Near the final scene of the 1993 Joel Schumacher film, Falling Down, Robert Duvall has cornered Michael Douglas, who plays a laid-off defense-contracting engineer who has gone on a murderous rampage. Douglas looks at Duvall and asks incredulously, “I’m the bad guy? How did that happen?” And he really doesn’t know.
I’ve been corresponding with a Christian minister who asks a similar question. He’s genuinely puzzled as to why humanists in general or gays in particular would associate Christianity with bigotry and prejudice. A few excerpts:
Who should I hate? In the end, it seems that I must either hate them all or none of them. The word of God and the inward testimony of God both tell me that I must hate none of them – even when it is necessary for me to oppose them…
And I think you have correctly perceived that I do not hate you. And, I find that the ability – the necessity – to love my opponents and to wish always for their best good, is tied directly to having placed my ultimate hopes beyond the present reality. If I thought this was all there was or ever would be, I think I would be decidedly more capable of hate. If I thought it was all about evolution – which,it seems to me, hinges on the quest for momentary advantage – I believe I could hate – that being after all, only a chemical phenomenon that is either useful or not at the moment and virtually immune to concepts like virtue or morality…
In the meantime, I hear from folks on your side of some issues that I do hate. I am prolife and therefore, ipsofacto, I hate women. If what they mean is that if I had my complete way, I would restrict certain freedoms even though it places certain barriers and limitations before individuals and classes of people who would like to operate without that restriction, then we don’t have the same definition of hate. I could introduce you to several women who have had abortions, who either previously were or currently are pro-choice, who yet would sign any affidavit you cared to craft swearing that I love them. (Emphasis mine)
Please believe, it is not a matter of hurt feelings. I don’t have any particular desire to be obnoxious to you or your compatriots. I am not afraid of spirited debate. But part of my agenda is both to understand and confront the (to me totally upsidedown seeming) notion that Christianity breeds hate, contempt, and ignorance. If I am not yet skilled enough to communicate across this great divide without fostering the impression of ignorance and hatred despite my own clear conviction that I hate none of you (whether or not I’m ignorant may be more in question), then it is probably best to keep my mouth shut a while longer. (Emphasis mine)
I feel that homosexuality is a moral problem. I do not, for what it’s worth, feel the need to take that issue to law and regulation. I don’t think the moral problem of homosexuality is worse than my own moral problems. I am not – at heart – a legalist. And I’m not trying to start a new issue between us on either abortion or homosexuality. And I know that presenting a similar list of homosexual people who would sign the ‘He does not hate me’ affidavit wouldn’t make any real difference. The assertion seems to be that I hate a class of people regardless of my relationship to any particular individuals.
I suggested throwing his agenda open to the community at SEB for response and he replied:
I don’t mind if you post the paragraph. I would be interested to see what would happen. I don’t really think you misundestood this – only a product of a quick communication – but to clarify, I’m only partly worried about offending anyone. I’m more worried about the cultural divide. I have seen missionaries do harm because they were eager to impart the gospel before they understood the target culture. This is not what you would call a missionary venture, but the same principle applies.
Really, Christians are the bad guys? How did that happen? Aren’t Christians, by definition, the good guys? Can anyone explain?
He’s all yours, folks. He wants to know. Can you help him understand?