“Extremism is so easy. You’ve got your position, and that’s it. It doesn’t take much thought.”Clint Eastwood
Later today I will be gathering with other faith leaders for training on how to lead our faith communities through the dangerous days ahead. I was struck by what C.S. Lewis had to say about the path toward pure hatred. There is this strange clinging to untruths no matter what facts are presented to show that this thing believed is in fact not true. Here is what he says:
“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”
C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity
Every one of us needs to be careful that we do not feed our desire to see the “other” as bad as possible. Human beings are a peculiar mix of good and bad impulses. We can easily tip one way or another. We need to guard our hearts. Nothing human is foreign to any one of us, so let us have compassion on those we see as going off the rails. We do not know if circumstances could persuade us to tip toward the dark side if we have not been put into a position to be tested.
Nevertheless, we are supposed to discern the spirits that are at work. We discern by the fruits that result — are they sour? Or are they sweet? The fruits that indicate a person is following God’s ways are these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, generosity, peace, faithfulness, forbearance, and modesty. The more you are with God, the more these fruits grow.
If what you get is this sour kind of fruit — hate, misery, unrest, rage, greed, rashness, intolerance, atrocity, infidelity, and arrogance – you have something that is NOT of God. You can discern the spirit of a movement, of an action, of a person by discovering the fruit that is offered. Turn away from all that is sour.
My beloved, continue to follow our leader, Christ Jesus, and your fruit will be sweet.