Honest Hatred Under The Big Tent

By Randy Woodley

O.K. If I am to be honest, I must confess! Sometimes I don’t feel like loving my neighbor. Let’s call this my “not-love” state. Yesterday, when asked to submit a blog for this site, I was in my “not-love” state. The particular occasion that precipitated my “not-love” state was the very familiar routine of a White Christian institution doing a wrong that affected my family and then trying to cover it up with several small lies. This, unfortunately, is status quo activity for the people on the other side of the systemic power structure. But, what can I say—it is part of the systemic evil in the world. I’ll get over it. When I’m feeling this way it is difficult to explain but I thought for the sake of the Big Tent concept (God’s idea) I would try.

I know as a human being my “not-love” stance is indefensible, still, I don’t think my “not-love” is the worst kind. I say that because when I think about it-it seems my “not-love” always occurs when people of the dominant culture perpetuate another injustice against me or someone else I know, or even someone I don’t know.  When I really work through my “not-love” I always find that I am full of all kinds of emotions. When I examine these emotions it actually revels the true nature of my feelings, which is really a kind of hatred. My “not-love” is actually hatred. (Wow! He used the “H” word). Yep, I have been known to be a hater. You may be asking by now, “What could be worse than hatred?” My answer, “Indifference.”

Why, would I consider indifference worse than hatred? I’ll try to explain. Hatred is rooted in a wrong done. For me hatred is always about injustice. Maybe a better way of saying hatred is actually “hurtred.” Hatred is really systemic hurt. When wrongs occur like the one yesterday, I hate what is being done. I hate the system perpetuating it. Maybe, at least for a little while, I even hate the person who is cooperating with evil. But then in the middle of my hatred I hear the Spirit say stuff like, “don’t be a hater,” “God is love,” “Do you know how much I (Jesus) love you?” Alright, then I have to work through my feelings and expose them for what they really are-just plain hurt.

My hurt reveals that I have an expectation of something more. My hurt shows that I want a relationship beyond the current circumstances. My hurt also exposes the fact that I am willing to give myself to the remedy. When you hurt me—you expose my vulnerability and my humanity. And I think being human is a good thing. I think indifference, on the other hand, is pure evil.

Indifference unveils the truth that you don’t care about me. Indifference shows me that you wish I would just go away. Indifference means that you don’t consider me a human being in the same way you consider yourself to be human. Indifference is totally rooted in our own concerns about ourselves. Indifference is about me and mine, or even about preserving the system that serves me, or my own kind best, without as much concern for others. Indifference is always the most comfortable option.

Injustices will always occur among human beings but injustice can happen because of hatred or it can happen because of indifference. I think I’m much better off by responding than not caring. I’d much rather face your honest hatred than your self-serving indifference.

So when we come together under the Big Tent, I don’t mind if occasionally you hate me for a while (warning: prolonged hatred can lead to indifference). From our hatred, we still have something to talk about. Honest hatred can even uncover the fact that we really love each other. But please, don’t ignore me. Don’t be indifferent. If you’ve read this far, we’ve already have made a good start. Thanks!

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” – Jesus

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8 Responses to Honest Hatred Under The Big Tent

  1. Pingback: Big Tent Christianity » Blog Archive » Big Tent Christianity Synchroblog

  2. Thanks! That one class at GFES (Fall 2008) has been huge in my education.

  3. Nathan Smith says:

    Randy – the ball is out of the park! You have counted beaceaux coup!

    I thought it would be worth saying that this dynamic is manifested in racialization, prejudice and bigotry but it’s route is power. Who has it and who doesn’t. I have had this same dynamic happen to me within white culture but it is glaringly obvious that it happens a heck of a lot more between ethnicities than within ethnicities – at least when they are in spaces where they cross paths.

    The little lie stuff that undermines your dignity, authority and reputation – I think that that is the stuff of persecution that needs non-violent action to address? What do you think? Do we respond by overlooking continuously and if not, at what point do we take action – non-violent action that is?

    I have begun to understand that historically missionaries were “called” to the mission field by “Disinterested benevolence” – a term coined in the 17th century by Puritans and others. It seems though that it turned into “benevolence without regard.” The perpetual theme that allows people in positions of power to continue their indifference and cover it up while still maintaining their holy image as “benevolence.” Whereas malevolence is a direct desire/act to destroy, undermine and demise – benevolence is a direct desire/act to entrust, care for and bless. Just because benevolence is good doesn’t mean it’s right. Like you, I would rather have open malevolence than benevolence without regard.

    When I was going through a similar situation that you described, benevolence was used by the perpetrators as their way of convincing themselves and others that they weren’t doing anything wrong. When we didn’t accept their benevolence they took that as an ungrateful response and seemed to be relieved because they no longer could be seen as the perpetrators or wrongdoers – now at least we had joined them or we were more in the wrong for being “ungracious” towards their benevolence.

