During my morning news-browsing, I became aware of the despicable statements made by Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson regarding the tragic events in Haiti. I was angry. I then began connecting the dots to those who keep company with these men either by sympathetically listening to their commentary or simply in sharing more-than-less of their views on politics.
Almost immediately, I began to draft a post that used the obvious ugliness of Limbaugh and Robertson’s words to indict not only them, but everyone who might find themselves sharing company with Limbaugh or Robertson on politics and/or religion. I was calling-out all Republicans, so-called conservatives, Evangelicals, and especially my Catholic brothers and sisters whose political sentiments are often in harmony with those groups.
Having such a clear misdeed in sight, the logic was easy: guilt by association.
As I tore into Limbaugh, Robertson, and the poor souls who would not be able to squirm out of my guilt-by-associationist grasp, I realized that the true meaning of my post was simple and misguided. I was verbally, mentally, and rhetorically trying to hurt people.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not completely opposed to the inevitable discomfort that comes along with truth. I know that reality is painful. It is true: love hurts.
But, when the pain inflicted causes me delight, there is something amiss. If I take joy in the pain of others, then the truth I speak is void. Without love I am a clanging gong in the wind.
And too many times I sound like that annoying, ear-ringing gong. That is not to say that what I speak is relative or trivial—or even wrong outright. Inconveniently, it also doesn’t hide the fact that is much more radical than a rebuttal that comes on the coat-tails of damning evidence.
What is that radical fact?
That I am called to love my enemy. That I must love Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson. And you should too. How do we love such people who say and do such horrible things?
I am not sure. I have to admit that I am speechless as to where to begin. But I do know this: This task, the task of loving enemies, is a more worthy task than the easy work of taking delight in the pain of others that comes in undressing them with their wrongdoing, or wrongdoing-by-association.
This is not a perfect balance. I am not trying to sermonize. The dilemma is how to speak truth to power in love—true love.
It seems to me that if love is really a worthwhile alternative to the norms of hatred and violence, then, we should begin now by loving those hardest to love at the present moment. Otherwise, we become the ones holding the stones in our hand ready to kill the prostitute.
Jesus had no kind words for the Pharisees, but he forgave them all at the Cross. He loved them. He loved us. We must love too. The challenge is to know where to begin.