Remember when you were a kid and your mama told you that if you didn’t have something nice to say to not say anything at all? I know Mama told us that. She also told us never, ever, ever to say we hate someone. We could dislike them, and we could be annoyed by them. But hate denoted a total absence of love and was unacceptable in our house. To this day I’ve only heard her use this term in reference to a tiny number of people. I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever used it myself. The things our mamas tell us are deeply ingrained in us, and will guide the way we live our lives.
Or so I thought. Lately I’m noticing a disturbing trend, and I’m sure you’re noticing it, too. If you watch any sort of news or are aware of current affairs you should have been picking up on it. But more than that, if you are listening when you are out in public you’ll see this trend glaring in the people around you. I’m talking about hate.
Since when is it acceptable to openly hate someone just because they aren’t like you? I am a liberal Christian woman who is straight, white, lower middle class, and was raised in a rural or small town area. Does that mean I can only associate with like-minded or like-raised people? Because that includes about three of my friends….maybe. If I am a Christian, am I not allowed to have friends who are Jewish, Muslim, pagan, or atheists? I was raised Methodist but will be joining the Mennonite church at some point — one of my best friends is Catholic, my in-laws are all Baptists, and some folks I know are Mormons. Does that mean I can’t associate with them? Not everyone in my family is white; one cousin is dating an black girl and one cousin was adopted from Korea. Am I supposed to think less of them because they have more melanin than me? Because really, who doesn’t have more melanin than me?!
I’m completely disturbed by these ideas. I was raised in a “non-diverse”, white Protestant background in the midst of families who have little to no experience with people who are culturally, racially, or ethnically different than them. But my parents taught me never to hate. Lately it seems that attacking someone based on their views or opinions and raking them over the coals in public because of their beliefs is acceptable. I simply cannot wrap my mind around it; it is alien to me.
Recently Mama and I witnessed first-hand the deep hatred that someone we know feels toward anyone who is not a white, conservative Christian. I won’t go into detail, but trust me when I say this person was appalled to discover that I have friends who are gay, black, atheists, Muslims, pagans, or are different from me in any way. The idea that at our wedding this person was in the very presence of all these people drove them a little deeper into their fear. I’m sure our friend thinks I’m going straight to Hell because I don’t spend my days witnessing to them via ultra-conservative, pro-life, “forward this if you love Jesus” emails like some people. I chose to see the fact that Jesus ate, slept, walked, talked, taught, lived, and loved with people who were drastically different from Himself. He came for everyone, not just people who looked familiar or worshiped the same way. I refuse to let my faith be used to preach hatred in my presence.
A few weeks ago I was at Brian’s store when a man fell to the floor with a seizure, quickly followed by a second one. I pitched in to help with several other people there, and we were all concerned for his safety and health. After the paramedics had taken him to the hospital and Brian was finishing up the witness statements for paperwork, someone called him to the side. He informed Brian that he had seen the man “looking suspicious” all over the store. He said some disparaging things and went on his self-righteous way. The man who had the seizure was from Puerto Rico. I can’t help but get the feeling that that witness firmly believes that our good, white God strikes down “mexicans” who look like shoplifters with seizures. That has to be it, right? Brian and I have talked about this at length. He has said that every single day he has customers make racist comments to him, assuming that because he’s a white man he’ll agree. There simply is no less racist man alive than my husband. And as someone who will forever be judged because of where he’s from and the background with which he was raised, he is terribly disturbed by people assuming that he would do the same. He’ll proudly tell you that he’s not a redneck, he’s a hillbilly….but he’s not an ignorant one. He has friends of many races and faiths, and abhors hatred in any form. Why do people assume that we white folks all think alike? That we Christians all think alike? You and your hate do not speak for me, and will never be my voice in any way.
The news this week of yet another suicide of a gay man harassed by his straight peers struck me to the core. I have gay friends, bi friends, transsexual friends. The prettiest woman I ever saw…is actually a man. He’s pretty darn hot as a man, too. The idea of any of my friends, whom I love deeply just because they draw breath and are humans, going through something like the abuse this young man endured (I’m sure I should say “allegedly”…whatever) and like many others have written about this week just cuts me to the core. I have a relative who struggled with her sexuality for years. While she has many problems still, once she accepted who she was and saw that we all still loved her, things got better for her. I shudder to think what people have said or done toward her, my own flesh and blood. But I hate that no more so than I hate that some of my dearest friends have had to fight to live openly as the people they were created to be, in the manner they find right. The bullying and mockery of a group of people just because they are different is hateful.
When did it become acceptable to hate people to their faces? To hate them secretly in your heart is bad enough, but that’s your own business. What gives anyone the right to tell someone they are evil or hateful just because they don’t look like you, act like you, or believe like you? Doing it is bad enough. Doing it in the name of my God is unconscionable. Assuming that I feel the same way or that my husband agrees with you will get you nowhere. It’s high time that those of us with a little sense, a little tact, and a little humanity stand up and say enough. We refuse to hate, we refuse to bully, and we refuse to isolate. Only by being accepting and loving in the same way as Christ can we claim to be His followers. And only by working for peace and unity can we expect the same to be given to us.