Hate Is Louder than Love

Standard

“Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable 
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.”

–Indigo Girls

This one makes me sad to write. But it’s also a statement of hope.

I believe love is stronger than hate. I absolutely do.

But hate, in my experience, is louder and, for most of us, more…

Enticing? I don’t want to say “compelling.” Alluring?

This came to mind because my last post, about being right versus being loving, got very little attention. Nope, I’m not bitter. But I wrote two strongly anti-Trump posts that still reside in my drafts folder. I think both of them express important ideas and truths. I know, absolutely, that if I post either of those, it will get ten times more reads than the one in which I talk about peacemaking.

I’m not drawing a conclusion from one example. But that triggered my thinking. Why does expressing a bunch of negatives draw more attention than encouraging us to positives? I’m the same way. Bad news draws me. It makes my stomach churn and my chest tighten but I let myself get sucked in. No, that’s too passive. I willingly bite on that fishhook. I know better. I should be a smart fish by now, considering all the times I’ve had my mouth ripped open by those barbs. But I still bite.

It’s easy to hate and it’s hard to love. Is it a flaw in the design? Why is lightness hard to hear?

Okay, in case I’m moving on before I convince you: Is it easier to try to understand the person who posted something stupid that conflicts with all your views and beliefs or to call them names and dismiss them? Is the person who cut you off maybe having a bad day, maybe distracted as you sometimes are when you (never ever) glance at your phone, or is that person just a *(&*(#&%&# for cutting you off? Is it easier to give people the benefit of the doubt or jump to conclusions about them? To forgive those who hurt us or to dismiss/bear a grudge against/distance ourselves from them? It can be easy to love people who love us, but if we really dig into love as Jesus talks about it, that’s no cakewalk* in the park, either.

I recently gave a sermon in which I stressed, repeatedly, that God as revealed in Jesus is great at loving enemies. I am perhaps more grateful for that than for anything else in my life. God loving us when we made ourselves enemies is grace. Me? Love my enemies? I kind of stink at it.

I have not kept secret that I consider President Trump and his administration horribly dangerous, not merely politicians whose tax policies I question nor whose fashion sense offends mine. I have spoken out, and taken flack for it, because I believe I have that moral responsibility.

But I keep looking at this abyss we’re excavating, this schism that grows wider every day, and I know shouting into the chasm will not help our divide.

Many people on both sides have concluded that “They are unreachable. No point in trying. We just need to focus on how we know we should fix this country and ignore them or shout them down.” Both sides say this. A guy I was friends with in college told me that he and others would “crawl over broken glass to vote to keep the other side out of office.” “Great,” you say, “he’s a patriot, a dedicated voter.” But it wasn’t to get his party elected; he expressed such drastic motivation because the other political party has become the enemy.

Name-calling comes easily. “Snowflakes” and “Libtards.” “MAGAts” and “Drumpfsters.” Generalizing and oversimplifying the oppositions’ positions while assuming the depth and nuance in our own. I no longer post political memes because they increase rancor; they bring nothing positive to the conflict.

I’m talking about politics, of course, but talking about more than politics. Hate is loud. Yes, media adds to the problem by what and how they choose to report, but we eat what they serve. We buy what they sell. We like it. We might complain about it, but it works for them. We make them money by producing it so they keep producing it. We weren’t all kind and cuddly until they made us hateful and vicious. They have responsibility in how they report and we have responsibility in what we buy (click=buy). That cycle feeds upon itself.

I’ve been trying, as a proactive campaign, to report all the good news I can get my eyes on. (Why yes, that does include Jesus’ Good News.) It lifts my agonized and antagonized heart that friends have started sending good stuff my way. I’m thrilled to become known as “that guy who likes to share positive things.”

That’s one means I’ve found so far to amplify love in my own little sphere.

But I need a lot more.

What can we do? Brainstorm with me. Put away your sarcastic response of “If they would just go away…” They aren’t. But more to the point here, hate rejects and love accepts. Did I mention it’s harder to love than to hate? I think I did. So think with me about what we can change to raise love’s voice.

Today, I read a discussion/debate spurred by a study that found “Almost half of Millennials (47%) agree at least somewhat that it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.” As you might guess, that raised some ire and heated disagreement.

My mind immediately went to the surveys that tell us how non-Christians most often describe Christians. The top words used are almost always “hypocritical” and “judgmental.”

