Thursday, July 27, 2017

Leave God Out of Our Hate

I am done enabling people to use God to justify hatred. 
I am done allowing faith to be used as a casual part of public life, a shorthand to get elected or to justify various levels of discrimination and hatred. 
I've read the Bible a few times, in a few languages. Are there sections where hatred and violence are central to the story? Yes. 
And yet the prevailing message of the Bible is a story of a loving God, who desires mercy from us, who gets really angry when we sell the righteous for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals, who implores us to remember the outsider and to welcome the refugee, to name a few ways our lack of love has gotten us into heaps of trouble through the eons. 
Jesus sums this all up very nicely for us by telling us SEVERAL TIMES to love one another as Jesus loves us. 
That humanity has managed to get this basic commandment confused is no surprise. After all, avoiding one fruit in the Garden of Eden proved too much for us. 
Loving our neighbor means, quite basically, treating my neighbor as I'd like to be treated. If I want my teenaged son to know he can safely walk in a park in the evening wearing a hoodie and come home without being shot because he was assumed to be a criminal, God's love demands that I want that for African American parents and youth, as well - because they are my neighbors. If I want the opportunity to be measured on my ability to do a job and not judged because of my gender, God's love demands I want the same for women and transgendered people, as well - because they are my neighbors. If I want access to health care when I am sick without the very real possibility of bankruptcy or having to choose to go without because I can't afford treatment, God's love demands I want that for all people, not just for those who can write the check - because they are my neighbors.
You get the idea.
God's love demands I do more than talk a good game. The Prophets and Jesus call out people over and over who pray lovely prayers, but do nothing. Love is indeed an action verb. Our love is proven in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Complacency is not love. 
For too long in American society, God has been used as justification not to love. Oh, we try to arrange love on the stinking pile of hate we excrete by saying things like, "Love the sinner, hate the sin," or "But the Bible says..." but in essence, we decide who we want to hate, who we want to exclude and demean, and who we don't like, then we find a way to justify it all with God.
If you don't like Kentucky, Louisville, Alabama or Auburn or people who speak a different language or men who eat sushi or women who love women or people of different ethnicities and races, that's on you. God is not part of hate.
Hatred is an individual choice. Hatred is our choice, our decision. Don't sling our hatred at God's feet, acting like we'd love whomever we hate except for the fact that the Bible says so. God did not hand down a list of people God created and loves and say, "Yeah, I know I said love your neighbor over and over and even gave examples, but here's a list of people you can be jerks to."
Nope. 
When Jesus talks about knowing ourselves, he's asking us to own our hatred and prejudice. We have to explore why we hate. We have to confess our hatred. We have to admit we may even enjoy not loving our neighbor. But we don't get to blame God for our choice to hate and demean and exclude. 
God invites us to recognize we all need to work harder to love. This love thing that God asks us to do is some major work. It's not a weekend project with a You Tube video. Love is a life-long commitment that needs God's help. But let's be clear, if the Bible is a guiding force in our lives, the prevailing message is one of loving God and loving our neighbor. If you're using God's word to hate, you're doing this wrong. 
So again, I am done standing silently while people justify their hatred and discrimination using God. 
If you are a politician and you mentioned how much you love Jesus in your political ads, I will write you letters and come to your office to remind you exactly what Jesus says about loving our neighbor when your votes render to Caesar and not to God.  
If you use the Bible to justify your hatred, I will ask you to cite chapter and verse then ask how that meshes with Jesus' commandment to love and then wonder why you need God to hate all the same people you hate.
And when I look at a fellow child of God with contempt, I will drop to my knees and ask forgiveness and ask for the courage to explore the roots of my hatred.
Christianity is not a casual tool to be used to hurt others while exalting ourselves. It does not allow those of us who confess the faith of Jesus to stand silently while God is used as a weapon to wound and kill the souls of others or the shackle them in shame and despair. Jesus expects us to love in thought, word, and deed and recognize love as a liberating force for all of us, not just a select few.
I am done enabling people to use God to justify hatred.
I hope other Christians are done, too.

8 comments:

Deacon Kevin McGrane Sr. said...

Yes. I'm done, too. Totally with you on this. Thx!

Jo said...

With you as well. In loving neighbor and down on my knees because of the hate that has been created in my heart toward the Chief Hater.

Unknown said...

That'll Preach!!

JBARTELLONI said...

Preacher,

You got that right.

No question about it.

Michael Spence said...

This post shows the power of compassionate Truth. God is Love.

conditd said...

100% right on the mark! Maybe if more of us would ask haters for chapter and verse we might get some of them to start thinking about what Jesus really said for us to do!

christine.harter said...

is asking people not to do certain things hatred?

Pastor Patt+ said...

Wonderfully and fearfully said! It is often so easy to descend into hatred and mistrust of the one we perceive as other. How comforting it must be for people to be able to say, 'see, see it says it in the Bible!'. Yet people never seem to be able to find the specific verses they refer to about God's admonitions, and when I ask them about all the other overwhelming verses about love - the love God has for us, and the love we are called to share, I usually don't get a response. Being a Christian is hard work! But we were baptized into the work we are called to do for the sake of the kingdom; and our primary 'job', is to love as we are loved. And then, tell others.