|The Face of Hate|
Dan Pearce writes the excellent blog Single Dad Laughing. He writes about how much he loves his son, Noah and their lives together. He had a few followers.
Then, last November, Dan posted an amazing essay called "I'm Christian, unless you're gay." In it, he talked about hypocrisy and how true followers of Christ shouldn't hate anyone, particularly LGBTQ people.. The post went viral and Dan is still getting responses, more than three months later. It was a very well-thought-out and touching piece and it galvanized thousands of people into reexamining their own attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. The stories shared in the comments on the post are nothing short of amazing. Families who'd been torn apart by this issue for years were reunited; friends were found; people's eyes were opened. If you haven't read Dan's post, I strongly recommend that you do so and then share it with everyone you know (and maybe a few folks that you don't).
But there are still millions out there who just don't get it. And while the lunatic fringe haters like Fred Phelps (pictured above) and his Westboro Baptist Church family will never get it (that poison has run far too deep for far too long), I am amazed by the so-called educated people who spew hatred in the name of God and then complain when they are called bigots. Especially dangerous are those who are currently campaigning for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. You know who they are and I'm not going to waste my time typing their names. Do we really want people whose minds are so narrow; whose eyes are so blind and whose hearts are so cold, leading the Free World? Because they promise that under their 'leadership,' that world would be just just a little less free. I'm pretty sure that they haven't read Dan's essay (maybe we should all send them a link to it).
But none of that answers my initial question: Why do we hate? And of course, the answer is: Fear.
Fear is born of ignorance - we fear what we don't understand. As children, we fear the shadows on our bedroom walls because we don't understand what makes a jacket tossed onto a chair look like a werewolf waiting to pounce. In families who practice one of big three religions, we're taught to fear the Wrath of God, who will eternally punish us if we don't do what He says. We fear what's different: Skin color; religion; social behaviors; foods; places of origin; political views. And of course, the biggest fear of all: Death.
While death may be the one common fear most of us share, the fear of differences is the only one that is taught to us. We learn this fear first from our parents, families & clergy and second from our peers, whose fears have been taught to them by their parents, families and clergy. It's kind of a vicious circle. But how do we break that circle? How do we rid ourselves of fear?
Over the years, my views on religion have changed drastically. My father came from a Roman Catholic family and my mother was raised Episcopalian (basically the same thing but with divorce and without celibacy). Until I was 6, we attended church regularly and my mother even taught Sunday School (though she later admitted that she didn't believe a word of what she was teaching). When Mom became bedridden while pregnant with my sister, we stopped going to church. Of course, whenever I spent the weekend at my Grandmother's, I was dragged to Sunday Mass at Saint Stephen's, Trenton's Hungarian Catholic church.
Meanwhile, my father had begun to question what he had been taught and was delving into mysticism and the occult, which later led him to explore Zen Buddhism. By the time I was in my late teens and early 20's, I had had a taste of just of just about every dogma and philosophy out there. In college, I devoured religious texts. I have read the Bible; the Q'uran; the Bhagavad Gita; 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' and even 'The Satanic Bible' in my quest for enlightenment. For a very long time I considered myself an agnostic, and have even said so on this blog. These days, I'm not afraid to admit that I have become a full-on atheist, as well as firm believer that religion has been the cause of more war, hatred and murder than anything else in human history. Truth be told, we'd all be a lot better off without it.
Sadly, we are a superstitious lot, and most of find comfort in believing - the whole 'Religion is the opiate of the masses' thing. Which leads me back to fear. Maybe, if we could let go of our fear for just a little bit, we might see that FDR was right: "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."
My challenge to you today is to let go of your fear. Let go of all the things you've been taught to be afraid of - God; Hell; Death; Blacks; Hispanics; Jews; Asians; Gays... whatever. Just let go. Stop being afraid and start embracing what's different. Start celebrating the fact the what makes us all different, also makes us all the same. Stop hating the people you don't understand and start to learn about them, instead. I guarantee that you will find they aren't so different from you, afterall. We all want the same things - to live our lives without fear; to be happy and free to love who we love, without judgement or recrimination; to live a life in which love matters more than anything. If you look at as many religions and philosophies as I have, I think you'll find that love is the common denominator in all of them and that hate has no place at any of their tables.
Wow. That's more than I ever thought I'd have to say on any of those topics, despite how much they might relate to one another. And it's almost certainly not the last time I will address any and/or all of those topics. Listening to some of the speeches given today at CPAC certainly had something to do with it. As does the continuing suicide epidemic among young LGBTQ people in this country. I guess it just makes me crazy to see people hold onto values that no longer have relevance in what is supposed to be an 'enlightened' society. It's the 21st Century, people. wake up and smell reality.
Okay - I'm done (for now). I may very well need a ladder to get off this particularly high horse, but so be it. All I ask is that you take the challenge.