The latest method of marginalizing opponents, especially popular among the Politically Correct crowd, is to label one’s adversaries as “haters”. Name-calling (see “communist“) is a time-tested way to declare intellectually bankruptcy while maintaining an attack posture. It’s the pathetic last ditch effort of a cause that has no moral foundation. No doubt Samuel Johnson would include name-calling, along with patriotism, as a last refuge of scoundrels.
There are few more potent words in the English language than “hate”. And there is a marked difference between accusing someone of hating another and calling that one a “hater”. The former is a description of a single action, while the latter is a blanket indictment of the person’s character. Surely it’s possible to hate someone or something (inadvisable as that might be) but not be a hateful person in general, just as it’s possible to get drunk without being one.
Looking at this objectively, the name-caller is exhibiting the more hateful behavior. Labeling someone as a hater, besides being petty and puerile, is potentially slanderous. (Does that make the name-caller a “slanderer”?) How hateful is it to take one person’s opinion and use it to pass judgement on the person’s very soul?
It’s a particularly harsh accusation for those of us who consider ourselves followers of Jesus, some of whom are the primary targets of this labeling. Jesus Himself seems to equate hatred with murder. Instead, He tells us to love and pray for our enemies. I have no doubt that many of the so-called haters are actually practicing what He preached and praying for their accusers.
To actually be a hater, i.e. a hateful person, is inexcusable behavior for someone who claims Jesus as Lord, yet it’s true enough that many are. I would question such a person’s true commitment to Christ. A quick survey of St. John’s first letter makes such a claim inconceivable.
Neither the left nor the right has a corner on hatred. In fact, both sides have sadly demonstrated tremendous proficiency in said skill. Thus the level of political discourse in the US would need a step ladder just to reach up to the gutter.
Still, in the democracy in which we find ourselves, disagreement is not only possible among friends, it’s unavoidable. It’s also a good idea. Here’s a thought: talk it out.