Hate Has No Home Here

How should Christians respond to the “Hate has no home here” phenomenon?

This is where the question of “hate” becomes interesting. Indeed, we might say that the people living in the poorest parts of our cities are the victims of exactly the kind of “love” which the affluent are promoting: promiscuous sex, untethered from the social responsibility which the family embodies and which Christian teaching promotes. Rates of single parenthood in poor areas are catastrophic. The sexual revolution has wreaked havoc on the underclass while those who have promoted it—the Hollywood set, the suburbanites whose avatars populate John Updike’s novels—have the resources to realize their sexual philosophy in practice. It is those who emulate them from less privileged sectors of society who end up paying a very heavy price.


On lawns in my neighborhood, quite a number of those “Hate has no home here” signs have appeared over the last twelve months. My immediate reaction is to see them as somewhat superfluous: I live in a Philadelphia suburb which, while hardly affluent, is nonetheless comfortable and safe, with a community that is peaceful, friendly, and well-integrated. As far as I can tell, hate has not been much of a problem during the sixteen years I have lived here.

And yet these signs do capture something of the national mood—at least the mood of a certain section of the population—and are emblematic of political divisions which now seem deeper and more intractable than at any time since the late 1960s.

Critics might decry the signs as nothing more than “virtue signaling,” but even such a dismissive response raises the fascinating questions of what virtues are being signaled and why. All such actions rest upon values formed over time. They have a history, a genealogy. And understanding those can help us think more clearly about how we should respond.

The immediate context is obvious: the Trump presidency. These signs are a response to the unexpected victory of the populist Republican, entrepreneur, and reality TV star in the 2016 presidential election. But just as Trump is not the cause of Trump but the result of other factors—a reaction to eight years of Obama, a symptom of a nation which has had sixteen years of controversial and increasingly partisan politics—so these signs are symptomatic of deeper, more significant shifts in how many people think.

Psychological Oppression

The most obvious factor is the psychologizing of the self. Put simply, we live in a world where identity is increasingly determined by who and what we think we are. Transgenderism is the most obvious example of this. If you have a male body but think you are a woman, then you are a woman, and no amount of pointing to the obvious physiological and chromosomal evidence will change your mind. Indeed, to cite such evidence will actually be regarded as oppressive, an act of hate.

Transgenderism may seem to some to be a very radical cultural development but it isn’t really so. A moment’s reflection indicates that for at least the last four hundred years (and arguably much longer) the tendency to prioritize personal thoughts and feelings as the basis for identity has been gaining in strength. Descartes’s principle, “I think therefore I am” stands on a continuum with “I think I am a woman, therefore I am.”

What has changed in recent years is not the basic psychological trajectory of how we think of personal identity but how it has meshed with the political culture in which we now find ourselves.

The notion of oppression was once understood in terms which were at root economic. In Britain, the trade union movement grew out of a desire to see more economic parity between classes. In America, nineteenth-century abolitionism and the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth-century were driven by the desire to see African Americans enjoy the same opportunities for flourishing as others, a flourishing for which political freedom and equality before the law were basic foundations.

Now, however, we live in an era where the worst oppression is considered to be psychological, that which hinders people from being who they really are—or at least who they think they really are.

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