Theology and Human Nature

This morning’s New York Times has an article about Paula Deen  and the black church’s tradition of forgiveness. (Hate the racism, love the racist.)

The article itself is less than newsworthy–it uses the current flap over Deen’s cluelessness as a “hook” for a general discussion of the black church and the theology of forgiveness–but it reminded me of an important difference between Christian and Jewish teachings that I have often pondered. Christians are told to love their neighbors; Jews are taught to “do justice.” In other words, we don’t have to love anyone, but we must treat everyone as we would want to be treated.

No offense to my Christian friends, but doing justice has always seemed a lot easier.

It’s sort of like the First Amendment. I don’t have to like what you have to say, but I do have to let you say it. I don’t have to agree with your ideas, but I do have to agree that you have as much right to express them as I have to express mine. If current behaviors are any indication, it’s hard enough to get people to respect each others’ rights. Love seems to be pushing it.

I mean, let’s be honest. There is no way I’m going to love Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann, and if they knew me, they’d be equally hard-pressed to love me. I realize that, unlike politics, theology isn’t “the art of the possible,” but I’m glad my tradition only requires me to be fair and just. Loving these people is probably beyond me.

I wonder how Christians manage it.