I can’t speak for the younger generation but I can say that, in my efforts to express Jesus’ love for people, I’ve heard too many horror stories how people have been belittled, mocked, patronized, and verbally abused by Christians.

I mention this because the answer is more than “Tell them about Jesus.” Or, as we used to say in BOC, one of my young adult groups, “That’s the right answer, but it isn’t the complete answer.”

Here’s what else I’ve got so far:

  • Affirm the heck out of people. Just speak up more, find positives and say them, write them, mean them. Most of us hear criticism so much louder than we hear praise and take negatives to heart much easier than positives (which sucks, by the way). I suspect some just think I’m a little rah-rah. I’d rather be known for that.

Can you find ways to affirm the people with whom you disagree? Can you try?

I know, I know: they’re the enemy. But that doesn’t get us out of anything, because Jesus told us “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

  • Find people you can talk to who see things as you do and agree with you and express your strong feelings to them. I’m totally serious here. If you are reading this and you like Trump, do you want to hear from me all the reasons I do not? I’m going with “no.” How do I know that? You would have asked me. I have friends with whom I try to make sense of it all, and though we don’t solve anything, it does prevent me from expressing my frustration in a way that would come across as unloving to others.**
  • Find people you love and respect who see things differently than you do and engage them personally. DON’T do this in a public forum where their buddies will chime in by calling you an idiot. Mmhm, had to learn that one the hard way. A couple of times. Sigh.

Categorizing and dismissing others is not love, it’s that other thing. Demonizing the enemy, which countries have long done against other countries in war (and I consider this evil), we now do with no hesitation to our neighbors. Don’t believe me? Check out some memes against someone you like, for whom demonizing might prove more recognizable.

Because this current of mockery and hate flows so strongly, I encourage you to find smart people who read and know what they’re talking about with whom you can discuss these issues to understand their perspective. The ideal would be to find all that in a person of grace. But we may not be looking for the intelligent, well-reasoned discourse partner. Sometimes we like to keep the opposition’s viewpoint oversimplified and easily dismissed. It’s way more fun than having to acknowledge “they” may have a point. But intentionally misinterpreting, ridiculing, and mocking are hateful actions. If we dislike having it done to us and our views, we must not respond in kind. We are called to treat others as we want to be treated, not “if they start treating me better then I’ll treat them better.”

Coming back around, hate, in my experience, is louder and, for most of us, more…

Oh, shoot. I hope the word I was looking for isn’t “fun.” As in, “Hate is more fun than love.” Because honestly, we act like hate is more fun than love. But I don’t believe it is. The fun that hate offers is a bitter, cynical, spiteful warping of true, life-giving fun. Love is harder, but it’s more fun, more real fun.

  • Last thing. Hatred is in the eye of the beholder. I know, we live in a time when people get offended by everything. I understand that you may feel the current political correctness means you can’t say a single word to anyone without causing offense. That makes this tricky, yet it remains true that if someone feels hated by us, we don’t get to fix it with “But I didn’t mean that,” nor “Well, that’s just your problem.” If you’ve been taking this stance and feel justified, I’m just going to say again, love is harder. Wining the argument and going home the conqueror does not embody Jesus’ love in the world, no matter how stupid we might consider the other person’s argument. I believe in reasoning and persuading, but I’m coming to realize I no longer believe in arguing as a means of engaging others. If I have to choose between having someone feel loved–or at least not hated–and arguing with them, Lord, help that to become an easy choice for me.

Hate is louder than love, in my own heart as well as on my Facebook feed. I have to change that now, in whatever way I can. I am convicted by Jesus to become more of a peacemaker. This does not mean I will stop speaking the truth. But as I seek to speak truth, I want to embody love.

I want to love as loudly as I can.

*Our eldest, when young, would win every single time at the cakewalk, to the point where it was not a game of chance but an automatic walk-in-a-circle-and-get-a-cake.

*If you said, “Mike, I’ve seen what you post, and it’s not working,” just imagine what I’d say without my venting friends!

El Día de Acción de Gracias

Standard

A brief one for Thanksgiving, because there are things to say.  

I’m not going to get political, much, though this holiday is deeply conflicted.  Unless you whitewash it the whole way, we’re celebrating some bad things and we don’t have any National Days of Mourning or Grieving or Repentance, because that isn’t our style. Today when we were talking to the borrachos who hang out outside our house, Kim asked them if they knew what Thanksgiving is.  One of them said he thought so, but they all knew what Black Friday is.  Sigh. On the other hand, I don’t think you can be too grateful, to God or to the people who love you and make your life worth being alive for.  

