A prolific local writer of letters to the editor makes abundant use of her favorite word: hate. She’s particularly upset with people who hate Trump and Christianity. For her, all Liberals are extreme left wingers, secular humanists, motivated by hatred of America, capitalism, freedom, and Jesus. Along with a multitude of Facebook commentators, she generally slips in “haters gonna hate” as a concluding insult labeling others as emotionally out of control with intensely irrational distaste for a great president.
She echoes Trump’s media representatives who skillfully use the hate mantra to deflect challenging questions and fact checking observations. By assuring listeners that opposition to Trump is motivated by nothing more than jealousy and irrational hatred, whatever “haters” say should be dismissed, ignored, swept under the rug.
They’re not alone. Conservative friends are adept at shutting down discussion they don’t want to be in by claiming contrary views are nothing but hate for America, patriots, Trump, guns, capitalism, whatever. Some conservative evangelicals manage to work Jesus into the mix one way or another. Hate is a multipurpose word that can be laid as the force motivating anyone with whom one disagrees. It asserts that whatever their disagreement, it’s emotionally irrational, and therefore invalid. In the words of Mitch McConnell, “Case Closed.” Would that it were a conservative thing only, but it isn’t. Hate, being such a useful tool for avoiding authentic conversation, has been creeping into liberal talk as well.
So what do you think is meant by hate? Take some time. Give it some thought. Then read on.
Contemporary American English offers hate in many flavors: I hate liver and onions; I hate this weather; I hate my hair. It’s mild stuff generally meaning to dislike something for a variety of unspecified reasons that could lead to more conversation, but if not it’s OK to drop it and move on. Hate can also mean an irrational emotion – deeply felt revulsion and condemnation of something or someone. With roots buried deep in the psyche, it’s an emotion that triggers unrestrained anger, outrage, and a desire to violently punish. Somewhere in the middle is a kind of hate that represents moral standards offended by injustice, dishonesty, oppression of others, and the like. Call it righteous indignation, although it can easily become a form of unjustified self righteousness.
It’s in that middle ground where English versions of scripture use hate in more subtle ways. For the most part, it’s intended to mean something less emotional and more rational as a way to express disowning evil, indeed to have a reasoned aversion toward that which is evil. Biblical hate rejects that which is opposed to God’s will. Hate goes along with ‘rebuke’ as a strongly felt but well reasoned censure of that which violates God’s love, and all that God’s love wills.
Unfortunately, people such as our letter writer use scripture’s endorsement of the word to justify their misuse of it, and to do it in the name of Christ. They manage to twist scripture’s intent to disavow evil by assuming whatever they believe is morally wrong is the same thing that God believes is morally wrong. It makes their expressions of hatred righteous, even holy. It entitles them to condemn others on God’s behalf by inserting the word hate wherever they choose, as in “God hates homosexuality.”
A local letter writer is more to be pitied than anything else, but national media personalities can do serious damage to society with their accusations. They must be called out for it without falling into the trap of mutual hate baiting and name calling.
The rest of us have become far too lazy in our use of hate to mean too many things in too many ways. It might be good to give it a long rest for a few years. Instead of hate, take the time and effort to describe feelings and thoughts, and why you’re justified to make them known. It might lead to less divisiveness. It will certainly lead to more clarity, and less misunderstanding. Stop using God to prop up your biases. It’s presumptuous. Restrict hate for that which is truly deserving of the word: liver and onions for instance.