Today I found myself stopped at a light. Being the momentary captive audience that I was, I could not help noticing the political sticker on the vehicle in front of me. It sported a background formed of an assorted variety of revolutionary fists raised together in the air.
What was particularly interesting to me was the moniker splayed across it which read: “Vote Against Hate.” Well, who could not raise a fist pump to that?
Signs and symbols carry more meaning than the image itself does. Moreover, a fist is also a form of body language. It says something by the very way in which it is oriented.
For instance, If the top of my fist is pointed straight out facing someone else, my knuckles oriented upward, elbow down, and I make a slight motion upward and downward, we call that a “fist pump”—something we do when we are excited about a circumstance, victory, or cheering when our team scored the goal. The clenched revolutionary fist however is typically pointed either straight up or up and away from the person (ironically not so different from a Nazi salute!).
Interpreting the Signs
When encountering such gestures and, it is wise to consider them, not only for what they are intended to mean but even what those who use them are subconsciously meaning that they themselves may not entirely be aware of.
The revolutionary fist is typically a symbol of power and defiance. This is why it was so widely employed as an order of self-definition against the “bourgeoisie,” capitalists, industrialists, oppressors, etc. Deeper than that, the simple clenched fist has long been a symbol of violence. It spells anger, hatred, vengeance, and an intention to inflict a wound on one’s opponent.
The “Hate” of Violence
If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that hate drives violence. We speak not here of when individuals or nations are forced to defend themselves against violence; here I speak of the ideological hatred or even the personal hatred that causes one man to perpetrate violence against another. When Karl Marx’ and Frederick Engles’ Communist Manifesto is carefully read, what jumps off the page is the passion and invective inherent in their prose.
The entire work is a call to arms—a battle cry toward violence. The bourgeoisie has committed injustice which justifies their deposition and destruction. Its pages bleed through with sweltering wrath and lust for vengeance. No doubt, Marx and Engles are preachers—preachers of their own making.
A Violent [g]ospel
Every movement has its mission; that mission is rooted in a vision of a better world, its proverbial “gospel.” When Marx and Engles wrote the manifesto, they sincerely believed what they were doing was right. They envisioned a world without class struggle, one class subjugated by another, an end of suffering, and everlasting peace. They were idealists. This was their “gospel”—their “good news” message that they preached to put the right. But it could achieve nothing more than a parody status of the true Gospel of Christ, and Communism’s fruit in the 20th century bears this out.
Idealism and the Fallen Human Nature
Idealists are typically naive, and social reform movements are especially naive in one particular category where the historic Gospel could help; this is the problem of human nature. Most of us figure out pretty quickly that most people cannot be entirely trusted. But the Gospel of Jesus forces a deeper question…
“Yeah, but can you trust yourself?”
Jesus’ answer is resounding No. The Gospel does not begin with a utopian vision of the Kingdom of God. It starts with the rather unpopular topic of the universal sinfulness of all mankind. No matter how good we try to be, we are incessantly unfaithful, untrustworthy, and self-centered. The Evangelist of John’s Gospel makes an interesting, but often overlooked comment on this point:
“But Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man.” (RSV John 2:24–25)
These words pay no compliment to the human race. When you couple sin nature with the homiletic call to arms seen in the Manifesto and contemporary leftist rhetoric today, you have a recipe for violence. And that is precisely what we are seeing spilling onto our streets. It is then not so surprising that while in protest against the Czarist regime’s injustices of over six thousand political executions, the Bolsheviks far outstripped them more than doubling that to over fifteen thousand political executions in only two months! All told, in the roughly eighty-year reign of communism, it’s call to “hating hate” boasts over one hundred million deaths.
The fist symbol in the sticker says something profound, perhaps far more than its creator meant, but quite on the mark. The fist is itself a symbol of ideological hate; in that sense, the revolutionary fist with the slogan “Vote against hate” is in fact a call to “hate, hate”—to hate “hate speech” or to hate the “hater.” We will leave off the debatable question of whether the target of this sticker (obviously President Trump and his supporters) are in fact guilty of such hate.
The sticker, like the history of communism in general, makes an exception to the rule of hating. In the ethical constellation of the radical left, “hate,” “haters”, “hateful rhetoric,” “hate speech,” and so on have become cardinal sins. It is wrong to hate, racially, economically, socially, and so on. That is the baseline ethic, which is good in so far as it goes. The problem is in the very next step, which is that it is ok to hate, hate.
