Anyone who makes their living sharing ideas will get plenty of critique– and that’s fair. Sometimes however, (okay, not sometimes but “often”) those of us who make a living sharing ideas get really nasty hate mail– for some reason I’ve always received an impressive amount.
This year I decided to take a very unscientific look back at my year in review to identify those issues which sparked the nastiest messages and comments around the internet. I’ve narrowed my list down to 5 items– though there were more throughout the year, these were the general categories that I think earned the most hate-filled responses.
Now, before I even get to the list there’s a concerning observation: my hate mail comes overwhelmingly from professing Christians– probably exclusively from them. I do occasionally get an “anti-theist” but those are usually just drive-by comments. Those who sit down at home and take the time to draft me a personal email however, have been exclusively professing Christians– something I find troublesome because of all that “love one another” stuff that Jesus said.
With that context in mind, this list could be aptly named the “Top 5 Reasons Fellow Christians Were Angry With Me In 2014.”
And so, here’s the list in unscientific, but pretty accurate, rank-order:
5. Questioning hell.
Christians today sure do love them some hell. Earlier this year I started a series on questioning the traditional view of “eternal, conscious torment” and put forth an alternate theological argument that many Christians and biblical scholars have long held. However, if my in-box is any indication, questioning hell is one of the few things that will earn you a one way ticket to go there when you die. Far too many Christians are absolutely, positively unwilling to consider that the Bible might actually teach something other than the horrible view of hell they grew up with.
Why this is so infuriating to people, I have no idea– I would think it would be “Good News” that the Bible doesn’t actually teach that God is going to slow-roast and torture people for all of eternity. Yet, as Rob Bell learned a few years ago, those of us who come from evangelicalism are not allowed to question hell– even if we’re using the Bible itself to question it. We’re supposed to believe what our pastors have told us, and not question or go to the Bible for answers– anything less, will get you sent to the place you no longer believe in.
You can find the hell series by clicking here.
4. Speaking out against racism.
It has been a sad year in 2014. There have been a shocking number of news stories where yet another unarmed person of color was gunned down in our streets at the hands of authorities. From Ferguson to John Crawford, Eric Garner to Tamir Rice, I have consistently spoken out against police violence and institutionalized racism. I found it extremely concerning that so much of America is resistant to this discussion and to considering the plight of minorities in America. From hateful racist tweets, to comments and emails, speaking out against racism got me called every name in the book during 2014.
All things considered, I remain defiant in face of some of what has been said to me– I will continue to speak out on this. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because my family is bi-racial, and I’m fighting for my own children to live in a better world.
You can find everything I’ve written on race, here.
3. Speaking up for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
The discussion of legalized same sex marriage in America and LGBTQ acceptance in the church is one that won’t be going away soon. In accordance with my belief that Christians should be the most loving, the most compassionate and the least judgmental, I have tried to be a reasonable voice on this issue. I’ve tried to approach the pieces I have written on this with gentleness and humility, knowing that sparks fly just for discussing it.
Yet, it doesn’t matter how delicately you approach it– for too many Christians the slightest sign of love and non-judgement toward our LGBTQ brothers and sisters will earn one a quick and fiery condemnation to be tortured for all of eternity. While other topics earn me greater quantity of hate mail, whenever I show love toward the LGBTQ community I receive the notes that are the most hate-filled.
The LGBTQ archive can be found here.
2. Suggesting that we should love our enemies.
While everything on this list is concerning, as we move into the #2 and #1 slots we begin to see a trend that should have us shouting that the building is on fire.
The number two reason why fellow Christians sent me hate mail in 2014 is actually because I have suggested that we love our enemies. Seriously– think about that for a second. It seems that a lot of my “theological errors” can be met with some gentleness or even grace, but not when I suggest that we’re supposed to love our enemies. That, I have learned, is completely out of bounds for many Christians in America today.
With the comments, tweets, and messages to my inbox, every piece I write on enemy love makes one thing clear: the majority of Christians in America find this idea appalling. As a result, they will bend the Bible into a pretzel to find a loophole on this issue– one that Jesus actually drew a hard line on. While LGBTQ articles make folks more angry, and there’s one other issue that generates more quantity of hate mail, the suggestion that we love our enemies is hands down the one thing that Christians find most offensive.
This grieves me like little else– because I didn’t make up this idea; Jesus said it.
You can catch up on everything I’ve said about loving enemies, here.
1. Suggesting that God, not America, should be the object of our exclusive loyalty.
The number one reason why fellow Christians sent me hate mail in 2014 is something that I actually find shocking. The others on the list don’t surprise me– but this one did, both because of the quantity of mail and because of the level of hatred and intolerance contained in them.
As a Jesus follower, I have repeatedly questioned as to whether or not Christians should be swearing their allegiance to a nation state, or if they should instead be devoted to building God’s Kingdom. I’ve pointed out where America has behaved with depraved indifference towards our fellow humans, spoken out against the slaughtering of lives at our hands, and invited my fellow Christians to resist the idolatry of nationalism.
This, I have learned, is infuriating to people– and that’s a concern. As I said on twitter last night, if your love of country causes you to tell fellow Christians that they should kill themselves, that “love” of country is probably idolatry.
For questioning America and our allegiance to it, I’ve been repeatedly told by fellow Christians that I am “disgusting,” that I should “leave the country,” that I am “weak,” that I “hate America,” that I should “go stand on a hill in front of the next city ISIS will attack,” that I should “die,” and a host more.
And this, my friends should be a wake-up call: the most hate I’ve received hasn’t been through deviating from orthodox theology or questioning traditional interpretations of scripture, but because I have questioned our loyalty to country. That’s a problem– if Christians are more concerned with loving country than they are concerned with loving their fellow Christians– or humanity in general– that “love of country” becomes functionally anti-Christ.
You can find the nationalism archive, here.
Those are the things that earned me the most hate mail in 2014.
Does the list surprise you? What are some creative ways we can shape and reform Christian culture so that these things don’t keep making the list? How can we change things without using the same level of hatred in our speech?