How do we know who to hate?

William King on May 5, 2010


Revelation comes in the most unexpected ways.  The student group which went to Clemson for our campus ministry's spring break trip had finished a satisfying day of work.  We were on our way to get some ice cream when I glanced toward a parked car and saw a bumper sticker:  "If everyone were blind we wouldn't know who to hate."  I've been chewing on those words because they suggest some important—and rather disturbing—truths about our species.

 It is uncomfortable to be reminded how superficial we are.  We make sweeping judgments based on the barest sliver of data.  Any dark-skinned person can give you chapter and verse on the profiling which takes place every day:  the way you clutch your purse when he walks behind you on the sidewalk, the suspicious looks she gets when she walks into the convenience store, the odd coincidence that he gets pulled out of the line half the time by the TSA—and his non-Arab traveling friend, almost never.  But our presumptions are more than racial.  If we know someone's politics, hobbies, educational level, or civic club affiliation we immediately impute all sorts of moral characteristics to him or her, which is to say we relate to our image of that person rather than the complex human being behind the labels.

 More disturbing to me than our superficial judgments is the bumper sticker's subtle, yet true, assertion that there is a part of us that needs and wants to find someone to hate.  Sound too harsh?  I invite you to study any good history of immigration in the United States—or rent The Gangs of New York.  Lou Dobbs may be highest profile hatemonger these days, but the first generations of Irish, Italian, Polish, and German immigrants would attest that he is only the latest in a very long line. 

 There is something within us which is threatened by those who are different.  In order to feel good about myself I to find reasons to demean you.  I buttress my fragile ego by creating something lower than myself:  "I may be less than I want to be but at least I'm not a ...."

 We do well to remember that the one reason the gospel is so radical and so often at odds with the powers that be is that it rests on a vision of humanity with no divisions.  In a world where Political Action Committees tell you the first thing they have to do is create an enemy to mobilize the faithful, following the way of Jesus—and renouncing the creation of an enemies list—is a bold choice. 

 "For He is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end."   Ephesians 2:14-16