Thursday, January 11, 2007

Defeating Hatred in the Culture War

When hatred becomes an industry, a money-making institution, an organized and deliberate force, how do we respond? The hatred industry often revolves around the culture war; both sides have mobilized in a war of bitter words and growing grudges. It's really not so different in principle from when there is enmity on an individual level. There has ever only been one solution to hatred. It's love. Hatred despises love and insults it, considers it useless, holds it in mockery and contempt; but hatred does that with everything, and it gets tiresome. Here is the time for Christians to be an organized and deliberate force that insists on loving its enemies.

The teachings of Christ are as applicable and as workable as ever. They call for sacrifice: sacrificing our own hatred, our own anger, our own bitterness, our own wish for repay evil with evil.

Love your enemies. That includes the most strident, abusive, and abrasive anti-everything-we-care-about hate-monger that exists. He or she is still in the image of God, and we still hope for redemption.

Pray for those who persecute you. So we all have "the enemy" on our personal prayer lists, right? And in the prayers of the church? Not snarky sinful prayers, but real ones that lay our bitterness and grievances at Christ's feet and pray for reconciliation. We need to pray for healing in our land.

Bless those who curse you, return good for evil. There are a good few public figures cursing Christians these days, and plenty of ones who do the same in private lives. We need a good few public Christians returning good for evil, and plenty of ones who do the same in private lives.

Even in political situation, in the midst of a culture war, we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Back to the charts. On the left side below are common injustices that everyone knows their own side has suffered in the culture war. On the right, some ideas on how to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, how to bless those who curse us and return good for evil.

Common injustice in the culture warAs we would have them do to us
Finding the most insane, extreme, or dangerous person on the other side and pretending that is the general case with people on the other side; refusing to notice the sane and reasonable voices among the opposition.Finding the most sane and reasonable person on the other side and considering them carefully.
Insisting that mistakes were not only deliberate, but also done out of stupidity or malice.Realizing that mistakes are part of human nature, and showing mercy instead of vindictiveness in finding and correcting them.
Refusing to imagine that the people on the other side are capable of human decency, or could act from intelligence and kindness.Assuming that the people on the other side or capable of human decency and are acting from intelligence and kindness.
Giving a biased, inaccurate representation of facts, leaving out whatever does not suit our own side.Being conscientiously truthful; refusing to distort facts; refusing to skip items that do not suit our point but instead giving them fair consideration.
Overlooking every decent thing done by the enemy, and every decent point made.Acknowledging when the other side has a point -- not in an exaggerated way, but just avoiding the petty and ungenerous spirit that can result in our behaving unfairly and failing to notice decency in the other side.
Using ridicule and mockery, trying to belittle and dehumanize the opposition.Using gentleness and respect, thereby humanizing both us and them.
Making no effort to accurately understand the points raised by the other side.Making every effort to accurately understand the points raised by the other side.
Not restraining the more hostile or hateful folks on their own side.Restraining the hostile or hateful folks within our own camp.
Interpreting everything in the unkindest way possible, not even troubling to ask why.Reconsidering whether we truly understand; being willing to ask why and listen to the answer.
Being willing to stoop to viciousness.Being completely unwilling to stoop to viciousness; treating even those who mistreat us with gentleness and respect, not because they deserve it, but because of the image of God in them, because we hope for their redemption.
Misrepresenting the other side's point and motives. Making no effort to give a just and honest representation of the other sideAccurately representing the other side's point and motives. Making every effort to give a just and honest representation of the other side.


tgiblin3 said...

I do nit want to say anthing you might object too.
It is alright to think the best about poeple , but the thruth is they may and will do the most obscene things if they are not held responsible for thier actions.Folks that even you think would never do that" may"
may GOD bless

Weekend Fisher said...

Oh, I'm not that overly-sensitive. There's nothing there to suggest that people should not be held to a good standard of behavior and called on it when they don't; the intent is the exact opposite, that everyone (ourselves included) should be held to a high standard. A couple things deserve notice:

1) The people who object to a certain bad behavior from Group A do not necessarily object to the same bad behavior from Group B; and that leaves room to wonder if they are really interested in good standards as such, or interested in good standards only as a stick with which to beat the other group;

2) divisiveness, all by itself, has somehow made groups (and therefore people) feel justified in behaving in petty and ungracious ways towards each other; we cannot allow that to continue as a settled habit, and especially if God is merciful and compassionate then we are also called on to be merciful and compassionate.

3) Christians are called to love our enemies, and it's not limited to when they're reasonable people. Christ said we are to love our enemies because God is merciful and gracious even to evildoers and sinners; who else would need forgiveness?

4) When we behave graciously ourselves, there is better chance for understanding when it is possible;

5) Whether there is ever any hope of reconciliation or not, we will only earn the right to be taken seriously ourselves about those standards of behavior when we hold ourselves to that same ideal.

Take care & God bless

Oloryn said...

I would add:

Get familiar with the the argument technique that C. S. Lewis called Bulverism, learn to avoid slipping into it yourself, and refuse to give Bulveristic arguments credence. Bulverism (in short, instead of rationally trying to prove your opponent wrong, assume they're wrong and just give a background or motivational reason for how they got that way) appears to be increasingly rampant in modern political discourse, and contributes heavily to the tendency to demonize opponents rather than rationally debate.

As Lewis put it, "Until Bulverism is crushed, reason can play no effective part in human affairs". If you want to contribute to rationality and civility in political debate, learn about Bulverism and avoid it.