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Chaplain Norris Burkes. File/Staff

Ten years ago, I wrote a column that probably cost me more readers than any column I’ve written during my 18 years as a spirituality columnist.

“What could you have possibly said?” you ask as my editors gulp hard air.

I came out against hate speech and gave examples from both sides of the right/left spectrum. I named people like Rush Limbaugh on the right and Howard Stern on the left.

I still remember the “fan” who claimed that my column was no longer fit to line his bird cages. But today, at the risk of weeding out more readers, my message bears repeating.

In 2020, more than ever, hate talk fills the internet and airwaves. On the far right, websites like InfoWars deny the reality of mass shootings. And yes, Rush has moved to the Internet where he is still screaming at people.

On the hard left, people like Bill Maher are fond of calling opponents morons. So-called comedians like Samantha Bee spew late-night vitriolic sarcasm at everyone who won’t parrot her opinion.

Some of these talking heads may be among your heroes, but as I said 10 years ago, it’s time that people of faith unmask these opportunists.

They are much the same type I saw on Saturday night wrestling shows I watched as a kid. I idolized those masked wrestlers and their amazing physical agility.

But as I matured, I realized that my idols weren’t true to what they were selling. Their matches weren’t really a contest of strength; they were a fixed contest for ratings.

Late-night haters are no different than those “athletes.” They are intellectually agile, but they use their intellect to accomplish dizzying acts of circular logic.

They don’t seek honest dialogue. They want to drop a match in your tank and then charge you admission to watch the explosion.

It doesn’t matter to me how left or right you are, but if you think these wise-guys are about politics, you don’t understand the game. They have found a self-sustaining source of wealth called hate, and they are laughing all the way to the bank.

These money-grubbing pundits have infected a broad range of carriers: our pastors, teachers and journalists. The result is that college campuses are being marked with swastikas, churches are being torched and people are toting guns to coffee shops.

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So once again, I’m calling on people of faith. No matter what your religion, it’s time we declare, “Stop the hatin’; it ain’t helpin’!”

Let’s encourage these hatemongers to stop promoting causes and start prompting conversations. Let’s peel off our divisive bumper stickers. Turn off our TV and think for ourselves. Pundits such as Rush may be right, as he says, but there are more righteous ways to be right. Maher and his camp may be brilliantly clever, but there are smarter ways to bring change.

After you’ve kicked these showmen out of your home, invite a neighbor over for coffee and start conversations that speak to people’s needs and seek solutions. Then listen. Really listen.

Honestly, I don’t want to lose even a single reader, so I’m asking people of faith to stop the hate talk and ignite the wisdom in the words offered by the Apostle Paul in Colossians 4:5-6.

“Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out” (The Message).

In the meantime, please share this column with someone who holds differing opinions than yours. I’m hoping it’ll help me replace some of the readers I lost ten years ago.

Contact Chaplain Norris at comment@thechaplain.net or 10566 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail (843) 608-9715.