Not long ago I heard a minister say, from the pulpit on Sunday morning, that recently he had to stop listening to “talk radio.” It was filling him with a hateful spirit.
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
He was talking about prayer, and about this Gospel injunction to “pray for those who mistreat you.” He discussed briefly how if you deliberately pray for your enemies, or those you’ve been thinking of as your enemies, your attitude toward them changes a bit. Not that you decide they are either right or harmless. But still there is a change.
That’s when he mentioned recently discovering his problem with talk radio. Deliberately praying for some of those he thought of as enemies made him sensitive to the hateful spirit he was infected with by listening to talk radio. So, says he, he has had to stop listening to it.
I certainly agree. Jesus was explicit about the behaviors in his enemies that offended him; he was not shy about such things. But he was not a purveyor of hate. He was attentive to and focused on those who welcomed him and his teaching – that is, he was not energized by and focused on his enemies.
Hatefulness very quickly and easily slides into rage, oppression and violence. And it reeks of self-righteousness.
Do you remember Jim and Tammy Bakker? When I was pastoring in Pasadena I used to get these phone calls. “Pastor, are you watching Jim and Tammy? Well, you need to turn it on. They …”
WHY? Why, I asked myself repeatedly, cannot these good people see that Jim and Tammy are both fraudulent and unhealthful. Not only were they not helpful; they were harmful to the spiritual health of our nation. The point here is not that they were purveyors of hate – I don’t know that they were. The point is the obviousness of their uselessness in helping one develop a healthy spirituality.
So also, and much more obviously, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and a host of others are worse than useless – steeped in psychosis and purveyors of evil. They are damaging the spirits of individuals and of the whole country.
Can I pray for such people? Yes. But I cannot in good conscience listen to them – except very rarely to determine whether the symptoms are still obvious. So far they are.
Please, my fellow Christians, Do Not try to justify permitting these evildoers into your homes and minds. There is no justification for that.