Whenever I begin a unit where we will read a Holocaust book, I always want to take the time to talk about The Pyramid of Hate.
It’s really easy to look at the atrocities of the Holocaust and distance yourself from them. “How could anyone do that?” “How could something like this happen?”
These are good questions to ponder — how?
No one wakes up one day and plans a genocide of an entire group of people. No, this evil is planted and grown over many stages of hate that have to take place and be tolerated in order for it to turn into genocide.
Take a look at the Pyramid of Hate:
The racist violence that we’re seeing against black people at the hands of white people hits the category that is second to the top, right under genocide. What happens when there is collective indifference to what we’re seeing? Sure, these senseless, evil murders have caused a public outcry, but there is also a vast amount of indifference and inaction. I am and have been part of that inaction and indifference.
But these murders and the riots that follow have a true root that needs to be destroyed. What about biased attitudes that are the foundation of the pyramid?
Let’s Call it as it is
We’ve all lived and continue to live in the first two rows of this pyramid. We cannot say that we haven’t been affected (or blinded) by bias for or against certain races.
We willingly talk about evil in our world. We post about it. We talk about the hate. We wonder how humans can be so . . . inhuman.
But rarely will we call it “sin.” We call it evil, sure, but don’t go as far as to say that this is sin.
Brothers and sisters, what we’re seeing is called sin. No longer can we use our Sunday school definition of sin that is limited to a list of rules that we can and cannot do. What we’re seeing here is the result of sin.
Sin probably isn’t what you think it is. Sin is an infection. Sin always finds fault in what God calls beautiful and finds beauty in what God finds destructive. It has spread throughout our lives as a result of us trying to live life apart from our Creator. When we run from our Creator, we run from perfect love.
And when we try to live life apart from God, we enter into sin. Sin means missing the mark of how God created us to flourish as humans. I don’t think any of us would say we are all “flourishing.” We’re all living in sin and that’s precisely why this world is wrapped up in evils that tear apart the human race.
When we live in sin we devalue all human life.
When we live in sin we believe we are better than other humans. We resort to violence against other humans. We kill other humans. We take what we believe is rightfully ours from other humans. We use force against other humans. We strip other humans of their dignity. We enslave other humans. We use other humans for our gain. We dispose of humans out of our convenience and comfort.
And we can’t blame God for this. In His plan and His way, we live in perfect unity with one another. We value all humans above ourselves. We sacrificially love all other humans.
If we were living in the relationship with God that we were created for, The Pyramid of Hate wouldn’t even exist.
But we decided we can do life without God and we turned our backs on Him.
We chose sin—not God. Look around: this is the world we get because of it. This is what it looks like when we don’t choose God.
There’s no other word for it.
But We Have Hope
Look. I can’t fight this the world’s way. I’ve been trying to look to the world and social media for how to enter into this fight for justice, but I’m realizing that I’m looking to a broken world for hope.
We can have hope in ourselves, but there isn’t much we can do to change other people or change the country.
We can have hope in the government, but people are still living in sin and treating other humans as if they are not human.
We can have hope that people will change, but they won’t.
What is there left to hope in?
I don’t know the Jesus you know, but the Jesus I know brings great hope. It started with the way he lived.
Jesus came to a Samaritan woman and asked for a drink at a well (John 4). The biased attitudes were rampant and accepted with Jews against Samaritans. They walked the long way around Samaria to avoid going through it. They segregated their cities so the Samaritans lived in their own area apart from the Jews.
And yet—Jesus sat down with a Samaritan (a woman, no less)—and engaged her in conversation. Men didn’t talk to women and they especially didn’t speak to Samaritans. Yet, he listened, he asked questions, he shared truth, he brought new life.
This is what Jesus stands for. This is how Jesus lived. He crossed social, ethnic, racial, gender and cultural boundaries to love people. Because he was without sin, we can look to Jesus for how to treat all humans.
When he told his disciples to love their enemies (Luke 6:27-36), he wasn’t talking about that annoying guy at work or that bully they always pass on the street. Jesus was commanding them to love the Roman soldiers who brought oppression against the Jews. Jesus told them to show this love by going two miles carrying the Roman soldier’s gear instead of the commanded one mile (Matthew 5:41).
He commanded them to love their enemies because he was ushering in a kingdom of radical love that the world could never fathom. Don’t just love the people that love you back. Love the people that hate you. Love the people that are completely different from you.
When we try to do this without Christ, we will always miss the mark. We will always aim too low. And we will always fail.
