Being an evangelical Christian, of course, I grew up with vicious hatreds implanted deep within my heart. Hatred (I refuse to use “hate” when the proper word is “hatred”) for women who obtain abortions. Hatred for gays. Hatred for criminals and illegal aliens. Hatred for people of other faiths. Hatred, basically, for anyone unlike myself and my cru.
For a long time, I resisted this argument. I spent time with people who had abortions, and with friends who were openly gay, and with people whose faiths were diametrically opposed to my own — but I never felt hatred toward any of them. Love, yes. Compassion, to be sure. Concern, sometimes. But not hatred. Someone must have spiked my haterade, because I couldn’t seem to find within myself all these hatreds that, I was told, seethed and festered deep within me.
The curious thing was, I didn’t find this burning hatred in the evangelical Christians around me, either. They were good-hearted people. They took women in crisis into their homes. They worked with troubled youth and delivered food to the homeless. They started tutoring programs for children in East Palo Alto. Many (though not all) of them supported Reagan, Bush 1, Bush 2 and John McCain — which, I guess, means that they hated science, rationality, the environment, and evolution. But if they were filled with hatred for actual people groups, it must have been buried down deep. Most of these men and women in the churches I attended felt, as I do, that abortion is wrong and that marriage was ordained by God for the joining of male and female. Many of them were strongly opposed to illegal immigration. Still, try though I might, I couldn’t peel back all the layers of kindness and sincere conviction to find the trembling, bigoted, hate-filled hater underneath it all.
Now, I no longer resist the argument. I’m willing to confess. I am a Christian — a conservative evangelical Christian to boot — and there are many things I hate. I am hate-filled.
I hate that I fall short of the imitation of Christ. I hate the sin that threatens to consume me, and hate that I so often take for granted the grace that refuses to allow me to be consumed. I hate my pride and I hate the fact that I have hurt people.
I hate that when some people hear that I’m an evangelical Christian, they assume that I must hate them. I hate that I and other Christians have sometimes done or said things that contributed to that assumption. I hate that not only I, but other Christians around the world and throughout history, have sullied the name of Christ and marred the image of the Bride of Christ. But I hate too that we live in an inverted world where love is sometimes mistaken as hatred, where the truth is sometimes painful and offensive. So I hate the caricature but I also hate that we have helped to create it.
I hate that unborn children are exterminated before they have had a chance to enjoy the gift of life. I hate that hundreds of millions of men and women, boys and girls are not alive today because of abortion worldwide, and the world has lost a treasure trove of creativity and joy and ingenuity. I hate that women are sometimes pressured by men or by parents into abortions they mourn and regret; I hate that women are sometimes misled into believing that abortion for the sake of convenience is okay; as a father of two beautiful girls, I hate that unborn baby girls in particular are aborted in a twisted consequence of the “women’s rights” crusade for abortion. But I also hate that so many women find themselves in terrible circumstances (I hate too that so many men are deadbeats) where they feel like abortion is their only hope.
I hate that my gay friends find my views offensive. I hate that my convictions on this issue come between us. And, I confess, I hate that it’s not up to me. I hate that I’ve never found the arguments in favor of the view that the Bible does not really condemn homosexuality convincing. I hate that the meaning of the covenant of marriage is not mine to define. I hate that Christians have often failed to show love and reconciliation and forgiveness toward gays. I hate that Christians have not always made it clear that God loves them and seeks them just as passionately as God seeks everyone else. I hate that we have sometimes made it seem as though God will have nothing to do with gays until they leave their homosexual behavior behind, as though God redeems us after we are no longer sinners.
I hate that Christians have often fallen short of the example of Jesus Christ and been unkind and ungracious toward those whom society rejects and maligns. I hate that gays are bullied. I hate that some backwards church in Bigotville, USA, cheers at the notion of “homos” going to hell. I hate that children who feel same-sex attractions get mockery and judgment instead of compassion and care. I hate that many gays feel that, without access to marriage, they are second-class citizens. But I hate too that the homosexual debate has been defined in such a way that there is no space for loving disagreement. I hate that I’m told that my view, that marriage is a sacrament and a covenant defined by God for the union of male and female, is hateful by virtue of the fact that it oppresses a people group. I don’t believe that’s true, but I hate that the traditional Christian standpoint has been framed as hateful, and I hate that there are gays who hate the “hateful” Christians. Because I don’t hate gay people, and I certainly don’t hate my gay friends, but I hate that I’m told that I must hate them, and I hate that some part of those friends will never accept me because I’m trying to be faithful to what I believe God has made known. I hate that this debate has pitted us against each other, because I love them and respect them and want to enjoy our friendship.
I hate that none of this will change anyone’s mind. I hate that I will still be thought to hate gays even though the truth is that I hate the fact (even though I understand it, from their perspective) that this whole issue comes between me and the gay people I love.
I really hate that my Christian faith, which is so much richer and deeper and more beautiful than these issues on hot-button topics, is so often understood through their prism. I am tempted to say that these are vanishingly small parts of my faith, but the truth is that they are not parts of my faith at all. They are consequences of my faith, applications of the truths and the values that I profess, but they are nowhere near the heart of my faith.
I still can’t think of any people groups I hate. But that’s it. I’ve confessed. I’m a hater. Hate-filled. And I hate that too.