Someone, a friend, once used the word “bad” to describe President Trump. It’s a simple word. It can mean many things but it is used most frequently to mean some form of low quality, unpleasantness, or evil. For my friend, I understand completely her use of the term to describe her hate of the President. If one honestly believes something or someone to be “bad” we cannot help but hate that person or thing. But now let’s do some thinking. Who else is “bad?” Answer the question please, and be honest! Before you try, remember to make such a charge about anyone requires grounds, settled standards, a diagnosis established on a foundation of immovable truth. To do otherwise could involve a critique based on emotion or pejorative epitaths without regard to their accuracy. Remember, the hatred one has for another must be based on something; to call someone or something bad must not be baseless or else it is merely an insult.
Before you answer too quickly let me ask a personal question, one you can more easily answer, “Am I bad?” Ya, Bob Graham, is he a “bad” person? My friend at first thought might say (I trust), “No, Bob’s not a “bad” guy.” Then she might qualify her statement and say, “I don’t agree with him on many issues, but that does not make him “bad,” I mean “bad” like Trump!” Do you see what’s happening here? We often make a moral judgements of good and bad based on the differences between two people thus vilifying the character of one and uplifting the character of another. The function of critism should not be to compare one moral character to another, nor to let society discharge its hatred on one and not the other. The “grounds” upon which a society stands or falls is always fixed; how far we depart from these standards makes one good or bad. (At this point this essay becomes theological as well as a philosophical exercise.) Unfortunately I must say Bob Graham misses the mark. My friend is wrong, I am a “bad” person too! Maybe she is unwilling or just being kind, but if my faults were exposed and compared to God’s, not Donald Trumps or humanity in general, she would find me to be “bad” too. Humbling, isn’t it!
So what is one to do when we encounter a “bad” person (unless you are deluded or missed the point, we are all misfits). So, we must first look at ourselves and realise we are not perfect. And secondly we must not discharge our hatred critically. C.S. Lewis says about critism, it is not right to “discharge our hatred but to expose the grounds for it; not to vilify faults but to diagnose and exhibit them.” This means you don’t need to be silent always, though for some of us that would be a blessing. It means we need to be more specific when we critise. We need to explain, “in what way is he bad?” Lewis also says it is easier to express our hatred with pejorative (contemptuous or disapproving) words without regard to their accuracy “for the power of their hurting.” Easy is not always better and maybe a punchline on Facebook is not the best place for a critique of your fellow man.
You all should know about or have seen the “Baby Trump” ballon the haters fly in London to humiliate our President. This exemplifies the great error of our day. While the baloon may, to some, be an ingenious comic political work. It actually shows us the heart of the said comedians and Trumps distractors. The balloon is obviously meant to annoy Trump and his supporters. Ironically this opposition claims maturity by making Trump appear adolescent; not because they desire to show us Trumps faults, but because they hope deep down the symbol is one that annoys the President and disrespects his supporters. It would be far more mature for them (and my friend), to explain in what ways Trump is so bad? And then ask, how much different is he from themselves? Remember, calling Trump “bad” if rightly applied, compares his character to that of God, not society; society has often gotten righteousness wrong. The best, and the most honorable, course of action would be to charge me or Trump with a particular fault like “liar” or “thief,” “arrogant or dull.” True faults are particular. One is not all bad all the time; nobody is all good. There are faults by which we are all guilty, but at least among friends they are particular faults by which we can be proven guilty! I think this is why we must all stand before the judgment seat of God! Still, it is common and unavoidable to think of ourselves good or bad, we usually do so by the strength of the standards or characteristics we see in others.
For some, popular pejorative terms, within a particular subcultures (like politics), these terms (“contemptuous or disapproving”) become venomous judgements used solely for spite. Remember, it does not take many words these days to reveal ones passions. And when that happens it is not hard for many hearers to discount the words of the one who has an opposing opinion, specially one with a biblical perspective.
Bottom line! Critiques filled with venom and words expressed with a willingness to wound are useless when one is preceived as predisposed to hate (CNN). And finally, I thank God that Christ died for my “badness.” In his eyes He sees me as His wayard son, repentant, forgiven, and loved. Maybe He sees President Trump the same way, not so “bad,” a work in progress? And, of course, my friend, we must condem the actions of some critically, we are all are depraved, some are wicked in deeds, but God forbid that I should look at them as hopelessly “bad” till God judges us all.