I remember the first sermon I heard when I moved to pursue my graduate theological education, it was at a church that my next-door neighbor invited me to. The church was a well known suburban congregation in an average middle-class neighborhood. The young pastor spent 45 minutes passionately railing against abortion, at one point calling murder and terrorist Eric Rudolph a soldier in the war against perversion. He railed against homosexuality, not-so-cleverly changing the name of a lesbian talk show host “Ellen Degenerate,” he went on to spin morbid tales of the evil homosexuals do and plan to do once they get our children. His last target was people who drink, calling them “the sinners among sinners”. I was shocked, and did not return to that church.
I went to another church in the area, this one was a house church led by one of my peers I had met in class. He spent over an hour on his sermon, his target of choice was “liberal churches and idiots.” After the service I found myself in conversation with him and two other members of the church. When I mentioned that I was from California, they went into a casual discussion about how my state was going into the gutters because of Mexicans. Mexicans hate education, morality, law, and Jesus, one of them proclaimed. When I informed the group that I myself was of Hispanic descent, they scoffed and told me that I just didn’t understand. Right, how could I, a pastor who had spent all but three years of his life in Southern California, possibly understand the complexities of race in the west?
I hear a lot of hate being spewed from the mouths of Christians. Sometimes I find it ironic, since the God whose name we claim told us the greatest commandment is to love our neighbor. Sometimes I get angry. Most of the time I am able to rationalize the phenomenon by claiming that those who say such things are a tiny minority.
Some people can’t dismiss it so easily. A couple years after my immersion into Bible-Belt culture, I met some truly awesome people. They had grown up in the church like virtually everyone else in the area, but now were separated because of the hate directed at them. It wasn’t that they all did not believe in God, it was just that his followers were really, really mean. I spoke to one such person about my experiences when she called me out.
“What did you think when they said those things?”
“I thought, ‘that’s not okay.'”
“What did you say to them?”
My answer, “Nothing.” At this point I started to feel a little bit bad, like I had somehow tolerated hate, thus tacitly giving my approval.
I have come to realize something about hate and oppression. An oppressive society usually doesn’t act out against the oppressed. They wait for some one to cut them down, verbally, physically, and eventually, mortally. Then the society says to anyone who questions them, “Oh, that guy who killed them, he was just a nut.” Or you’ll hear, “Not everyone thinks that way.” All the time pleased that they can suppress the offending groups, be they black, gay, whatever, without physically getting their hands dirty. They do approve of hate because they foster hate, and hate that festering under the surface never stays there long, it explodes into the most anti-Christian acts imaginable.
When I hear secular people speak or act with hate, I remember that we live in a fallen world, and people will be horrible people. When I hear of Christians say something hateful to any group I find that I must do something, lest Jesus’ name be associated with hate (more so).
When I hear Christians hate, I shout “It’s not okay!”
Please, do not tolerate hate. If you are a Christian and care about how Jesus is shown to the world, please defend his name. Don’t allow “Christians” to bring the hate.
Just tell them, “it’s not okay!” It’s a small step to clearing Jesus’ name, but it’s a step nonetheless.
Gay hating in the name of Jesus, “It’s not okay!”
People who hate politicians from another party, “It’s not okay!”
People who have syndicated Christian talk-shows who for some reason really hate Native Americans, “It’s not okay!”