In one chapter of Isaac Asimov's autobiography, he talked at length about the sorts of letters he gets from readers, and in particular, there was one type of letter that he always thought strange. As a life-long atheist, he often would get letters from people who had something to say about his spiritual state. Some would inform him that they would be praying for him, to which he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, okay, if it makes them feel better. Another type though, the one that was the really strange one, was letters from readers denouncing him for his atheism, and telling him what a terrible person he was for not believing in God, and how much they despised him. He said he wrote one of these people back and said, "I am sure you believe I will go to hell when I die, and that once there I will suffer all the pains and tortures the sadistic ingenuity of your deity can devise and that this torture will continue forever. Isn't that enough for you? Do you have to call me bad names in addition?"
Asimov apparently lived a very happy life. Throughout his autobiography, he repeatedly reports that he has had nothing to complain about, having spent his life largely doing the thing he loved most: writing. There were a few regrets (a failed first marriage), but he had the sense to try always to look on the bright side of those (two wonderful children that brought him much joy). Despite the fact that obviously, as a Christian I disagree with his theological views, I have a lot of respect for the man, who seems to at least have been true to himself in his life, if not to any sort of higher power which he didn't believe in anyway.
I'm glad Asimov had a happy life. As a Christian, I have to believe it highly likely that yes, in fact, Asimov is in Hell now. Knowing that, why would anyone endeavor to make someone's life miserable because of their belief in greater misery to come? It's a very good question, and one to which Asimov never got an answer.
This is not an essay on Asimov, nor on Proposition 8, which will come up as a big part of the inspiration for my writing of this. It's not even an essay on salvation, although that's obviously important. This is an essay about hatefulness.
The other day, I saw... Well, I've told this story to a few people, and I realized that the best way to tell it is to leave out details that might give away anything to reveal the identities of the parties involved, so as not to bias it. After all, the story is about the event, not the political positions of the persons involved. The other day, I saw a person standing on a street corner holding up a sign that espoused their view on Proposition 8. A car came by, and did not slow down, but somebody leaned out the passenger window with a sign espousing their support for the opposing view, and waved it in the face of the person on the corner, shaking their fist. I was appalled. It seemed to me that this was an incredibly stupid and dangerous action on the part of the passenger (probably illegal, too). They were making a fool of themselves and potentially endangering themselves, the person on the corner, the driver, and various others in the vicinity, just so they could put on a public display of hatred for a political position.
If the pro-8 people believe they're going to win, what purpose does it serve to make the lives of homosexuals (and gay-friendly heteros) miserable on the way to taking away the rights they think they deserve? If the anti-8 people think they're going to win, what's the point of rubbing the noses of homophobes in it and making them miserable? Is hate doing anything to make the world a better place? Why are people getting so worked up about this law that in the end will pretty much stop nobody from doing anything? If it passes, the pro-homosexual activists will just keep pushing until it's taken out of the constitution. If it fails, the proponents will bring it back next year. Anna Quindlen was so wrong about the debate over same-sex marriage being over that it's scary. This is a debate and a fight that will never end.
We human beings are very good at hating. We hate people who have different philosophical views, we hate people who have different sexual orientations, we hate people who have different political positions, we hate people who have the wrong color skin, we even hate ourselves sometimes. What good does it do to hate, though? I'm certainly not hate-free. I'm human, but at the same time, I recognize that on those occasions wherein I experience hate, my hate is doing nothing to make the world--or even my own personal experience of the world--any better. I can hold it in and fume over it, damaging my own sense of peace, or I can lash out and become the villain. Neither one is going to improve my happiness. Why do we do it?
It seems like everyone I know either hates Barack Obama or hates John McCain. Some people hate both of them. They're just a couple politicians, both of which are doing the best they can in their own belief to make the country a better place. They're not bad people, neither one of them, no matter what you believe about them. I only wish it were that simple to convince people of this fact. I know who I'm voting for, but I also know that whoever wins, people are going to be angry and disappointed. People are going to view the losing of their candidate as an earth-shattering event. I don't get it. How many Presidents have really made changes that have deeply, radically changed the country as we know it? Abraham Lincoln? Franklin Roosevelt? Ronald Reagan? They steer the country, but we're a country so large that, like an aircraft carrier, turning around is a slow and laborious process. If the next President is headed the wrong way, then simply wait four years and get a new one. Meanwhile the Supreme Court legalizes abortions, desegregates schools, and makes the real changes in the country while Justices keep their positions for life.
Darnit, this is all so fleeting! Why do we get so caught up in this? Politics are important, but they're temporary. If the average person lives 80 years, then a Presidential term is just five percent of a lifetime. Raising a child is a task that will stretch through five terms, but will have an impact that potentially reaches for generations. On the national level, my political opinion is just one among half a million, but at home, my influence on my kids is about 50%. Do I want to teach them to hate, or do I want to teach them to stand up for what's right with love and compassion? However I express myself, they will pick it up and emulate it.
That goes for politics, yes, but it also goes for spiritual matters. Going back to my original line of thought, what good does it do to hate non-Christians? Hatred is not going to save a single soul, is it? Hatred is the sort of emotion that consigns people to Hell, not the sort of emotion that draws them out of it. I fear that Christians are caught up in the pop-culture theology that says, "Bad people go to Hell." Not that they truly believe this heresy, but that they draw on this concept to prove to themselves that since non-Christians are going to Hell, they must be bad people, and deserve to be punished. Funny, I don't see that in the Bible; I see the statement that God wants to see everyone saved. I see the statement that Christians who can't live in peace are severely lacking in spiritual maturity.
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? (ICor. 3:1-3)
How can anyone think that hate can be the foundation of anything good?
Let's talk about what to so many Christians is their pet topic: abortion. Where in the Bible does God say that people who are "pro-choice" are going to Hell? Where does it even say they are bad? If abortion is murder, then we're faced with a challenge: If people don't believe abortion is murder, then they'll never agree that it's something bad that should be made illegal. In order to change abortion, we supposedly need to change the law, but the law is made by people. You won't change the law unless you change people's minds. You won't change people's minds unless you change their hearts. You won't change their hearts unless you convince them to let God into their lives. If you want to save all those unborn babies, you could spend some time barricading clinics or protesting Planned Parenthood, but in my opinion, the best way to really make the situation better is to show some love and share the Gospel with people. Do you really believe that all Christians will be against abortion? Then you'd better figure out how to make this a nation of Christians.
I'll give you a clue: you're not going to make converts through hate.