    The reason we didn’t accept the benevolence is because it just compounded the initial wrong and would have made us tow the party line on their behalf. It also allowed them to ignore the wrong, normalize the injustice and keep moving without even a hiccup, all in the name of comfort and indifference. Life is so much easier that way – at least for awhile.

    Like you – we were more offended and hurt by the second wrong of indifference inthe form of benevolence than the first wrong of malevolence because it completely ignored our humanity, our dignity and our rights. We chose not to “overlook” this one but also not to bite back. Our answer was to sever relationships that would have communicated normalization to the community while maintaining that if God were to re-connect us that we would be open for that in the future.

    It was a tough circumstance but we held our ground and did no violence, but allowed the violence done to us to run its course – which means that it had to hurt us and come through us but as those who live by the sword die by the sword, it probably will come back to them. Thankfully, our hand never touched the hilt of the sword that was dealt to us.

    This may sound self-righteous but it was an experiment and if we made mistakes and harmed unnecessarily, we are prepared to meet the consequences.

    This experience taught me and my wife that when we are in positions of power – we could do to others so easily what was done to us. This is one of the truest tests of character – to do right when no one will stop you from doing wrong and will accommodate your ability to name the “wrong” as “right.” The second wrong is always worse than the first – the wrong of indifference.

    Scripturally, it seems that the Greatest Commandment and the Sabbath/Jubilee are the two areas God uses two deal with this issue. Do you see any others in Scripture?

    Rob Bell believes that “throwing pearls to swine is actually a metaphor for throwing “benevolence” to those who don’t need it or want it and understand you to be doing it for your own benefit rather than theirs – so the problem doesn’t have to be with the ungrateful swine but rather with the foolish and manipulative pearl chuckers. Make sense to me. Thoughts?

    So, when do you stop overlooking and when do you act? This isn’t something we hear taught really at all, in Evangelicalism of the white variety at least.

    thanks for the post

    • ethnicspace says:

      Nathan, I think you are right, it is “the little foxes that spoil the vine.” Those lies used to cover the wrong make us feel like we are the ones who are somehow in the wrong. Your situation sounds a lot like mine and many others I and others have experienced. I was also called ungrateful for not accepting the lie.

      I have learned that when an institution holds a different story about what is true than the “least of these” in the system, it is a good indication that systemic evil powers have taken over the system, like those talked about in Eph. 6. The evil powers are obviously not averse to inhabiting Christian organizations. This helps to create the dualism of “sharing the gospel” while not living it out in truth as praxis.

      I think Bell is correct in the principle if not the interpretation (I need to see his argument and how it jives with Wink’s ideas of Matt. 5:38ff). I have heard stories of our old peace chiefs returning good for evil in spite of the cost. To some degrees I have done this as well. It cost a lot to be a peacemaker.

      So the big question: When do you respond with the full force of wisdom, organized action and directed non-violence allowed in Christ? I think you choose well which battles you are willing to die for. You can’t sacrifice everything on every hill, make sure the ones you choose are the ones you are willing to “die” on.

  4. Mindy (Jenkins) Erdmann says:

    Randy, I always love reading what you write. Thanks for sharing this.

    ~Mindy (PfR 2003)

  5. Pingback: Big Tent Synchroblog « Godspace

  6. unfortunately, what you experienced:
    “the very familiar routine of a White Christian institution doing a wrong that affected my family and then trying to cover it up with several small lies. This, unfortunately, is status quo activity for the people on the other side of the systemic power structure.”

    is way too common! My family and I too have been the victims of some not so small lies as well… and the pain that is inflcted by a “Christian institution” lingers much longer than the day the wound is given.
    Sadly, you and I are not the only ones to have felt this kind of wound.
    I know you find and have found healing as we have, but healing never negates the experience.
    I look forward to the day when all tears shall be wiped away, yes, but I pray for the kingdom to come now so that these injuries will not be inflicted upon our Father’s servants.

  7. Liz says:

    Thanks for participating in the Big Tent Synchroblog.

    I hope you are able to participate in the upcoming synchroblog “Christians and The Immigration Issue”

    Here’s the info:

    CHRISTIANS AND THE IMMIGRATION ISSUE – 9/8/2010 (second Wednesday of the month) As Congress debates how to handle undocumented aliens already within U.S. borders and how to more effectively handle hopeful immigrants in the future, Christians will need to consider what it means to love these new neighbors in our midst.

    Please email your name, name of blog, title of post and link to: Sonja Andrews at synchroblog@gmail.com by close of business CST on 9/7/2010 if you would like to be included in this synchroblog.

    Here’s a link to help keep up with monthly synchroblog themes and dates:


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