House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently had a heated exchange with a reporter who asked if she hated President Donald Trump.
“As a Catholic, I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me. I don't hate anyone,” she said, adding that she prays for the president.
This is an admirable statement, and certainly it is in line with Christian teaching. However, what’s interesting is that just before that profession, she’d called the president a coward, among other things.
How do you reconcile "not hating" someone while, simultaneously, being so angry with them that you exchange an insult or two?
This shows the difficulty with the whole “love your enemy” thing. We live in a tension between saying we don't hate while having to deal with emotions that don't seem very loving.
Sometimes religious people break this tension by imagining those who disagree with them as having migrated to the dark side. If you paint your opponent in totally evil terms, you don't feel quite as guilty in being unchristian to them.
Jesus, though, lived this tension to the end. He was never soft on his enemies. He torched the Pharisees and cleared out the temple. But in the end he still prayed, “Father, forgive them.”
Maybe he was able to do this because he remembered the humanity of his opponents, and never demonized them. He ate in their homes and made time to listen to and talk with them. He showed a little 1 Corinthians 13 love: he bore, believed, hoped, endured all things on their behalf.
Jesus was free to be angry because he lived such love so powerfully. That foundational love would never let anger prevent him from searching for the divine image even in his darkest opponent.
It’s easy to state the cliché, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” It’s much harder to make that real, without our emotions moving us to words and actions that disconnect us from each other. Jesus shows us the way.
Sister Simone Campbell reflects this wisdom when she says, “My meditation practice has led me to see that God is alive in all. No one can be left out of my care. Therefore [our] political work is anchored in caring for those whom we lobby as well as those whose cause we champion.”
I applaud Ms. Pelosi for attempting to do that. She also demonstrated how it's an ongoing tension to show care for an opponent when your feelings push against it.
May God grant us the ability to accomplish such caring, and grace for the times when we will struggle.