Why do so many of us seem to hate each other? While it appears that we have an enormous immigration problem in our country, the bigger issue is that we have a hate problem.
This opinion piece by Paul Krugman last week spelled out a couple of explanations for why our personal hate quotients seem to have ratcheted up, especially in light of the turmoil on the US-Mexican border.
- Misinformation about immigrants at the border is rampant. Immigrants rarely take our jobs or murder our children. In fact, there is a negative correlation between violent crime and undocumented immigrants. Most Americans do not want jobs that involve picking tomatoes eight hours a day or cleaning hotel bathrooms. And whether people are being held in cages, tents, or barracks, the language around housing for immigrants is emotional and terrifying and can be incendiary.
- People tend to hate/distrust what is unfamiliar. According to the Krugman article “The most anti-immigrant states seem to be places, like West Virginia, where hardly any immigrants live.” Even if we do not have immigrants (or other groups that are often hated because “they aren’t like us“) in our communities, we need to try to learn.
- Too many people are okay with our President name-calling and sharing false information – as long as the economy is strong. Using words about people like “infest“ are dehumanizing. Dehumanizing language literally kills people.
Just to be clear, righteous indignation and anger are not the problem. Even God gets angry.
Jesus was angry when he witnessed injustice. That Cleansing the Temple story is important enough in Scripture to be mentioned four times: overturning tables and chairs according to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, simply driving out the temple salesmen in Luke and pulling out a whip in John.
There are times when righteous indignation is our responsibility: when innocent people are being targeted, when there is no one speaking for the poor and powerless, when bullies are terrorizing people, when lies are proclaimed as truth. If we are not speaking up in righteous indignation in those situations, we are as guilty of denying Christ as Peter. Remember that story?
So what do we do when we interact with someone whose behavior has been hateful? Do we heckle them in restaurants? Do we refuse to serve them? Do we shame them in return for shaming others? Jesus has told us what to do about these situations, but it’s very hard. It takes a level of spiritual maturity that I do not yet have.
When our leaders seem to delight in shaming people, it’s important to speak up against that evil, but it’s not okay to return the evil for evil.
So . . . how to we tone down our culture’s Crisis of Hate? I have a couple ideas.
- When we hear something outrageous, we need to do our research. Was Sarah Huckabee Sanders “kicked out” of the Red Hen Restaurant over the weekend? Actually, it sounds like what happened was less dramatic and more thoughtful. Check it out.
- When we are confronted by someone who profoundly disagrees with us, we need to listen to them. (And listening is not waiting for our turn to talk.)
- We need to learn from each other. Why is my neighbor terrified of transgender people? Why have parents risked their lives and the lives of their children to come to Texas from Honduras and El Salvador and Guatemala? What can I learn from the undocumented person in my Church or my school? What can I learn from the former coal miner or the addict or the barrista or the English as a Second Language teacher or the Black Lives Matter protester in my town?
We have got to take a breath and try hard to see each other through God’s eyes. We have got to fight the hate that is bubbling around us – and in our own hearts. It’s going to kill our souls. And it’s going to kill more bodies.