Recently, I sat at a table and ate and drank and conversed in Spanish and laughed hard with friends, people I love in this strange (to me) land that’s been home for working on seven years now.  One of the people is abused.  None of us can fix it.  Sometimes it goes better.  Sometimes it gets a lot worse.  We’re involved and invested and all those great words that really do mean compassion and time and money.  But our lives are so utterly different.  Yet we sit together and joke and laugh and care for each other.  That’s what we can do.  

Yesterday I got such awful news it literally knocked the breath from me, like a knee driven into my chest.  It’s so bad and so private I can’t even hint at it, but it’s from someone I love, about someone I love, and all I could do was listen and feel my guts churn.  I was the safe place for it, the person who could share a little of the overwhelming pain.  That’s what we can do.  

My son is not a great baseball player and may never be.  But today when I said, “Hey, let’s go play baseball,” he said, “Oh, yes!”  We played for about an hour and I can see how he is improving.  I can tell him.  I can do what my father did for me and love him with my time and sweat and sharing what I know about fielding grounders and going with the pitch.  I’m never really sure how I’m doing as a dad, but this I can do.  

My wife often feels like when we prepare for celebrations, she does most or all of the work.  Today, the kiddos and I were able to help with some significant prep work while she was working on gifts for the moms of her preschoolers from the little preschool she and two neighbors run in our barrio.  She still probably did the majority of the work, but we did a good job with our list and when she got back, it was all done and the kitchen was clean.  I’m not the servant to my wife that I aspire to be, but today, we did okay.  

Thanksgiving crew! (Disregard the Christmas decor, it really is Thanksgiving.)

Today, in addition to being grateful for the people in my life and how they love me, I’m grateful for how I get to love them.  It’s imperfect and messy, always, but also life-giving and healing, both ways.  I believe we are healed through loving others.  

The Nicaraguan translation for Thanksgiving is “el Día de Accion de Gracias.”  I really like this.  Literally, “the day of the action of thanks.”  That means both “the day of giving thanks” and “the day of thankful action.”  

These are my thankful actions.  In the end, this is what we can do.  

What about Power?

Standard

Lately much of what I hear is a debate about power.  It may not be the stated or acknowledged topic, but between the lines or as the underlying theme?  Almost always.

When we discuss what to do about refugees, we’re talking about power.  When we debate who gets to own and fire guns, we’re talking about power.  When we argue over the best next leader for the United States, the heart of that argument is power.

arm wrestlingThis is not new, but I really think we need to acknowledge it.  If we don’t, we pretend to have different motives than those actually guiding our interactions.  If we deceive ourselves, we cannot be straightforward with our opponents.

Take this another step.  I think many people feel powerless.  Many folks think–or imagine–that they have lost power they screaming protestersonce had.  Was there once a sense of control, of being master of one’s own destiny, that has gotten away?  Is that why we’re so pissed off?  Is that why all political discussions immediately devolve into insults and name-calling?

I’m asking questions here, because though I am generalizing, I’m certain these matters are more complex than simply the issue of power.  Nonetheless, I see this issue acknowledged so rarely that I feel almost compelled to name it.

I hate–and I do mean that word, “hate”–how uncivil our political discourse has become.  I’ve said this before and it bears repeating–how we treat one another is more important than who we vote for or our political stance.  Jesus said so.  There were crazy levels of politics and power struggles going on in Jesus’ time, folks popping up claiming to be the Messiah, a whole insurgent movement against Roman occupation, a religious/political party claiming the way forward was holiness (Pharisees), another claiming it was gaining secular influence (Sadducees), and then a bunch of people hoping for a military revolution led by an all-powerful Messiah from God who would crush enemies under his heel.  And to that cyclone of conflicting factions, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you:  love one another as I have loved you.  They shall know you by your love of one another.”

Yeah, they don’t.  They, the non-Christians who see how we communicate, don’t know us by our love for one another so much when we scream over Hillary versus Bernie, or blare about how much we need to prevent these Syrian immigrants from entering our country so we don’t get blown to hell.  In fact, we almost seem to take it as a matter of pride that we don’t engage in civil discourse, that we don’t allow for the possibility that we could be wrong on any single point because we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that anyone who is of the opposite political persuasion from me, is both an idiot and an asshole.

new-jesus

Continue reading