A Statute of Limitation on Hate

Is there a statute of limitation on hate? Is there a law against “the smear” and character assassinations? We live in a politically charged culture that is ripping families apart because it has become all too easy to put one more ornament on the tree of our discontent. Hating gets easier and easier when even our social gatherings—and cable news—support it. If you think that the American Civil War was a flash in the pan, guess again. It took decades to eventually bring the nation to Fort Sumter. And this was most literally a war of brother against brother.

There should be a statue of limitation on our rage. What I mean by this is that our dialogue should be more reasonable: fair and moderate with a goal to reach an understanding—if not a compromise. Such speech is characterized by three qualities:

  1. Constructive: forward looking, corrective, suggesting resolutions, not a hateful refrain reminding us of how evil they ‘allegedly’ are.
  2. Conciliatory: seeking to reconcile differences which might suggest first we really talk differences. Somehow, I am asked to falsely maintain that the American who votes the opposite ticket from me is as morally and ethically debased as the name they checked on the ballot—even though, neither they nor I know what each the other really believes or why we voted the way we did. Political parties are religious commitments for some that by-pass logic and are embarrassingly ignorant of the candidates’ real views.
  3. Caring, loving, not driven by a sadistic interest in hurting someone else. Hate does hurt and we have to stop getting in someone’s face simply to get in their face. We must cease getting a passing thrill out of offending them in the name of justice or fairness. It’s never what it seems. Hurting them never assuaged our own hurt. If we feel better it is, oh, so temporary.

Deep convictions and spirited debates do not engender hate but openness, honesty, and understanding. The past has a place in dialogue when remembering is intended as part of learning. Some mistakenly think forgiveness means forgetting. Not true. How can we ever forget what pure hate does—and the destroyed lives which such evil leaves in its wake! How can we wipe a civil war from our history. We must learn from the injustices of past generations perpetrated on others who were culturally or ethnically different; we must learn to embrace one another despite these differences. Maybe there is something about our opposition worth learning. Their endearing friendship might be the beginning of a peace worth pursuing for our children’s children’s sake.

I have tuned out 90%, most, of the daily news cycle because it is not only repetitious, saying what already has been said many times over, but it is often said to stir me to anger. I am not ignorant of the device employed. [2 Corinthians 2:10-11] The goal is to bring me to a white hot rage over someone I should hate. Issues are resurrected from a forgotten past to bring old memories to the forefront in support. This attitude can destroy a nation—let alone the individual who sees no value in a statute of limitation  on past offenses.  I am talking forgiveness.

“Oh, but we are defending our values.” You say.  “We are defending the faith. We are not hateful but defending a democratic legacy for which many have fought and died.” “This is not a matter of forgiveness!” you say. “This is a democracy, which means we must, any way we can, even with half truths, a negative spin, and uncorroborated rumor, raise a populous army of voters to protect the rights we so passionately and vehemently cherish.”

Does the end justify the means?  Voters shouldn’t need to be controlled. Citizens should not be handled to become passionate about the privilege to vote. Why can’t real issues and understood differences based on meaningful dialogue be the driving force?  Why can’t I choose to vote for a candidate simply because it is my sacred right in a democracy. Why can’t we agree to disagree, if we must, for the sake of a united future. Why not proclaim a moratorium on hate, a statue of limitation on “old” offenses, old ideologies, that should not—and do not—any longer have relevance?

Is there a statute of limitation on hate? For a believer there is both the “law of the Spirit” and the “law of Christ.”  We need to expand our understand of scripture and apply these verses to embrace a few more neighbors and family members.

because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you [and me] free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2.

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