A New Way
This year I had the joy of creating a new pyramid with my students. After discussing The Pyramid of Hate and the ways we had seen it in our own school and city, we looked at different Bible verses and created a pyramid that was directly the opposite of The Pyramid of Hate.
We never got to name it as in-person classes abruptly ended, so we landed on “The Pyramid of Love.”
Racism begins in our mindset. It begins in how we see people and how we think about them.
Racism is a humanity problem and the root is in our pride. We cannot see human-beings as loved and valuable if there is even one group of humans that is invaluable to us.
People of color, unborn babies, the wealthy, the poor, the elderly, children, teenagers, people with disabilities, women, men, LGBTQ+, immigrants, refugees— they’re all humans. And it starts in our mindset and the way we speak about them that will begin to build a pyramid into action that will change the world.
No, this isn’t an “all lives matter” campaign. Saying “Black Lives Matter” is not devaluing white people automatically.
What we need to realize is that if we have any sort of bias in our words or thoughts towards any human-being, we will always be one step away from the most severe actions of bias. We cannot let it go on unchecked. We need to build an entirely new pyramid.
This is the pyramid that my 8th graders built:
If genocide is annihilating an entire group of people, then the opposite would be creating a new group of people.
The hope we have is found in Christ and his mission to make us into new creations.
Yes, we’ve run away from our Creator and dove deep into sin. We’ve all contributed to building The Pyramid of Hate and it will keep building if we don’t turn away and run to the Lover of all creation.
This is the hope we have in a new life:
“Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them” (2 Corinthians 5:14-19, MSG).
Jesus died for everyone.
All of us.
What we need is to join Jesus in his death so that this sin of selfishness, violence, racism, bias, segregation, discrimination and destruction will die with Christ.
And when we raise to life with Christ, we can be new creations that walk freely in the love of Christ. It’s only in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that we have hope for a new world to be birthed.
And when we are united with the Messiah, our thoughts, our words, and our actions are completely transformed to look like the life of Jesus. The boundary-crossing, diversity-loving, powerful, sacrificial, radical life of Jesus.
After teaching my first year of American History, it’s easy to see how our country came to be the way that it is. White men seeking wealth—calling themselves Christians—bull-dozed over every single person that got in their way to get what they wanted. While our history isn’t all wrapped up in sin and despair, we cannot ignore The Pyramid of Hate that’s been building for almost 4 centuries.
We cannot lie to ourselves and say we are free from bias against other races. It is ingrained in our systems. It is what built our country and much of our churches. It’s hidden in our thoughts that we would never notice.
That’s the way sin works. It infects us quietly and pulls us into the dark.
Every time we get enticed and dragged away by our pride and selfishness— every time we commit an act of violence against another human—we must repent.
Repenting is the act of making a 180 degree turn. You were going in one direction and you stop and completely turn around. The only reason we have the opportunity to turn and repent is because of Jesus’s death and resurrection.
Recognize the direction you’ve been going. Ask for forgiveness. You will receive grace. This is going to be a daily practice for us.
2. Lean in
Lean into Jesus and he will show you his beloved children who are hurting. Suddenly your eyes will be opened to the amount of hurt that you never noticed before. You will start to hurt. It will keep you up at night. It will bring tears to your eyes and a pit in your stomach. It will infuriate you.
I’ve realized that I have the privilege to hear these stories of senseless murders of black people and I can go back to my normal life—virtually unaffected. I have the privilege to turn away.
I must fight to lean in.
Lean into Jesus. Lean into the stories of black people and other people of color. Lean into the pain. Lean into the anger. Lean into the hurt.
3. Get moving
I hope that when you and I have leaned in, we will get moving.
The love of Jesus was never meant to keep us in the pews—it was always (always, always) meant to get us moving.
Ephesians 6:15 talks about the armor of God and how our shoes are the Gospel of peace. The Gospel gets us moving. When we’ve taken part in the death of Jesus, joined him in his resurrection, and lived in this new creation life that he gives, we get moving to share it with others.
We can’t contain it.
We do the hard and uncomfortable work of fighting for justice. We get moving and share the good news of the Gospel through our words and our actions. We don’t look for a reward in return. We don’t seek an applause. Instead, we take up our own cross, die to ourselves, and give everything over to Jesus to be used in his work of reconciliation.
I love the Jon Foreman song, “Instead of a Show” that sings these lyrics: “Instead let there be a flood of justice, an endless procession of righteous living. Instead let there be a flood of justice. I hate all your show.”
We’ve made our Christian lives into a show. Jesus made his life into a flood of justice.
It’s time to start looking like Jesus.