I Hate You, You Hate Me5:00 AM
In my passionate two-day obsession with economics, I picked up Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. It’s very good (I think), though I cannot be entirely sure because most of the time I don’t know what he’s saying. In any case, Steve Forbes wrote the foreword, and at the very end, in the half-page beneath “Steve Forbes, January 1996,” an anonymous, opinionated library user scribbled this:
“The bad grammar and inability to express himself proves that Forbes would have been a poor candidate for U.S. president.”
In pen beneath that:
“You are both ignorant and stupid to maintain your prejudices.”
Now I don’t know anything about Steve Forbes, but I do know two things about the arguers beneath his writing. Both maintained prejudices and at least one was wrong. Privately, I think Anonymous Angry Commenter #1 needed to go back to grammar school. He had scribbled question marks and circles next to perfectly acceptable (and well-written) word choices and sentences structures. The misspelling of “major” as “mayor” might have given him the idea to bash Mr. Forbes on bad grammar, but yes, “fits” is a word, Mr. Anonymous. Pardon the inner grammar geek.
This peaceful exchange reminded me of the nature of blog posts, actually—someone writes a nice little piece, someone criticizes it, someone else comes along and criticizes him. It’s like big fish eats little fish, bigger fish eats big fish, biggest fish eats bigger fish. Whoever’s the biggest and the meanest wins the fight, if it ever comes to that point. Survival of the fittest. I won’t say it’s a product of evolution, because you should hear the founding fathers go after each other, but I will comment on the nature of mankind in general: if a person has a choice between being gracious and losing the argument or being offensive and winning the argument, nobody chooses the former. Some people by nature routinely offend everyone as if it’s necessary to isolate oneself from those who agree with you, but most of us can use graciousness as a level to smooth out our inconsistencies—as long as we win. Did I hear you say “politician”? But that is not love at work.
We all have hidden agendas to justify our beliefs, opinions and pet sins. It’s obviously in our best interest to rearrange the world according to our mindset. I don’t doubt that.
But as Christians entrusted with the truth, our personal mindset shouldn’t matter. We don’t fight wholly with reason and argument; we don’t need to bully our way into a person’s heart; we deliver the message and our Deliverer handles the rest. That’s why we’re commanded to show grace, kindness and humility in the midst of life-and-death conversations: winning isn’t our object. Being a faithful testimony to the truth is.
Unless, of course, one doesn’t believe in truth, and supports jellyfish theology, which has substance but no spine. You know, the most hateful people are sometimes those who hate haters. Because they’re targeting stuffy Sunday-tie-wearing Pharisees, they feel justified in badgering and bullying—isn’t that what Jesus did? Paul? Remember the verses on “broods of vipers”? If you’ve habited the internet long enough, you know the world’s full of people angry at “hateful” people who “hate” others who are intolerant. It’s absolutely juvenile. YouTube itself provides enough examples in the first five comments of any random video—someone says something critical, mean, unhelpful or true, and then everyone piles on, hammering him to give over, to let go his ignorant and stupid prejudices, his narrow-mindedness, his cruelty to those who disagree with him. Where’s the love, man? Why can’t you accept other viewpoints?
Do they honestly not see the irony?
It’s in the nature of humans to defend something. We aren’t blobs of goo in a purposeless world. We fight for purpose every day, for a meaning to life, for a cause to fight for, whether it’s the Green Bay Packers or green iniatiatives or God Himself. While we aren’t all of us wholly intelligent beings—at least not all the time to our full potential—there’s nobody on earth who doesn’t have an opinion.
And that’s good. At least we have living proof that relative truth does not exist relative to the real world.
But when we step outside what is clearly true—or reject the notion of clear truth altogether—our defense mechanism goes haywire. This is true for everyone, but especially Christians. We end up fighting for our justification instead of the justification of others. The cause of Christ goes up in a smoke of fists, black eyes and ugly words, all trying to support manmade ideas and explain away the sinfulness of inventing new truth or denying truth in the Christian community. The haters hate the people who hate the haters. Therefore, they are exempt from showing charity, because their opponents were mean first.
I think there’s something worth fighting for today, and He is Christ Jesus. If we’re going to fight in His army, we ought to play by His rules—speech that edifies, builds up believers, pierces the unbelieving soul and shares the grace we’ve been shown all along.