“I wish Obama had been shot, not Giffords.”

Gabrielle Giffords
Photo courtesy office of Representative Gifford

That’s an actual tweet posted Saturday afternoon, as word spread about the assassination attempt on Representative Giffords in Tucson. Other tweets expressed satisfaction that someone from the Democratic party had been taken down.

It isn’t the first time I’ve seen people wish for the assassination of someone with whom they disagree politically. I read a number of tweets and comments on Facebook after President Obama was elected that expressed a desire for him to be killed.

Since when did it become socially acceptable to wish one of your legally-elected leaders dead?

Since when did it become morally acceptable?

What’s more repugnant is that these comments came from conservatives who claim to be Christians or at least to support Christian moral values.

I suspect they let their passion for their beliefs control their tongues, instead of their heads.

I admit, I’ve been guilty of this. When I read about the Westboro group’s announcement (I won’t refer to them as a church) that they would protest at Elizabeth Edwards’s funeral, I wrote on Facebook that I wish God would strike them dead. A friend pointed out that no Christian should speak that way — it’s no different from that groups’ hatred.

She was right. What I really meant to say, what I should have said, was that I wish God would stop them.

What should a Christian’s response be to something like this?

As I was praying for the people in Arizona and reading 1 Corinthians 13 today, verse 6 jumped out at me:

“[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” (ESV)

In 1 John 4:20-21, we learn that one of the defining characteristics of Christians should be love.

If anyone boasts, “I love God,”
and goes right on hating his brother or sister,
thinking nothing of it, he is a liar.
If he won’t love the person he can see,
how can he love the God he can’t see?
The command we have from Christ is blunt:

Loving God includes loving people.
You’ve got to love both.
(The Message)

(This is how we know the Westboro people are not a church. They do not love people.)

Romans 13: 9-10 elaborates further on what love looks like.

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,
You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,”
and any other commandment, are summed up in this word:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love does no wrong to a neighbor;
therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (ESV)

Rejoicing in the pain and suffering of another, even one whose ideology or politics or lifestyle you dislike, has no place in society. It is especially repulsive coming from those who claim to love God.

We are all brothers and sisters, human beings, with feelings and families and stories of our own. We must remember that before we go spouting off about wishing someone dead. These are words of hate, not love.

Words of hate have no place on the lips, or from the keyboards, of Christians.