Christians are called to love others. One of the clearer teachings of their Saviour is the command to love their enemies. In Christian circles therefore it can be a rebuke in a political discussion that a person is not sufficiently loving the targets of their criticism.
Still Christians on the left or right are hardly silenced by this insistence on loving their enemies. The rejoinder against the call to be more loving is that having a critical perspective is in fact being loving. I have heard this defence used to argue that a person loves transgender kids precisely by being loudly critical of their gender identity. They love them so much they want to speak the truth to them although if there are no trans teens around a debate on facebook about them will do.
Likewise stop a left wing Christian from bemoaning men’s rights activists for a second and yes they might claim to love them. They may claim to merely hate their policies, similar to hating their sin. They still love the sinner.
Let's be honest. There isn’t a lot of material loving likely to be happening between people who strongly disagree. How could there be given that they tend to avoid each other? Seldom does any relationship other than the one of criticism actually exist between a right wing Christian and a transgender teen or between a left wing Christian and an active defender of the patriarchy. Generally speaking the love between these groups is hypothetical at best; I would cross the road to help them if they were injured, and if by some remote chance I was passing by.
Often this love is just a romantic notion. Loving is defined as wanting the best for someone else and doesn’t require anymore than the willingness to imagine them happy. The image of their happiness can rely on any number of presumptions about what is best for the other person. It is still loving to steal the children from a person of another faith because you think your faith is the best for them. It is still loving to conceal safer sex information from teens because celibacy is in your opinion best for them. This kind of love can become just another privilege to stand on – a daddy knows best kind of love.
What people may mean by this kind of love is that they don’t hate the other person. Some people do genuinely hate the objects of their political criticism. They delight in any misfortune that befalls them. The person who holds to wanting the best for those they are criticizing, claiming to love them by that definition, is different to this. They are not driven by hate. They may however be driven by fear or self-interest or anxiety. There is a lot of space between hate and genuine love.
Genuine love requires a relationship. Genuine love involves sacrifice and effort. Genuine love does involve the courage to tell the truth. But if that is all you are doing, telling trans teens or complementarians your opinion of them, maybe not even directly, isn’t it more likely you are just enjoying the soap box and frankly couldn’t give a shit about who you are talking about.
I think its commendable and worth noting when hate is not a part of a person’s motivation. This can be demonstrated by reigning in the mockery of peers – maybe suggesting that some criticisms are off-limits and opposing violence most definitely. I think its important to recognize the distinction between a hateful attack and a critique. But I hope we stop calling this not-hate love.
I think the commandment to love our enemies has very little to do with abstract feelings maintained at a distance. I think loving someone also can’t come after we have decided our policy on them. Love involves the respect that requires us to rethink our opinions after listening. Love is so specific that our response to one person may not fit the play book, even while our response to another is exactly as foreseen. Love involves speaking critically rarely and listening mostly. We may merely not hate our enemies and not actually love them because it’s hard to do more than this. We shouldn’t cheapen love to the point that it’s easy.
Likewise we should stop with the rebuke that provokes the cheap love reaction. We should call out speech that is spiteful, gleefully mean and deceptive. However we should stop expecting people to love the objects of their criticism and holding it against them if they don’t. Sticking up for some population online and in general does not really love them either. It is just a different type of grandstanding and soapboxing. As someone who generally supports trans teens in their transitioning in general maybe love would call me to oppose someone’s transition in the particular.
The very same message applies to all sides; Genuine love requires a relationship. Genuine love involves sacrifice and effort. Genuine love does involve the courage to tell the truth. But if that is all you are doing, telling trans teens or complementarians your opinion of them (a positive opinion even), maybe not even directly, isn’t it more likely you are just enjoying the soap box and frankly couldn’t give a shit about who you are talking about.