When I was about ten, some of my conservative Catholic pals and I had a joke where we would say “nuke the gay whales”. I don’t remember where we heard it, but I remember laughing.
The point of the joke was to spit in the eye of The Liberals, because even at that age, I knew that The Liberals hated nukes, loved gays, and cared about whales.
It’s weird that it never occurred to us that Catholics, too, are supposed to hate nukes, love gays, and care about whales.
I also remember laughing when the other boys in my conservative Catholic high school told casually, vilely racist jokes. I knew that racism was something that The Liberals hated, so I knew that laughing at racist jokes was a kind of inoculation against liberalism.
We begin by hating the the evil in our enemies. That’s good. But we move from that to hating the good in our enemies, too–simply because of where that good is located: namely, in our enemy’s heart.
This is where we get the curious phenomenon of Christians who laugh at environmental destruction, Christians who wink at homophobia and Islamophobia, and Christians who tolerate or dismiss racism.
I hate racism. I hate the ideologies of white nationalism and white supremacy. I hate Nazism, neo- and otherwise. I hate that these shameful ideas are closer to the mainstream than they have ever been in my lifetime. I hate how similar the vilest alt-right propagandists sound to the talk show hosts I grew up listening to.
I hate that it is safe for a Nazi to show his face in public, but unsafe for a black man to have a conversation with a police officer. I hate that it is controversial to say that black lives matter.
I hate my complicity in these evils and others–my own evil, believe me, is not limited to the right or to the left; it is enthusiastically bipartisan. Yet, somehow, in spite of all this, I love myself. Maybe it is possible to love others the same way.
Let us keep hating and fighting against bad ideas, whoever holds them. Let us keep loving and fighting for good people, however wrong they are. When we do this, we may find that we have new and strange companions. And we may find that the people who used to be our companions are now very strange to us indeed.