The topic of this year’s presidential election has undoubtedly resulted in conflict, and, in the midst of this division, it is easy for us to demonize those on the opposite side of the issue. Both Trump supporters and Trump resisters have, with varying degrees of subtlety, called the other side hateful, ignorant and closed-minded.
And, to be fair, these accusations aren’t necessarily wrong. But even if these claims are true, and obviously also if they are not, it is vital that we still love our enemies. No matter how wrong and evil we think those enemies are.
For those of us who consider ourselves a part of the Christian community, this should be obvious. Jesus straight up says “love your enemies,” and he even goes so far as to say that the second greatest commandment is “love thy neighbor as thyself,” next only to loving God.
And of course, we should not forget that while we were still sinners, God sent his son to die for us. If God went to such great lengths to reach out to us when we were his enemies, it seems that we should reach out to those who simply hold opinions we dislike.
So for those of us that make even a pretense of following Christ, it is imperative that we follow the clear and unequivocal commandment to love our enemies.
If we do not love our enemies, can we claim the moral high ground over them? I do not think so.
As apparently argued in the parable of the Good Samaritan, if we do not love our enemies, we have missed the point of morality and have no business making claims of being holier-than-thou.
Additionally, it is important for us to remember that it is very unlikely that only Trump supporters or only Trump resisters are hurt by the words used in this conflict.
Neither group is impervious to the harsh words or vilifying rhetoric that both sides are definitely guilty of using.
So, if it is morally right to comfort those who are hurting and people on both sides are hurt, then it is morally right to comfort people who are hurting even on the other side of this issue.
Aside from our moral responsibility to love our enemies, there are many reasons it is strategically important to love our enemies.
If we criticize another group, it is essential that we offer the criticism in love if we want the recipients to accept our criticism.
Consider this: If a close friend that you know cares about you tells you that you should study more, quite likely you will take their advice seriously. But, if a complete stranger tells you that you should study more, it is quite likely you will not take their advice seriously.
Reactions are the exact same concerning our criticism of the other group in this issue.
If we criticize the other group, and they know we care about them, they are likely to be more receptive, whereas if we criticize the other group, and they think we don’t care about them, we are likely to annoy them considerably.
Similarly, we should consider what love for one’s enemies does to the whole narrative of demonization. As King Solomon seems to have argued, when we show love to our enemies, they usually start to wonder, “hmmm, maybe my enemies aren’t the bad guys after all.”
If our enemies are thinking about the conflict over this election in terms of “good guys and bad guys,” showing love to them challenges their classification of themselves as the good guy and you as the bad guy.
This, of course, is desirable if you wish to have a reasonable discussion, or really any kind of discussion at all. If your enemies know you care about them, they are far more likely to think you understand them.
One of the greatest dangers to persuasion in the Trump discussion is coming off like you think you’re a knight in shining armor, bringing truth to the ignorant, unenlightened idiots who disagree with you. And, oh, how people on both sides fall into this attitude, myself included, I’m quite sure.
But if the people you’re trying to persuade think you care about them, it is much harder to come off this way. If people think you care about them, they probably assume – hopefully correctly – that you care about what they think and are consequently likely to reciprocate the perceived sentiment, ideally leading to a more reasoned discussion.
So to the Trump supporters and Trump resisters alike, it’s both our moral responsibility and our strategic advantage to love our enemies.
Cooper is a first-year computer science major.