Rejecting Hate & Fear and Choosing Active Hope
During vacation, I was outside enjoying the gentle breeze at dinner with my daughter’s family in South Fenwick Island, Delaware when I noticed a man’s t-shirt at the next table. I had seen the front when he’d gotten up. It said “Pistolville” and had pictures of various handguns on it. When he sat down, I saw the saying on the back of the shirt. It read:
Love may turn out to be fake
But the HATE is always real
Hopefully, the t-shirt was a joke. Still, my stomach tightened as I read the inscription, as the truth of its relevance in our world today resonated throughout my body.
Hate has always been a powerful force. It can energize us and focus us. Hate leads to violence, because if we really hate someone, we no longer see them as our fellow human being. As a result, we can belittle and humiliate and even injure or kill because we think the other person is less than we are. Whether it’s the Ugandan Tutsis vs. Hutus or the Nazis vs. the Jews, it’s a terribly common tale of pain and suffering.
I’ve always made the assumption that as our societies became more advanced, we’d become wiser and more humane. But this doesn’t always happen. With the beginning of this new school year, for example, a Missouri school district is reviving the practice of corporal punishment for students (parents can opt out). Corporal punishment is legal in around 20 states in the U.S. and is based on the misguided concept that if children feel physical pain after misbehaving, they will change their behavior. Research has shown that corporal punishment is most frequently used on boys and especially on those who are black and have disabilities (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5766273/).
Corporal punishment teaches children another key force that’s become very active in our society today: fear. If you fear your teacher, then you will obey. This is also the philosophy that drives a lot of Christian Nationalists today: If you fear God, you will obey and will be “saved.” And you need to be saved by a blood sacrifice that occurred over 2000 years ago because humanity is so vile that the only remedy was for God’s only son to be violently murdered on a cross. As Fr. Richard Rohr says, if this is what God is – a toxic, vengeful tyrant - then I don’t want any part of it (https://cac.org/daily-meditations/a-toxic-image-of-god-2016-01-28/).
If hate and fear are the principles that come easily, then the guiding principle that is more difficult for us to offer consistently to ourselves and to others is love. Love may take time and require great patience as well as effort on our part, but it can do anything. In every good yarn and movie, it’s love that always wins in the end.
Despite the chaos and conflict of our time, I believe we can choose love and, most especially, hope. Starting with classes in September, we’ll be diving into the concept of hope as an active state. I hope you’ll join me!
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