“In time we hate that which we often fear.” ― William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra
I felt hatred in me today, like I have not in a very long time. I guess that it has been building for some time, a reaction to things that I have experienced at the hands of people that at one time I thought were my friends as well as total strangers. The sad thing is that almost every single one of these people claims to be a Christian, some pastors and even some men that served with at the altar. People in some cases that I have known much of my adult life.
I found my self saying that I was beginning to hate Christians, prefaced with a few adjectives. I was so disheartened to being run over by someone that I didn’t even know on a social network because I dared to mention that race was an issue for some people in the current election campaign. The man unleashed a barrage and was joined by several others. I had posted my comment in relation to a friend’s post last night and forgot about it. However when I checked my account at noon today I sat back in stunned amazement at the unbridled hatred that was spewed at me by name in very long sermon like posts by people that I didn’t even know. Without seeking clarification or asking I had been labeled and trashed by these folks. My friend defended me with great aplomb in those exchanges but these people had their minds made up.
After attempting to explain and even apologize another couple of people joined in and none heard a word I was saying. Instead they were saying that other peoples racism justified theirs. It was as if I was a speed bump on their way to bludgeoning their way to winning an argument and justifying their own prejudice. I finally exclaimed “why do I live?” because I was now despondent at the lack of listening, or even care about who I was or what I meant. For a brief moment I thought that it would be better if I was dead.
And then the anger rose and I began to feel real hatred for these people as well as others who have done similar things over the past few years to me, as well as those who have walked away from me after I was asked to leave my former church. I never believed that friendship or love was conditional on agreeing with people or what they believed, especially after my return from Iraq, my PTSD induced life of depression, anxiety and insomnia which led to a collapse of faith for a period of about two years. When faith began to return it was different, I was more accepting of those that were different from me and found that it was often non-Christians who treated me with more care, love and concern than my “Christian” friends. In fact no clergy asked how I was doing spiritually or emotionally as I sank into the morass. It was a my therapist who was the first person to ask “how I was doing with the big guy?”
While faith returned to my life I have had to deal with how painful the break in relationships with friends has been. I have felt rejected and judged as heretical and have been called as much by some. Heretic and apostate have been some of the kinder terms used by former colleagues in ministry. Even more painful than outright rejection is the silent rejection of those that promise to stay in contact and remain friends who then never contact you again or respond to calls, messages or e-mails.
For me this election season has been a living hell as I watch friends make the most un-Christian comments about those that they disagree with all in the name of “Christian values” at times taking shots at me in the process for simply pointing out the blindness of marrying one’s faith to any particular politician or political party. I did that for years and it wasn’t until I came back from Iraq that I realized how poisonous and deadly this kind of attitude was.
Right now I am despondent about the state of this country but even more concerned about the state of the church. It is no wonder that people are leaving in droves. We are defined not by the love of God, the grace of God or the message of reconciliation lived and preached by Jesus but rather what and who we are against. But even more than that I am concerned that I am beginning to hate back, and that bothers me more than anything because while I have no control over what other people do but I do have control of how I respond. So when I felt the hate rising I felt like I was betraying myself.
Martin Luther King Jr. said “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” I don’t want to live in that paralysis of hatred for anyone, even those that for whatever reason, be it fear, hatred or prejudice or even a response to being a victim themselves.
But even in my despair I do believe the words of scripture that say that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:19) or that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7 “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” In my case responding to hate, prejudice and disrespect with hate. That depresses me.
Pray for me a sinner.