“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.
That’s Jesus, quoting Hosea.
In my post on the suicide of Matthew Warren, I focused on the mercy of God, as is proper in the wake of a tragedy. There’s more that can be said about the mentally ill, suicide, the soul, and salvation, and in time I hope to say it. The piece circulated pretty widely, and some commentators expressed concern that the de-emphasis on damnation as the just punishment for self-murder might remove one of the last obstacles holding back some suicides: the fear of Hell.
I get that concern, and I realize we’re walking a fine line here. We can’t rule out the possibility of damnation, but we can certainly hope it is not the case, and hope was all I wanted to offer. Hope and mercy.
The Church is the hospital for souls, and many of those souls die in sin: sin so black that the possibility of salvation seems unthinkable, even unjust. Yet even without embracing controversial ideas about universal salvation, we may hope that the souls of those who die in sin or disbelief may still be purified in the flames of Purgatory, as if by fire. The Fatima Prayer is pretty clear on that point: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.”
Note the “all.” Note the “mercy.”
No Christian should ever hope for the damnation of anyone, or even casually suggest its likelihood Even atheist Penn Jillette, to his eternal credit, gets that. Although he doesn’t believe in the soul or Hell, he knows this much: you must really hate someone to wish eternal suffering on them. That much hate cannot be reconciled with real faith.
Which brings me back to the internet, and the shambling souls of the living dead who mock life, death, grief, and all that anyone of any reason should approach with at least some small measure of dignity. People used to know to observe simple propriety when dealing with someone who is suffering, or someone who has died.
But given the ability to comment instantly, widely, and anonymously, a sizable portion of the population has reverted to a subhuman kind of behavior that truly does shock, and not in the ways they hope to shock. Even dingoes have been observed grieving. There is, in the face of death, a moment where your hatred gives way to your humanity.
The internet erases that through some kind of mass psychosis, leading to people to taunt parents grieving the death of their cherished son and celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher. The vitriol boiling up from the bowels of the internet was nothing short of satanic. I don’t remember a lot of cheering when Hugo Chavez died, since those who didn’t like him tended to be a) conservative and b) Christian, and thus usually know better than to mock the dead. Most responses were, “May God have mercy on his soul.” It was certainly nothing approaching the large scale mockery and celebration that the Warrens and the Thatchers had to endure.
It’s monstrous, and I hope should the worst ever happen to us we have half the dignity and Christian charity displayed by Rick Warren:
That’s the power of grace. It doesn’t come from your brain: it comes from the Holy Spirit. It’s a gift.
The people who are displaying their hate and inhumanity are striking out from the darkness of fear and disbelief and ignorance. You cannot gleefully mock the death of a 27 year old stranger or a sick old lady and make any reasonable claim to being a happy, well-adjusted person. I don’t even do that to my enemies.
God doesn’t want your hate. He doesn’t even want your sacrifices. As Hosea–as Christ himself–said: God wants your mercy.