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May 6, 2021

Love is stronger than hate

On Jan. 1, as the New Year began, a young woman was laid to rest. Claire Davis was her name and she was 17 years old.
Perhaps we are used to hearing about school shootings and deaths of young adults and children, but I was struck as I heard the words that Claire’s father spoke at her service that maybe there is something we can do to help others so that school shootings can become a thing of the past and we can move on into a better future.
Why do I say that? I say that because Claire’s father did something remarkable that day — he forgave her killer. Indeed, he invoked the killer’s name, a name many had refused to speak.
“The young man that shot Claire had a name. His name was Karl Pierson,” the father said at the memorial. “For reasons most of us, or all of us, will never know, Karl allowed himself to become filled with anger and rage and hatred…..That anger, rage and hatred blinded him. He blindly followed a path that led him to do something that no one should ever do. He took an innocent person’s life. He took our daughter’s life,” Michael Davis said, his voice cracking.

We learned that Claire spoke to Karl right before he shot her, and her father said that her words were, “Oh my gosh Karl, what are you doing?” But Karl was so blinded he didn’t know what he was doing.
Then Davis said these words, “My wife and I forgive Karl Pierson.”
Wow! “My wife and I forgive Karl Pierson.” Those words took my breath away. That act to me speaks volumes. I can’t even imagine how difficult that act was, to forgive the person who murdered your child. Davis’ words did not end there. He continued by saying that Karl had been so blinded by his emotions that he didn’t know what he was doing and that Claire in her words tried to shine a light on Carl’s darkness.
“Karl’s no longer with us. So it’s no longer our responsibility to pass judgment …Unchecked anger and rage can lead to hatred, and unchecked hatred can lead to tragedy, blindness and … loss of humanity.
“The last thing that Desiree and I would want is to perpetuate this anger and rage and hatred in connection with Claire. Claire would also not want this,” Michael Davis said.
“As citizens of our community, the state of Colorado, our nation and the world, we must strive for kindness, compassion, peace and love to maintain our humanity. We can’t allow anger, rage or hatred to take root now or ever,” he said.
“We would like to ask you to join us and honor Claire by forever showing compassion, forgiveness, inducing whatever is within your power to reach out to those around you that might need the light of your love to help guide them to through the darkness,” he said.

So what can I do? What can we do? How can we make a difference? We can shine love and light on others, especially those who are walking in darkness and pain. As we move further into this year, as we move through the season of Lent, this word reminds us that love can, and does, redeem that which is ugly and horrible and unjust and terrifying.
Love truly is stronger than hate and while there is still darkness it can never have the last word as long as we have love and the light of God leading us into compassion and mercy.

Carol Hallman is resident pastor at First UCC, 207 W. Horah St.

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