Those who demonize others are often battling their own demons
Both of my parents have counseling degrees, and my father had a private counseling practice for nearly 40 years. When I was a child, my mother was the director of the county mental health association at the height of the transactional analysis era or the have-you-hugged-your-kid-today decade.
So when someone at school was mean or just a pain in the butt, my parents would always remind me that the reason they acted that way was not because they didn’t like me, but because they didn’t like themselves. At the time, it didn’t help my feelings much or make me feel more benevolent toward the tormentors.
But there is truth in the lessons my parents tried to teach me that plays out far beyond the school yard. From pastors who have railed against the “gay agenda” who turn out to be gay themselves (and sadly, hate themselves for it) to Josh Duggar, spokesperson against all “sexual immorality” who turns out to be a sexual predator.
So how do we, as Christians, respond to our Christian brothers and sisters who choose to demonize the other? First and foremost, we can love them…which is really hard to do considering the damage they inflict on others. But it does help to remember that those who demonize others are probably battling their own demons (even if my teenage self and my teenage daughter would disagree with that assertion). And loving someone doesn’t mean allowing them to get away with hurtful and harmful behavior. We can continue to counter hate speech by proclaiming the truth that Jesus always, always welcomed the other, the outsider, the outcast. And yes, Jesus did cast out a few demons in his day, but only the ones that were harming their host. To everyone else, he simply (or not so simply) urged them to follow Him.
And following Jesus means that we have to love the haters, as hard as that is. May we be able to so fiercely love those who would demonize others that they are able to triumph over their own demons and move toward a more inclusive relationship with all of God’s children.