Last weekend, the WSJ carried a piece by Shelby Steele entitled “Why the Left is Consumed With Hate.” It is quite damning, but quite apropos. What else could be driving the despicable and underhanded tactics we have seen vis-a-vie the Kavanaugh hearings? We no longer politically oppose, we despise and hate our political rival. Steele frames his argument entirely in terms of race and his essential thesis is as the sub-head declares it, “Lacking worthy menaces to fight, it is driven to find a replacement for racism. Failing this, what is left?” But within his argument, he hints at much deeper issues:
For Martin Luther King Jr., hatred was not necessary as a means to power. The actual details of oppression were enough. Power came to him because he rejected hate as a method of resisting menace. He called on blacks not to be defined by what menaced them.
One must remember that there was a huge fight within civil rights activism in the 60’s between the love and non-violence based movement headed by Dr. King – rooted in Christianity – and the quite violent movement headed by Malcolm X – rooted in Islam. The power that Dr. King’s movement amassed lied in its sacrificial nature. Sacrifice is an essential component of love. The marchers sacrificially taking the brunt of the water cannons in Birmingham moved the American people in ways the terrorism of the Black Panthers never could.
Moving forward to the modern day, we work very hard to keep violence in check, but hatred can fester without violence, and we can see that it clearly has. While Dr, King’s movement created great change, it is Malcolm X’s thought that has driven things forward. I will leave the reader to draw their own conclusions about the relative value of Christianity and Islam in light of these historical developments, but I do think it is worthy of note that without a corrective such as Christianity, hatred seems to be the natural state of mankind. – it is, in modern techno-speak, our default state.
This illustrates just another way in which America is Christian nation.
For a republic like ours to function we have to have general good regard for people around us. That means we have to rise above petty divisions, that generally fester into hatred, that all around us. There will always be differences of opinion and disagreements; there will always be people or even groups of people we find distasteful, but hatred, the kind of division that considers the other side as something other than another human and therefore the normal behavioral restraints as unnecessary – that is just something our nation cannot survive. That is why the tide of our nation’s history has been away from slavery – away for segregation.
But what Steele’s piece makes plain is that we have turned some corner and are headed back in the opposite direction, it is simply with other groups suffering the oppression this time. Yes, now that racism has been conquered there are those that seek to harness that energy for other purposes – but the real issue is they lack the corrective of Christianity. The power was not in the fight, but in the sacrifice.
And so I ask myself, why is Christianity failing? Then I wonder, do we preach of sacrificial love anymore? We preach of feeling loved. We preach of being empowered. We preach of findings ourselves. But do we preach of sacrificing ourselves as Christ sacrificed Himself – as the Dr. King’s followers sacrificed themselves? If we do not, then one must wonder if we really preach of love at all?
You see, the thing that have made this a Christian nation is not at root a morality or a theology, or even a “worldview” – the thing that has made this a historically Christian nation is our character and our willingness to sacrifice, born of our love for the other. That is the very essence of Christ’s ministry.
In many ways the nation seems to be failing – I certainly consider a significant portion of the nation being consumed with hatred a failure. It is not coincidental that this failure parallels a fading of the church. Who we elect, what laws and policies rule us are important, but until such time as the church pulls itself together we will not be able to reverse this consuming hatred.
Addendum the next day: Related