Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | October 30, 2018


I’m a huge fan of college football (American football, that is), though I do increasingly worry about the safety of players. In the last few years science and health research have shown us what a career of repeated concussions can do to a person’s brain. Thankfully, some of the rules are changing to help prevent dangerous contact in such a physical sport.

One of those rules is about targeting. According to the NCAA rule: “No player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder.” Targeting is when a player attacks an opponent with the intention to harm or, at the very least, a likelihood of unintentional harm.

Targeting isn’t only a football term.

This past week, my country has seen three white men target groups through terrorist acts. One mailed at least fifteen pipe bombs to people the President of the United States had vilified in speeches and tweets. One shot two black people to death at a Kroger store in my state (his original target was an African-American church, but the door to the church building was locked). Finally, one walked into a Jewish synagogue and murdered eleven people at prayer.

Targeting, in a spiritual sense, is forgetting everything that is important about the common humanity we all share, and going after someone we perceive to be different from us, just because of those differences.

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ [from Mark 12]

As people of faith, we cannot separate loving people from loving God. Those two acts and mindsets are woven from the same cloth—the fabric of life in its diversity, its beauty, its mystery.

We target people not just with violence, but with hateful language and bigotry, with lies and with harmful intentions.

Everyone is pointing fingers this week. Who’s to blame for the incivility, the violence, the murder?

Fingers should be pointed in every direction, but we’re being dishonest if we believe that certain types of language aren’t more dangerous than others.

First, some of the blame rests with the country at large, and all its inhabitants. We have let the rhetoric increase to such a level that it has become psychologically and physically harmful. Social media greatly enhances the quick and toxic repetition of articles that are dangerously and intentionally false. We have voted people into office who use hateful language, and we cheer them on when they do.

Our elected and appointed political and spiritual leaders have a higher level of responsibility, simply because they have an elevated platform from which to speak. If their language incites fear and terror, they should own up to it and apologize for it. If they remain quiet in the face of terroristic targeting, they shirk their responsibilities.

I have been listening to and reading remarks since the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the most deadly attack on Jews in The United States in our history. Some have struck the right tone about the horrors of this targeted event; some have been largely silent.

Then there are those voices that refuse to even imagine that our country’s love affair with hatred and anger against “the other” contributes to violence.

Yes, Mr. President, I’m pointing at you.

No, I don’t draw a straight cause-and-effect line from you to the terrorists. But every time you only half-heartedly condemn Nazi marchers (Charlottesville), embrace nationalism (even this week), cheerfully reenact the body slam by a congressman of a journalist, call the press the “enemy of the people,” or describe a caravan of hopeful asylum seekers as an invasion (it’s not) funded by a Jewish philanthropist (completely without foundation), you contribute to the problem. Yours is the loudest voice in the country, and you obviously enjoy that. You have a responsibility to use that voice to promote peace and justice, to uphold the constitution (not try to override it with some dubious executive order), to care for the weakest among us, to welcome the refugee and immigrant because that’s who we are as a country, and to expose and shut down racist and violent rhetoric, especially among your own followers. I know you love a cheering crowd, but how exciting it would be if you could give people something to cheer about—a platform of unity, wholeness, a positive future for a wonderful country, a coming together around common goals. Love.

Love may not be a political buzz word these days, but it’s the highest Jesus principle of all. We cannot say we love God when we hate our neighbor. Hate is hate.

Love is love.

As we weep for the dead and with the survivors of attacks done in hatred and racism, let us pledge to live in love, and to work to overcome injustice in this world that belongs to God.

Let us target each other’s hearts with the acts and language of love.

© 2018 Melissa Bane SevierIMG_6969, low, blog 1-22-18


  1. […] a term from (American) football to express her horror at the violence of recent days in her blog Contemplative Viewfinder. “Targeting, in a spiritual sense, is forgetting everything that is important about the common […]

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