Monday, March 01, 2010

The "Natural Consequences" of Hate

Christina got this exactly right. Once you let "hate" define your views (even if it is just to "hate the sin"), you can't control how it eats away at your soul and undermines your humanity. (See, Keeping it Civil re: hate as the language of politics).

Bob is a friend whose inability to accept responsibility for the natural consequences of his own actions and choices erodes his credibility as a messenger to others on the consequences of theirs.


By Christina Nuckols

The Virginian-Pilot Column

DEL. BOB Marshall looked haggard and bewildered as he searched his cluttered desk Wednesday for a way to explain and soften the hurtful words he had spoken a few days earlier.

“The Bible regards barrenness as a curse, not children,” he muttered as he leafed through the Encyclopedia of Judaism, then reached for a medical journal. “I should have used the term 'physical complications.’ ”

The Prince William County Republican insists his comments at a Feb. 18 press conference were taken out of context, but that rant against Planned Parenthood isn’t easily explained away.

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion who have handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first-born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” he said in a videotaped speech. “In the Old Testament, the first-born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment, Christians would suggest, and with (sic) the knowledge that they have from faith has been verified by a study from the Virginia Commonwealth University. First abortions of the first pregnancy are much more damaging to a woman than latter abortions.”

Advocates for the disabled were enraged when they learned of the remarks, but there was a delayed reaction. Early media reports didn’t include the quote, in part because Marshall was sandwiched between other speakers accusing Planned Parenthood of racial genocide. But the slow response may also stem from Marshall’s split personality. Journalists and fellow legislators struggle to reconcile the rumpled, self-deprecating fellow most genuinely like with the steely crusader who too often wages misplaced attacks on the innocent.

When I first met Marshall in 1998, he handed me a computer disc filled with pornography. It was a startling introduction, but 12 years later he can walk up to me and start discussing the evils of bestiality without inspiring a blush, much less a call to 911. I’ve grown accustomed to his campaigns against abortion and gay rights, but also his work for autistic children. I know all of his tales about tormenting nuns at Catholic school, taking judo lessons from a bodyguard of Chiang Kai-shek and meeting Harry Truman.

His kids have grown from teenagers to adults. Except Chris, who died at age 19 when the pickup truck he was a passenger in struck a tractor-trailer one night in 2001. Since then, I’ve rarely seen Marshall without a camera around his neck.

“I just wanted people to have memories,” Marshall said. “I cried for nine months after his death. A friend of mine who’s a photographer said I needed therapy.”

If I sometimes feel a little protective toward him, I’m also troubled by that other, darker side of Marshall, the one he presents to the rest of the world. My own religious beliefs make it easy to understand his opposition to abortion, but I cannot condone his harshness toward the women who have made that difficult choice.

“I feel sorry for these women,” he said. “I’m the occasion of an unresolved conflict for some women who’ve had an abortion. It’s still bothering them.”

His words are far from convincing, and it’s even harder to explain his attitudes toward gay people. Some of the unborn whose lives he says he is fighting to save would certainly grow up to be gay and therefore second-class Virginians under the laws he has written.

Marshall is consumed by a moral code that blinds him to the consequences of his own actions and words. “Hate the sin, love the sinner” is a nice-sounding mantra that is rarely achieved. Hate isn’t something so easily contained and channeled. It’s a corrosive force that eats away at both the guilty and the innocent, even disabled children and their parents.

I still believe there’s a part of Marshall who understands that and would do anything to retract his malevolent words. But he won’t find it flipping through his theology and medical books.

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