Hatred is not a Christian value

A pair of hands hoving over the keyboard of a laptop
 on April 29, 2024

“I’m not used to this level of hatred.”

The newspaper headline still haunts me, months after the fact.

It referred to an episode early this year in which the prime minister showed up at a pub in the eastern part of our diocese with a local candidate for a federal by-election. Once the news spread, the pub owner was inundated with hundreds of hate-filled emails and phone calls, castigating him for allowing his pub to be used for this event. Threats were made. It was clearly an organized campaign that stunned the non-partisan pub owner, who made the comment mentioned above.

“You’re going to go bankrupt.” “We can’t wait for you to go out of business.” “I wish somebody had burned down your building.” These were a sampling of the comments and threats made against him.

This episode disturbed me deeply for several reasons. First, my late father-in-law lived in this riding, and when he turned 100 he received a warm handwritten note of congratulations from the former local member of parliament, whom my father-in-law had never met. Secondly, I’ve been actively involved in politics for more than half a century, and while partisan politics have been par for the course during that time, the level of vitriol and outright hatred, as well as the risk of violence that we see today, marks an ominous new trend. Could we have imagined 20 years ago that we’d see posters and signs on vehicles and around homes with the prime minister’s name linked to an obscenity, as we do today?

This disturbing trend speaks with a special urgency to Christians. After all, despising people who think differently about public issues flies in the face of the message of Jesus. His basic command to “love your enemies” is truly counter-cultural in our society, where online hate, in particular, is widespread. The gospel is full of messages of tolerance and respect, such as these: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away… along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31) “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  (Matthew 5:44)

How can we be inspired by our faith to respond to extreme intolerance?

An essential response is that if you hear or see something that smacks of intolerance, or outright hatred, speak up. The current situation, in which many people feel emboldened to express hatred for politicians and others, could not have developed without widespread tolerance or indifference. The good news element involving the pub incident is that once news broke about the torrent of abuse directed at the pub owner, some local residents took action. They showed up at the pub to stand with its owner, who was greatly encouraged by their support.

The second part of an action strategy to counter hate is more difficult. It involves trying to have a respectful dialogue to find out why some people are lashing out so vehemently at politicians and others with whom they disagree. Putting yourself in your “enemy’s” shoes is one of the most effective ways to show love for them. Seek to understand their perspective and try hard to recognize where they’re coming from. Is there an underlying reason for their attitude and actions?

The fact that times are tough for many people and that the pandemic has disrupted our lives is one reason frustration has spilled over into hatred. As well, modern technology makes hatred much easier to express than before. It’s easier to hide behind a computer screen, perhaps using a false name, and make hostile comments than to make those comments to a person face to face.

Hatred is demeaning. Rather than affirming the fact that we are all made in the image of God, hatred involves turning our fellow human beings into objects. Encouraging a more respectful climate of political discourse is more important than ever now, as Canada inches closer to a federal election. Will we be able to model Jesus as we debate the issues our country faces with a tone of mutual respect, even if we disagree on how to tackle them?

Civility is a Christian value. Hatred is not.


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