Recently, one of my favorite authors and progressive Christian leaders, Pastor Roger Wolsey, expressed frustration at a few Christians who had made various hateful remarks against a conservative blogger who recently suggested that “liberals stock up on coat hangers” upon the passage of an anti-abortion bill in Texas. The tweet itself was disparaging, to say the least, but as I read through fellow progressives’ reactions to this, many of which were from Christians, I found myself feeling a little embarrassed, and like Pastor Wolsey, a little concerned.
I thought about how I, quite shamefully, used to exchange a few harsh words with people who expressed their own opinions on the internet. Fortunately, my words never stooped to the level of personal attacks and death wishes like I routinely see on comment sections of the websites I browse, but if I was ticked at someone I usually made no secret about it. We all know it’s easy to talk big behind a screen. It’s easy to lash out and say things we’d never think about saying to someone if we met them face-to-face. But that isn’t the point of this article.
As Pastor Wolsey writes, “it’s perfectly normal for us to have heated feelings upon encountering injustice. And we do need to vent our feelings and not repress them in order to have them not control us. But we’d all do well to remember the truism ‘that which we criticize most in others is that which we criticize most in ourselves.’”
Christians are expected to set an example that the whole world can follow, the Christian world, the Jewish world, the Muslim world, the Hindu world, and so on and so forth. Progressive Christians are not expected to fall short any less than conservative Christians are, but we should make a conscious effort to change what we see is wrong with the religious discussion today. Instead of engaging with our enemies with hate, engage them with love. Kill them with kindness, as the old saying goes, and always vent your feelings in the most civil way possible. None of the social reformers we think so fondly of today, from Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr., approached their causes with violence.
If hateful discourse is what progressive Christians see as one of the things that need to be changed, then we owe it to ourselves and the nature of the discourse we want to change to lead by example. We need to find a way to convey our thoughts and address injustice with nothing but loving intentions in mind. Just as one cannot put out a fire with more fire, one cannot bring about civility with incivility. We cannot win by belittling our enemies, but we can grow by winning the trust and friendship of them, as only then may we finally understand one another the way we desire to.
At the center of Dr. King’s movement was a philosophy of love. For us, love should be at the center of everything.