A Thin Line Between Love And Hate. And God, Apparently.

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Nine-year-old Tyren asked a question of Barack Obama at a New Orleans town hall. He asked "Why do people hate you and they're supposed to love you and God is love?" The question did not warm my heart.


The question (and the article) is making the rounds as a cute, feel good story about a child that was brave enough to question the hate.

But it gives me pause. I've read it over four times, and it still doesn't sit well with me.

Tyren is only nine years old. Hopefully he was asking what was in his heart. But honestly, no one is required to like the President. Some people will and some people won't. No one is supposed to love Obama. I really hope someone instills this child with a healthy skepticism of authority figures. Secondly, I don't see what God has to do with matters of politics. Some people cite God and argue Obama is the Antichrist, some people cite God and argue that he's the biracial savior come to heal two separate nations, but most people allow politics to be politics and leave God out of it.

Obama did handle the question well, responding:

"Well, first of all, I did get elected President, and not everybody hates me," he told Tyren. "If you're watching TV lately, everyone seems mad all the time. Some of it's just what's called politics. One party wins, the other party feels it needs to poke you to keep you on your toes. You shouldn't take it too seriously. People are worried about their own lives, losing jobs, health care, homes, and feeling frustrated. When you're President of the United States you've got to deal with all of that."

Anyway, there's that. If you think it was cute, great - that was my (religious) boyfriend's reaction as well. He is explaining to me that this comment is rooted in a Bible verse about loving thy neighbor. He argues I am reading too much into a comment from a kid who is most likely trying to make sense of his bible study, nightly news, and fourth grade.

But I responded that kids become adults, and we have a whole lot of adults running around who never had to challenge their beliefs, which is why we are in the fix we're in surrounding civil discourse in this country. And I don't care if it 's out of the mouth of a babe or an elder, putting God and politics too close together always makes me jumpy.


So, perhaps you think I'm overreacting, and it's just a cute little phrase. And if you feel slightly unsettled, you aren't alone in that feeling either.

"Why Do People Hate You And They're Supposed To Love You And God Is Love?" [Blog of New Orleans]



It does actually worry me a little when people put politics and religion together, even kids. I think he's trying to articulate a difficult ethical/moral idea in Christianity...which is that, agree or disagree, you're supposed to love "thy neighbor" in that compassionate, empathetic way. Or at least that's my assumption. I was brought up atheistic Buddhist, so, I'm not an expert on Christianity and its moral layers.

That said, there's an element of literalness there that always does make me uncomfortable, maybe especially when it's kids. While the concept of loving thy neighbor is nice, what does that actually mean to most people? Or to this particular child? It seems to mean he thinks people should love the president, which many clearly don't, and there's a lot of anger and vitriol out there. Which can't really be explained or reconciled with religious doctrine.

And, as an atheist, I can't say as I've ever liked the notion of "God is love". Love is love. Compassion and ethics and being kind and generous to your fellow human beings is not a religious concept, nor something only a belief in "god" can promote.

I realize this child is 9, and that a lot of this is about nuances and degrees and interpretation that he'll (hopefully) discover as he gets older. But I don't think there's anything wrong with looking at that comment and considering the implications. #barackobama