Can You Love the Enemy Who is Trying to Kill You?

In the wake of Charlottesville, the Internet can be divided into two (three) people: the people crying that we should all “love our enemy;” the people shouting “They are literally trying to kill me;” (and the neo-Nazi defenders, who promote killing the aforementioned people; don’t even go down that rabbit hole).

The crux of the argument between the first two groups: Can You Love the Enemy who is Trying to Kill You?

Can You Love the Enemy Who is Trying to Kill You?

Spoiler Alert: if you’re Christian, you have to find a way from here to there. Jesus himself says the problematic phrase “Love your enemies.” But there are some twists and turns before we get there.

The problem with the enemy-loving question, especially on the Internet, is that most people argue from a Kantian perspective. To be perfectly objective, Immanuel Kant is a German philosopher who tried to universalize his own privilege as a mechanism for ethical discernment. Those calling for enemy-loving are often trying to universalize a moral claim in order to apply it to someone else. More pointedly, they tend to be privileged people suggesting that because I am white and I have been your enemy, you must love me. People who have done wrong have a vested interest in convincing the wronged to love their enemies. This is why Kant is insufficient.

Taking Kant out of the equation, we have two other starting points.

Immanuel Kant Birthday

John Stuart Mill at Kant’s Birthday (from Existential Comics).

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Learning to Leave Well: Doing Better at Church Splits

We need to find a new way to talk about the congregations that are leaving MC USA. They’re not leaving us; we’re getting divorced. Leaving is something you do after four OK Cupid dates. We have shared assets. We have children together (MCC, MMN, Everence) and we have the same parent (MWC). Do you want to stay involved in your children’s lives? Do you want to stay connected to your ex-in laws? How will you negotiate custody on holidays like Relief Sale and Schmeckfest? Churches aren’t “leaving”–they’re moving out of the house we’ve shared for 60 years.

This metaphor is scary. The church is still, though sometimes only technically, opposed to divorce. How can we talk about “divorcing well” if it’s something we’re not supposed to do at all? If what Clinton Frame actually did was divorce Indiana-Michigan, then both parties need a moment of self-reflection, self-discovery, and learning how to live separately. Self-reflection is hard, but what I’ve noticed recently is how much churches are struggling to live separately. Continue reading