Jesus expects us to love even our enemies, but Christians apparently love to hate each other – or at least we talk like we do.
The word “hate” has been thrown around a lot lately, and not just in politics. Evangelicals and Progressives, we need to talk about this kind of destructive language. We need to stop tearing each other down and start showing love and respect.
Don’t you agree?
Our default response, of course, is “yes, you need to stop hating and tearing me down.” Rather, I challenge us all to examine ourselves.
I confess that I use destructive language in my mind – as well as out loud and sometimes in print. I’ve mentally and verbally labeled political adversaries as “stupid” or “ridiculous” many times…and…well…there are some politicians for whom I even harbor hatred.
I need to stop this. I need to do the deep work of heart renewal so that such words don’t come to my mind or my lips. Not gonna lie, this will be hard. But isn’t that what James 1:26 means? –
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
Does that make me a flower-child-kum-ba-yah-snowflake Christian? I think not.
Not only is it respectful, it’s disarming and sensible. That’s why I think we should all – conservative and progressive Christians – consider “bridling our tongues” when talking to or about our opponents.
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What we say
Here are some of the many destructive statements I have read recently – have you said any of them?
“Conservatives hate America and want to destroy it”
“Progressives hate America and want to destroy it”
“Conservatives hate immigrants”
“Progressives hate freedom and the Constitution”
“Conservatives hate homosexuals”
“Progressives are badmouthing Trump because they hate him”
Why we say it
Either there is a lot of genuine hate between us, or we are being too lazy/petty to discern emotional nuance.
I hope and believe it’s the latter. In order to hate someone, you have to have feelings for them – but you can’t have feelings for 75 million people, am I right? Rather, I think we feel something more like apathy or indifference because our opinion of each other is so diminished.
We don’t think of each other as human beings who are made in the image of God and worthy of love and respect.
Our hearts are cold toward each other.
Very Christlike of us all, congratulations, she added sarcastically.
What do we mean?
They “hate America” and “want to destroy it”? – maybe there are a couple of people who actually hate America, but to suggest that half the voting population of our country hate their country and want to destroy it is ridiculous. We all know this. We can put a little more effort, a little more precision into our communication.
What we really mean to say is – correct me if I’m wrong here –
Some [Conservatives or Progressives] want to change things in ways that they think are good, but I believe are ill-advised and could have disastrous results.
(Using the word “some” reminds us that our adversaries are individuals, not a monolith, and lets them know that we’re trying not to over-generalize.)
It takes a lot more effort and self-control to talk like this, but it can be the starting place for a rational conversation.
They “hate immigrants and homosexuals”? – maybe there are a few folks who harbor actual hate toward these groups, but most of us do not.
Maybe what we mean to say is,
I think some Conservatives resent immigrants, believing they steal jobs or might be dangerous, or because they’re not entering the country lawfully.
I think some Conservatives feel uncomfortable about interacting with homosexuals, or are afraid their children might be influenced by them, or think they have an agenda they want to impose on us.
I worry about this because I don’t want these groups to face discrimination or danger.
Statements like these can be constructive – they’re combative, but they have potential. A Progressive who talks like this is showing her listener that she is trying to understand the Conservatives’ issues, even if she disagrees with them. She is conveying respect and inviting dialogue.
They “hate freedom and the Constitution”? – Again, maybe a handful of people really feel this way, but the vast majority love both freedom and the Constitution. I think we all know that.
Maybe what you mean to say is,
Some Progressives are genuinely afraid of gun violence, and want gun control.
Some Progressives fear that certain kinds of speech have the very real possibility of inciting violence.
I am afraid that some of my rights are at risk because of this.
“Progressives are badmouthing Trump because they hate him”? – Conservatives are fully aware that Progressives criticize Trump, not because of some irrational hate, but because we find many of his actions despicable.
So maybe what you mean to say is,
Many Progressives disapprove of many of Trump’s actions – some even hate him.
Can we do it?
America knows that Christianity is at least partly to blame for the division we have today. It’s on us to take a step toward each other. We can start the healing process simply by treating each other like intelligent human beings (no eyerolls, people).
I promise to make a greater effort to do that.
We love our country and all of its people. We need to believe the best about each other.
We need to make an effort to disagree without being hateful, and debate without treating each other disrespectfully.
We want America to “be best” – we have different ideas of what “best” means, but we all want what’s best.
We all want a happy, prosperous country. At least we can agree on that, right?
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