‘I hate Donald Trump’. ‘I hate Theresa May’. I hate Jeremy Corbyn.
Have you heard anyone say things like that recently?
In a politically divided country (and world!), they’re quite common statements.
Some days (particularly on social media), it can feel like hate oozes so easily from the end of typing figures and often, it’s a toxic sludge of hate and smug self righteousness which says, I can write what I like about this person, because they are a much worse human than I am. They deserve everything they get.
Because of this (and due to the risk of possible ‘infection’!) I’m usually kinda careful about what I read and watch on social media. But, being quite fascinated by American politics, the other night I was flicking through Facebook when a video popped up on my news feed.
In the video (which seemed innocent enough), a man (in the US) was standing on his lawn filming as a passing stranger destroyed ‘Vote for Ted Cruz’ signs which were in the front yard.
‘Hey buddy, that’s my property, you can’t do that‘, said the guy filming.
The stranger turned to the camera and smiled, ‘well, I’ll just destroy your neighbour’s then’.
You can’t do that either (said filming man).
The man behind the camera began to follow the stranger and then told him (politely) that he needed to leave the area.
And then something utterly horrifying happened.
The stranger turned round to the camera and in a split second (before I had time to click ‘stop’ on the video), his features contorted into the most hideous snarling expression, his lips curled back, his eyes blackened, rolled and in a completely different, other-worldly voice, he started to howl and scream into the camera, ‘I hate Ted Cruz, I hate Ted Cruz, I HATE TED CRUZ’.
The moment was so shocking, I literally dropped my phone and frantically tried to switch it off. I knew I had just come face to face with some kind of demonic possession. I’ve never seen anything like it and it was quite horrific. I was not expecting that.
I sat there, heart pounding, pulse racing and had to stop, pray and ask the Lord to remove that horrible image from my head. That was by far the worst thing I’ve ever seen on social media.
But that is what hate looks like.
‘Hate’ used to be this casual word we casually threw around to say, ‘I hate onions, I hate sprouts’. Today a ‘hate crime’ can be anything from a serious physical assault through to a wolf-whistling builder. But in reality, real hate is a soul-destroying, other-worldly, vicious force that can transform a seemingly benign person into a raving, poisonous human being.
Like the guy in the video, a dislike of a politician’s policies had somehow developed into an evil that ran so deep, he had literally embodied it.
Hate is an incredibly powerful, destructive thing and in its early stages, can affect us all, in small, subtle ways.
Does our dislike of a politician’s policies, mutate into a sneering joke about their looks, their family or some other personal name-calling?
Does our sense of injustice mean we find ourselves unable to pray for the person? Perhaps we think they don’t deserve our prayer or for that matter, God’s mercy?
Hate manifests itself in lots of different ways and no matter how strongly I might feel about a public figure’s behaviour or policies, I absolutely want nothing to do with hate.
I don’t want it in my home, on my tv and I definitely don’t want it on my social media newsfeeds. But increasingly so many people seem to be allowing themselves to be embodied by hatred and at the same time, believe it’s ok, because they think they are ‘on the right side of history’.
Most of us would never deliberately introduce a virus or toxin into our physical bloodstream, but emotionally, we can dance round the edges of hatred, dabble with it, play with it.
And yep, even Christians do it. I’ve seen it (from both sides of the political divide) in their online attacks of each other and of ‘the opposition’. Their need to be ‘right’ outweighs the command to be ‘salt’ in a desperately unsalty world.
Yes, we can challenge injustice, unfairness, policies we don’t like (of course!) but ‘being salt’ is literally about being a source of healing, a disinfectant to the toxic hell so much of the world seems to have fallen into.
Salt has cleansing properties. It can help to heal wounds, melt ice and spiritually, it can bring healing and reconciliation (even when consensus on an issue can’t be reached). In all our interactions, as Christians, is that our goal? Or is it more important to ‘win’?
Can we set ourselves the challenge of actively praying for a world leader or public figure we don’t like very much? Can we get past our own feelings to do that? That’s just one way to be different, to be salt and light, when we’re surrounded by only darkness.
I’m speaking to myself just as much as anyone else, here!
Although the video I accidentally watched the other night was deeply disturbing, I later began to wonder if I was meant to see it? Maybe God wanted to show me what true hate can look like, so that I could begin to understand, how important it is, to be salt.