Hatred is what inspires such acts; acts that are evil by any definition in our theologies.
What are the origins of such hatred?
Sigmund Freud, to get us started, had an interesting theory that he developed — no doubt from his experience of being a Jew in Christian Vienna. He believed that a group is formed by shared ideals and symbols, such as the Cross, but the real energy of group formation comes from a shared hatred for an out-group.
We can take this theory and apply it to religious groups in all of the world religions. Just look at the bloody history of religious wars (e.g., Catholics and Protestants killing each other in Luther's Germany). Or take England, where my own church, the Anglican Church, was born into a society of religious hatred. Many Muslims today view Christians as infidels, and many Christians return the favor.
Freud's theory helps us understand bullying in our schools, where kids sometimes act like a pack of wolves and pick on someone because he or she is black, gay or from the Middle East — to name just three groups all too often picked on by groups united by their own hatreds. Many bullies are cowards when they stand alone. They find their strength in group hatred.
My own theory is that our culture makes most of us feel lousy about ourselves, that we are not pretty or handsome enough, or rich enough, thin enough or popular enough. So, we feel better about ourselves if we can look down on someone else.
Remember that black people were lynched until relatively recently. During FDR's presidency, anti-lynching laws were always defeated, mainly by southern Democrats unified by their prejudice and insecurities.
During college, I worked in factories where I used to hear blue-collar whites often using the N-word, no doubt then feeling better about themselves. They might be poor, but at least they were not black — they probably muttered to themselves. I would guess that this psychology exists in one form or another in our own community.
Do we need to hate others to feel better about ourselves? Can't we accept people for who they are?
One final point: In our local newspapers, far too often people quote the Bible to denounce others; homosexuals, for example. It is hard to believe this today, but in my college factory days, a few of my co-workers used the Bible to accuse black people of being "descendants of Ham" — a description which has been used as a justification of slavery (see Genesis 9:18-25).
Remember, Satan can quote Scripture, too. Those who quote the Bible in such a fashion usually reveal all too clearly their own hatreds.
Sadly, the Bible itself in too many places is filled with hatred: Jews hating Edomites or Canaanites and vice versa. Tax collectors were especially hated by Jews, and one reason Jesus was persecuted was that he shared table fellowship with such people. In the Book of Revelation, you see hatred of Romans by Christians, who sadly often died because of Rome's hatred of Christians. Roman hatred of Jews led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and Jewish hatred of the Romans started the Jewish Wars in 66 AD.
"Tolerance" of each other still implies a position of power where we "tolerate" members of groups that we still may look down upon. Acceptance of each other as being equally loved by God, and as being equal children of God, is a higher principle.
As the black man Rodney King put it after being horribly beaten by white police officers many years ago in California, "Why can't we all just get along?"
— By the Rev. Henry Idema, a Tribune community columnist.