Love, hate, and civil debate
I will be the first to confess that I have not always been careful with my words. I’m a firstborn, a choleric, and an INTJ. I might be perfectly right about something, but I also might be a perfect ass in letting you know it.
I am sincerely working on that. And I suspect it will be the work of a lifetime.
Still, I’ve found that each year as I get older and have more experience with motherhood, my grinchy little heart expands ever so slightly and I am granted a clearer vision of what it means to acknowledge and honor the dignity of my fellow human being.
Even if I disagree with them. Even if I disagree with them so fundamentally and so vehemently that I cannot conjure up a single other unifying quality which we both posses other than the unchanging reality that we’re both human beings with immortal souls.
And if I ever had the chance to attend a beer summit with Barack Obama, I’m almost positive that’s the quality I’d have to fall back on when reminding myself of our mutual right to dignity. Unless he likes IPAs? In which case great! There’s a second common factor.
So even two people who could not be further apart in terms of what they practice and preach – Obama and I – even we could have a civil, generous conversation in keeping with one another’s mutual dignity.
Even though I oppose his views on abortion with all my heart. Even though I believe from the depths of my soul that his policies and practices where the unborn are concerned are vile and objectively evil.
He’s still a person.
Still able to grow and change and experience conversion and God’s infinite mercy. And while I can use the strongest language possible to condemn the gravely unjust policies of his administration and look longingly towards January 2017 as the end of a particularly dark period (please, God) in American history, I don’t hate the man.
I don’t wish suffering and hardship for his family. I wouldn’t dare to call his daughters sexually explicit or derogatory names. I don’t troll around the internet cursing his family name and wishing cancer, mental illness, or even death on his spouse and children.
Because it’s wrong.
And because it’s asinine to make the leap from disagreeing with policies, political actions and personal beliefs, to personal attacks.
There’s a flip side to this, too. And I think it’s one that’s hard to grasp for people who easily make the leap to personal attacks, but here it is, nonetheless: it is possible to sincerely think someone wrong in their behavior or belief without any trace of malice or hatred for the person himself.
When I hear someone say “I don’t believe in Catholicism” I don’t hear “I hate you.”
(When I hear someone say “I hate all Catholics, including you,” however, I suppose it’s safe to assume they mean exactly that.)
Now, this is an imperfect analogy, but I figured it would be less incendiary than using the examples of clinical depression, alcoholism, or anorexia, even though all are much closer in line with what homosexuality actually is: a deviation from healthy and normative human behavior which injures the person practicing it, body and soul.
When I write about wanting to protect my kids – and their peers – from children’s books designed to desensitize them to homosexuality and normalize the behavior through the antics of adorable, chubby sea birds, I’m not tapping out a secret code that actually reads I HATE LESBIANS in all caps.
I have no ill will in my heart for people who practice homosexuality, any more than I begrudge the actions of an alcoholic or an anorexic. God knows we’ve all got something we struggle with. (The obvious difference being that homosexuality is the trendy sin of the day, so my speaking against it is culturally anathema.)
What I do take offense to is efforts to normalize the behavior and pitch it to my children as a valid lifestyle choice. But even my grave offense taken does not grant me the right to shout down the other side, screaming about bigotry and hatred and wishing them death.
I desperately want to revive the practice of civil, charitable debate. Both online and in person. Perhaps even more importantly in person, difficult and vulnerable though that may be.
But we can’t go around assuming that everyone who disagrees with us is a HATE-FILLED BIGOT WHO HATES US AND SHOUD BURN IN INVISIBLE HELL, IF SUCH A THING AS HELL EXISTED.
Because where does that get us?
Going back to the religious example, you’d be hard pressed to show me an effective evangelization campaign, in this day and age, that consists in leaving comments like that on atheist websites and waiting for the Sunday attendance roll to fatten up.
Shouting down someone you disagree with is no way to win them over.
Vigorous and impassioned and authentic debate. Yes. A thousand times yes.
But personal attacks, ad hominems, and virtual lynchings?
Not effective. And so unnecessary.
Look, I know we moderns are identify so closely with our behaviors and occupations that this concept has been rendered almost utterly unintelligible, but the ancient maxim “love the sinner, hate the sin” still holds very much true for Christianity. And when I point out your sin, or when you point out mine, it’s not out of hatred, but out of love. And a sincere desire to move the other toward repentance and conversion.
I don’t hate gay people. I don’t hate drunks or addicts or prostitutes, either. I don’t hate wife beaters or child abusers or even moms who smoke crack. I don’t hate myself for yelling at my kid in the parking lot at the grocery store this morning, or for losing my temper in traffic over the weekend like an entitled jerk.
But when I do these bad things – these wrong choices that I make, not fundamental expressions of who I am – I make amends, I repent, and I try again. I don’t, however, attempt to force everyone around me to participate in my sin in some misguided effort to normalize or neutralize it. That’s no good for any of us.
So love the sinner, hate the sin. And don’t clog up the internet with shrill accusations about hatred and bigotry and malice.
