiding bishop, Michael Curry, offered to the world at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018. “Love the neighbor you like and the neighbor you don’t like,” Bishop Curry preached, as many millions of people around the world watched him refer to what Jesus named the second great commandment: “to love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mark 12:28-34 and Matthew 22:35-40).
The idea to “love thy neighbor” dates at least to the early Confucian times (551–479 BCE), according to Rushworth Kidder, who points out that this concept appears prominently in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism and “the rest of the world’s major religions.” One hundred forty-three leaders encompassing the world’s major faiths endorsed the Golden Rule as part of the 1993 “Declaration Toward a Global Ethic,” including the Baha’i Faith, Brahmanism, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Indigenous, Interfaith, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native American, Neo-Pagan, Sikhism, Taoism, Theosophist, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian.
The banner created by All Souls Episcopal Church seems to break down the rule into six categories that our fast-paced, social media-entrenched world can digest. But the word “love,” as powerful as it truly is, may seem too vast, too great or too often misused for things that do not warrant evoking such an emotion to be applied to anyone you “don’t even know that well,” especially at a time when the word “hate” is just as easily used and misused.
But as we approach the end of an election season and the beginning of the holiday season, we should all strive to master the six categories on the viral banner, and if “love” may seem a high bar, start with the word “respect,” the only fitting substitute until love is reached. It can be just as powerful in the sense of one of its definitions: “to have due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions.”
So strive to RESPECT your neighbor who doesn’t look like you, think like you, love like you, speak like you, pray like you, vote like you. RESPECT your neighbor. No exceptions.
For we are more than our political views, Facebook threads or any other individual aspects of our being, like race, religion, sexual identity, country of origin, immigration status or any personal preference. We are all human, and regardless of whether we have strong religious beliefs and strive to live by the golden rule, or have no beliefs at all, we all want respect and even love. We are the ones who have the power, through each one of our actions to infuse that into the world, regardless if some of our leaders choose not to.