Hate in the Name of Love is Still Hate
by Ted Miller
(originally published December 2017 in Tumbleweird)
I used to think hate was just the opposite of love. I didn’t think about the subtle ways hate can disguise itself in the form of self-righteous discrimination. I hadn’t really considered the damage that could be caused when someone is told they are unworthy of love simply for being who they are.
Some forms of hateful discrimination are obvious, like gay bashing, lynching, and the many examples of systematic genocide. But hate isn’t always so blatant and obvious.
When marriage equality was on the ballot, I remember a conversation with a colleague who referred to anti-gay sentiment as hate. I thought that was a particularly strong word to use for something that seemed to be just a difference of opinion. Certainly, my religious friends who professed to love everyone but believed homosexuality to be sinful didn’t hate people who were gay, did they?
But the more I reflected on it, the more I realized how insidious that thought was. You can’t “love the sinner, but hate the sin” when the so-called sin you are referring to is something that cannot be changed. When we tell someone that they are to be despised because of their identity, that no matter what they do, they are unworthy of love because of something they cannot change, we are being hateful in the most hurtful way.
LGBTQIA+[i] youth are particularly vulnerable to this type of hate. They are subject to higher levels of bullying from peers and are often rejected by their family members. It is no wonder that LGB youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers[ii]. And, tragically, too many of them succeed in taking their own lives.
As a society, we’ve come a long way in recognizing that sexual orientation and gender expression are part of the beautiful diversity in our humanity. No one should be treated differently just because of who they are. Marriage equality is now the law of the land and non-discrimination laws in many states now include sexual orientation as a protected class and.
But there are many who are working tirelessly to undo this progress. I don’t understand why someone who professes to love in the name of their religion can at the same time cause so much pain with their hatred of our LGBT sisters and brothers. Professing to ‘love and respect everyone’ through your faith while at the same time through your actions and words you work to marginalize or limit the liberty and equal treatment of our fellow citizens is hate, not love. You can’t love the sinner but hate the sin. Because if the so-called sin is part of one’s human identity, you cannot separate the two.
Recently our local high schools have been targeted with protesters distributing graphic, hateful pamphlets that claim our LGBT youth are destined for hell (and inexplicably linking being gay with abortion). Students have said they feel threatened while school administrators say there is little they can do if the protesters remain outside school property.
In response, a grass-roots group of parents and advocates for LGBT youth quickly organized and mobilized what they call a Love Army. They regularly gather at the same schools holding signs of love and affirmation, giving out hugs, and countering the messages of hate. Many of these same people have contacted school administrators, attended school board and city council meetings, and reached out to youth organizations to minimize or eliminate these messages of hate that hurt our most vulnerable youth. They are putting their love into action.
A similar approach can be taken anytime we see individuals or groups targeted with hate. We must speak up if we are going to overcome the hate. Make your voice heard when anti-LGBT legislation is being considered. Don’t support laws and policies that provide a license to discriminate. Equal protection means equal protection for all our citizens. We can protect religious freedom without allowing religion to be used to infringe on the freedoms of others.
Being gay isn’t a phase or a choice. It is an immutable human characteristic just like eye color and right or left-handedness. Those who claim otherwise are speaking from a position of privilege and ignorance.
Hate can be used as a weapon, inflicting deep pain with lasting scars. Hate refers to the most extreme negative human emotion. And it is antithetical to everything good in our humanity.
Hate isn’t just the opposite of love. As Elie Wiesel put it, “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.” Don’t be indifferent to the suffering we inflict by idly standing by when our most vulnerable are told they are not worthy of love.
Love conquers hate.
[i] LGBTQIA+ is an all-inclusive term to describe the broad spectrum of gender, sex, sexuality, sexual orientation, gender expression, and other related characteristics.
[ii] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.