Fundamentally, it is always wrong to hate, except for hating hateful people. For example, it is ok to hate a Nazi—Nazis may be hated because they are a hate group. And therein lies precisely the problem. That is precisely where every ideological revolution and communist movement turned into a tragedy of social oppression, injustice, and mass murder.
For a concrete example, as Stalin’s forces crept back across Europe towards Berlin they installed a policy of systematic gang-rape to “punish” the German people. In just a few months, it is estimated that over 250,000 German women were raped (and many many murdered) by the communist forces. This is where the ethic of “it’s ok to hate the hater” consequently leads. We are seeing this same pattern on our streets and even in our schools where new acts of violence are being perpetrated daily.
That is precisely what the raised fist in the sticker is saying—it is ok to hate those whom you deem to be a hate-filled person. (That, of course, does not reflectively answer how one arrives at an objective conclusion of who is a truly hate-filled person and therefore truly deserves to be “hated.”) By and large, this seems to be devolving into invective, slander, and violence against anyone with whom one may religiously, morally, and politically disagree.
Once that line is crossed, violence also gets a pass too. It reasons, It is never ok to hate, except a person who hates; if you however decide that this or that person is full of hate, then you MUST hate them, and you also now MAY commit violence against them because… “they deserve it.”
This ethical leap is made simply on the basis of their own eschatology? By eschatology, I mean vision of the “end of the world” or the “end result” of the cause. If the eschatological vision is a world without hatred, then the easiest way to get rid of hatred is by getting rid of all the people who hate.
Rise Up!—Exterminate the haters! Of course, the “hater” very quickly reduces to nothing more than someone who disagrees with you and your agenda. The naive conclusion is that once there are no “haters” left, then it is a world free of hate speech, hatred, and haters… right?
Wrong. The violence behind a “hatred cleansing” is hate that simply perpetuates more hate. This is precisely what communism did all over the world in the 20th century. As noted above, the Bolsheviks far outstripped the Czars in violence. In their zeal to bring in their own workers’ utopia, they brought in an eighty-year reign of violence that has seen no parallel. And for the discerning reader, this could easily be seen in the violence pumping rhetoric of the Manifesto.
Hating Hate and the Radical Ethic of Jesus
Only the historical Gospel Jesus offers an ethic that can offer the world hope. The idea of “hating your enemies is not new. Jesus addressed it head-on in his own day.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt. 5:43)
The Gospel does not call us to hate our enemies (hating the haters) but to love them and see them as an object of compassion and conversion to this same ethic. There is of course nothing easy about this. But that is precisely what makes the Gospel of Jesus so radical and so other-worldly. Hating one’s enemy only multiplies hatred and violence; the ethic of Jesus turns the first person away from hatred with the goal of possibly converting his enemy as well. The result is then the conversion and subtraction of hate-driven people in the world—yet without the use of violence.
Moreover, Jesus’ ethic is watertight. No matter how badly one may not want it to be true, it is. It cannot be punctured, popped, dissolved, or disintegrated. Jesus’ “love your enemies” ethic bears perfect balance and integrity. You cannot destroy hatred by hatred. By hating hate, you have only multiplied the collective hate in the world. When one non-hateful person begins hating the hatemonger for his hate, the world now has two people driven by hatred. The hatemonger, by his hate, has won a convert—not to his cause per se, but to a shared hate-driven way of life.
The Naivete of Would-be Reformers
The problem with almost all would-be reform movements and reformers is that they are inherently hypocritical and “other-focused.” By this, I mean that their default posture is “I’m right” and their opponent is wrong. With this comes the natural self-righteousness to justify violence against one’s enemy. It’s Achilles heel is that it remains naive to the darkness in one’s own soul. That is why the reforms of communism and other socialist movements were not only such fantastic failures but perpetrators of the worst violence.
Only the Gospel of Jesus begins with the individual looking inward at his or her own soul for reform first. While social-reformers typically focus on the splinter in their enemy’s eye, the Gospel calls us to self-examination, accountability, and self-reproof. As Paul puts it, in the Gospel we judged ourselves so that we may not be judged with the world. [1 Cor 11:31–32]
Albeit we as Christians may not always do this as well as we could. Nevertheless, the byproduct of Jesus’ ethic of self-examination and repentance far outstrips any alternative in the social and civil sphere. By the revelation of and primary focus upon our own evil, the Gospel reforms the world from the human heart outward—not from the tip of a bayonet inward. The bayonet has never converted any man, but its violence sure has hardened men to make them the worse for it. Only the Gospel offers freedom from the vortex of perpetual hatred.