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Religious justification of hate crime is wrong

Nov. 11, 1998

The recent death of college student Matthew Shepard, reportedly because of his sexual orientation, has spawned numerous actions by people in this country, including appeals for hate-crime laws, suspension of Greek charters and a few passionate letters to the editor of this paper.

Hate crimes are truly cruel and unthinkable and have happened far too often for anyone to ignore any longer. But while the rest of the country is trying to work out a solution, some Baylor students are looking to point the finger of blame, particularly at Christian influences.

One student said in a letter to the editor that he believed the Christian Right, along with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, were indirectly to blame for Shepard's death. In another letter, a student said Shepard's death stands as a grim reminder of what some people will do in the name of religion.

Let me ask this, though. Who said the two young men charged with Shepard's death are Christians, or even believers? We don't know this for sure. No one, to my knowledge, has even asked them why they killed Shepard.

It is true that too many people commit crimes for 'religious reasons.' But I think that these people use Christianity as a front for fear, plain and simple. We are human, and we develop comfort zones and niches. We are raised believing in certain things that make this world good and perfect, and when our comfort zone is breached we feel vulnerable and afraid.

To use religion, especially Christianity, as an excuse to hurt others is an insult to Christ. Second Timothy tells us: 'For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.' A true Christian should use the word of God to support his actions of love, not of hate.

So perhaps our greatest challenge, our greatest problem to solve, is how to communicate to both believers and non-believers the value of a human life, no matter its content. How do we show the rest of the world that we do not have the right to deny any person God's grace and offer of salvation by cutting a life short?

I was taught by my parents that actions speak louder than words, and if I want people to believe that God loves everyone, homosexual or not, I will treat everyone with love--without fear.

(Jennifer Alexander is a sophomore journalism major from Cypress.)

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