Politics, Hatred, and Leeches

images-1You might hear around our house: “Monkey see, Monkey do.” So often children learn by watching. If I burp at the dinner table, our nine-year old, without missing a beat, summons a guttural barrage of belches. As he grins from ear to ear, is hard for the rest of us (my wife excluded) to keep from laughing. This reinforces his conviction that burping at the dinner table is acceptable. The point generalizes. What is modeled in the home, the athletic fields, and in the public square finds expression and embodiment in a watching generation of young men and women.

This brings me to politics. Sadly, the current political season includes a fair amount of name-calling, posturing, and argument. Don’t get me wrong. I like argument. I’m a philosopher after all. Thankfully, there have been moments of substantive debate on the political issues. The petty and vindictive arguments concern me. Character assassinations are all too common. Civil discourse is increasingly absent. “This person is a jerk, that person is nasty, they are all losers.” These kinds of statements have become daily fare. And it is hateful. It has become so commonplace that we fail to notice how pathetic this is: candidates for the highest office in the land resort to the kind of name-calling and hatred characteristic of an elementary school playground.

And the rest of the country—on social media, radio, television, and in café’s—has followed suit. “Monkey see, Monkey do.” Worse still, this hatred spills into the church. Hatred is subtle. It bores into our souls and takes root before you even realize what happened. As Chigozie Obioma hauntingly puts it, “Hatred is a leech:”images-2

The thing that sticks to a person’s skin; that feeds off them and drains the sap out of one’s spirit. It changes a person, and does not leave until it has sucked the last drop of peace from them. It clings to one’s skin, the way a leech does, burrowing deeper and deeper into the epidermis, so that to pull the parasite off the skin is to tear out that part of the flesh, and to kill it is self-flagellating.[1]

As Christians, we must remember that our primary allegiance is to Jesus. No political party can be equated with the Kingdom of God. Our hope is not in the next president and our ethic is not of this world. When our political discourse is no different than those on CNN, MSNBC, or FOX it might be time to examine our hearts. If we find hatred towards another, we must ask Jesus to tear out that part of the flesh. This is part of the good news of the gospel—even as we are prone to wonder, even as we act foolishly—there is forgiveness at the foot of the cross.


[1] Chigozie Obioma, The Fisherman (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2015), 207.

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