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(photo credit: AP)
Saddam Hussein's execution reminded us that some crimes are so heinous no society can tolerate them, and that when you murder more than one million people, even traditional opponents of the death penalty might just applaud when you hang.
It is a lesson the Catholic Church would do well to contemplate. Last week, the church broke ranks with nearly every moral voice and came out publicly against Saddam's execution. But if that were not enough, Pope Benedict XVI granted a private audience to a delegation of Iranian officials, led by Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki, whose ministry sponsored the recent Holocaust denial conference in Teheran.
The pope is the foremost spiritual leader on earth. It shocks every moral sensibility that he would choose to legitimize a wretch like this. More troubling yet, the pope conveyed warm greetings to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad through the delegation.
Warm greetings? Ahmadinejad is calling virtually every week for Israel's annihilation. Does the pope have anything to share with this man aside from his contempt? One would hope that a pope who witnessed the Holocaust and the destruction of the Jewish people would practice extra caution before hanging out with those who wish to renew Hitler's efforts.
LET'S NOT finesse this. Ahmadinejad is an international abomination who can lay strong claim to being the single most hate-filled man alive. Surely the pope can find more worthy recipients of his time and graciousness?
Pope John Paul II was a man of great courage who helped to challenge and defeat communism. Yet even he made the repeated mistake of legitimizing terrorists, repeatedly meeting with Yasser Arafat. But if one might excuse those meetings on the grounds that other world leaders did the same, the pope's actions at the time of Arafat's death were jarring and incomprehensible. He praised Arafat as "a leader of great charisma who loved his people and sought to lead them toward national independence. May God welcome in His mercy the soul of the illustrious deceased and give peace to the Holy Land."
Did anyone seriously believe that God was going to welcome this baby-killer into heaven rather than placing him in hell? Why would virtuous and righteous men like John Paul and Benedict make such outrageous mistakes?
The Catholic Church seems to spend a great deal of time upholding its standards of sexual morality, like condemning gay unions and contraception, and comparably little time condemning the tyrants and dictators who slaughter the children whose lives the church declares to be holy. So why the omission?
It bespeaks an unfortunate and continuing pattern on behalf of our Christian brethren to refuse to hate evil. Many of my Christian brothers and sisters mistakenly believe that God forbids hatred. They quote Jesus' teaching to turn the other cheek and his admonishment to love your enemies as proof that we dare never hate.
AS A radio host, I am called by many evangelical Christians who say that in God's eyes we are all sinners, and thus from a heavenly perspective Osama bin Laden and the average housewife from Kansas are equal. Bin Laden must indeed face justice for his crimes, but we dare not hate him seeing that Jesus still loves him.
But this is a travesty of Jesus' teachings. It would make this great Hebrew personality into someone who had contempt for his victims as he extended love to their murderers. Jesus advocated turning the other cheek to petty slights and affronts to honor, not to mass graves and torture chambers.
Likewise, while Jesus taught that we ought to love our own enemies, this did not apply to God's enemies. Our enemies are people who take our parking spot or who are our rivals for a promotion at work. God's enemies are those who slaughter his children.
Let not any Christian think that Jesus' sympathy was for anyone other than the oppressed and the poor. True, the Bible commands us to "love our neighbor as ourselves," but the man who kills children is not our neighbor. Having cast off the image of God, he has lost his divine spark and is condemned to eternal oblivion, from which not even a belief in salvation will rescue him.
He who murders God's children has been lost to God forever and has abandoned all entitlement to love, earning eternal derision in its stead.
AMID MY deep and abiding respect for the Christian faith, I state unequivocally that to love the terrorist who flies a civilian plane into a civilian building, or a white supremacist who drags a black man three miles while tied to the back of a car is not just inane, it is deeply sinful. To send warm greetings to an Iranian president who has just hosted a former head of the KKK is an affront to blacks throughout the world just as much as it is to Jews.
To love evil is itself evil, and constitutes a passive form of complicity.
We are all known by the company we keep. If Ahmadinejad of Iran called for the extermination of all the world's Catholics, the pope might think twice before meeting his representatives. He ought to accord the same respect to his Jewish brethren.
The writer is host of The Learning Channel's television program "Shalom in the Home," whose second season begins on January 21. He is currently writing a book on the necessity of hating evil. (www.shmuley.com).
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