We’re all sinners in need of mercy, and we’re all human beings in need of charity.
Thank you for another great post Jenny. Although I would say most of the comments on your last post were positive and supportive, those few who were hateful and downright awful never cease to amaze me. I thought you handled them beautifully and with class. Kudos for continuing to speak up and spreading truth. The haters of our faith will always be there to persecute us, but I remember Matthew 5:10. ❤️
Mary @ Better Than Eden
“It is possible to sincerely think someone wrong in their behavior or belief without any trace of malice or hatred for the person himself.” YES. When it comes to every sort of disagreement. Great post.
Right on! (Again.)
Amen! (As always). And really – when did we as a culture lose that distinction between civil debate and hatred? I am actually quite confused about the whole situation. Is there no way to have an actual civil debate anymore? Are there no words to express the intent of “civil” and “debate”? Our culture is absolutely disintegrating and there’s no acceptable way to talk about it. What do we do?
If I could express myself half as eloquently as you, I would have attempted to write this post myself. People don’t know how to handle disagreement; we may as well be clones. Thank you for speaking the truth so beautifully and bravely.
Great article! Once again you’ve expressed so eloquently my thoughts into words. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Very well said. Sad that it needed to be said at all. The comment I really want to leave is: “Well, DUH!!!” But that might not be quite civil. 😉 but truly, well done.
Good post, thank you. However, how do you discuss these types of issues (homosexuality) when good people, people who have been raised Catholic, and still claim to be Catholic, do not believe that the homosexual act is a sin? People who assume that those of us who do not believe in the practice of homosexuality assume we are being mean, or intolerant, when we say we do not want our children to be exposed to this as acceptable. We’ve had these very discussions with relatives, and they end up getting upset that we are questioning the homosexual lifestyle as something other than normal. I have many nieces and nephews in their 20 s and 30s who simply do not see anything wrong with it, much like they do not see many other things as sins. There is just no clear line between right and wrong anymore. It has become a thousand shades of grey.
Yes, it is possible to know someone is wrong, far off the mark without feeling hatred or malice for them. A case in point – the only reason I am alive is because my Catholic father forbade my mother aborting me. She was offered a therapeutic abortion but my father would not agree to it out of faith. A very good friend of mine expressed her strongly held belief in the right to choose abortion by telling me that although she knew I lived thanks to my father’s religious beliefs, she still felt my mother’s rights were violated. Asked if she thought my life was worth less than my mother’s convenience, she answered yes. I feel the deepest sorrow for people who believe a child’s life is worthless, yet believe their own is priceless. In general, I feel sorrow for all who live without the presence and peace of Christ in their lives, and who teach others to deny Him.
Amen! I wish there were more reminders of this for us all out there (because I need this reminder too sometimes!). Spot on.
Another excellent post–you write with insight and passion. Loving those who attack us personally and whom we know to be supporting a dark, harmful cause is undoubtedly the hardest thing we’re called to do. But we are only following our Lord’s example: “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”
PS–you used the word “ass” three times in your post. I found it to be an unnecessary and distracting vulgarity. Just a thought
Great post! So true!
@ Jenny. Nice article. The devil temps us all by exploiting our individual weaknesses. For those tempted to commit homosexual acts, and for those who curse them (e.g. May you rot in hell). We are called to live by setting a holy example and treating others like the soul God wants in heaven.
@Maria. Part of the problem with discussing homosexual behavior has to do with the sequence of things. Once fornication is accepted as an acceptable recreational activity, there is no reason to stop anyone from having the sexual fun of their choosing. Here is my reasoning:
God loves heterosexuals.
God does not love fornication.
God loves homosexuals.
Jerry, yes I know that things have progressed to this point due to the acceptance of other things. It just has gotten so out of hand, one seems to not know where to begin. I sincerely wish there were more homilies discussing sin and what to do about it. The priests could do more I think, each Sunday, in their homilies. In this year of mercy, we need a reminder as to WHY we need God’s mercy!
@Maria. To begin we must have a discussion about fornication. What did Jesus say about it? What does the Catholic church say about it? What do studies show about the results of cohabitation (more divorce if cohabitators ever marry). Is abortion more likely to occur with fornicators or married couples? One cannot begin to morally analyze homosexual acts without first having analyzed the evils of fornication (which, with birth control, is the first crack in the dam).
Good advice, thank you. Long road ahead.
You are brilliant and this is brilliant! Everything you post is gold. Keep doing your thing, girl!
Peter Ngolovani Zande
This is really what we call Umunthu Philosophy where the problem or vice is viewed from a neutral angle without any personalization. The world would be a better place without person hating.
Look at what Jesus did several times. For instance He rescued the woman caught in adultery because He believed in loving a person. Love your neighbor (). But Jesus told the lady, “Well, then, I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”~John 8:11. Here God condemns the behaviour but loves the person.
I am inspired and convinced by the message in the Year of Mercy that let’s reach out to our friends who are in the wrong in a brotherly and sisterly love and help them to be converted and live.
If only the people saying such cruel and hate-filled things about you and your family were to read this…