“Hate is a strong word!” I can still hear this phrase cheerfully being said by my youth director growing up if any one of us but uttered the word “hate”! One might say, “I hate Burger King”. To which she would respond, “hate is a strong word.” Another might say, “I hate my little sister.” Again, same response, “hate is a strong word.” Whether it was burgers or biting little sisters, Lisa did not let us hate anything.
Lisa was not the only one who spoke about hate but the Bible also speaks of hate quite often. The word, “hate” is mentioned almost 200 times in the Biblical text. One of the first mentions is one we read in worship just a few weeks ago. In Genesis 37 the writer tells us that Joseph’s brothers “hated” him. We all know what followed. Throughout the Psalms the writer turns to God for refuge from those who “hate” her. Then one of my favorite verses written by Paul in the book of Romans, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Paul commands his readers to hate evil.
It’s been several years since I heard Lisa remind me of the strength of hate but her words have been echoing in my ears the past week as I watch the news which could be summarized in one word, “hate.” Sadly, the stories are not shocking as I have known many who have had hate uttered at them. A dear loved one of mine was even screamed to at a light by a truck full of total strangers, “go back to Mexico!” For many minorities and people of color hate speech is something they have grown up learning how to “overcome” on a daily basis. So, if hate speech is not new and the KKK has not disappeared then why so much news frenzy around the events of Charlottesville?
I believe it is two-fold. First, the hate speech is very public. The signs are made and carried by many people in public for all to see. Whereas in past years there was shame associated with racism it appears that many are very happy to publicly announce and not excuse but justify their racism. Second, there is now a need to do something about the hate speech. While watching the news I am at times very susceptible to simply write-off the racist protestors as “garage-sell Barbie or Ken” as Tina Fey called one of the white supremacist reporters on her recent appearance on weekend update. I then might turn-off the TV and move on with my day. Yet, there are people watching the shows, children watching the news with their parents or googling a word they heard and seeing horrible things written about themselves. I hope and pray that there is a sense by many that the hate speech needs to stop and healing needs to take place. Yet, two questions linger for me…How do we do this? How do we have hope while we do it?
A Strategy against Hate
I believe one of the first strategies against hate is education. It is important when we see things on TV and in the news to realize there are many layers to what we are seeing. I have had to work to remind myself that those who were protesting the removal of the statue were from many different groups- not just one- with multiple different views- not just one. (I would hope that those who claim they were not racist though would be strategic and smart enough to not appear with those who are outwardly racist. They need a strategy!) Also, those protesting the protesters are also varied in their understanding. Some were from groups that believe that violence should be met with violence and others that believe that peacefully protesting is the way to work against hate and bring about justice. Many of these groups are less organized than some of the groups that were protesting the statue.
Christians have a long history of working towards justice and against hate. In Tom Brokaw’s reflections on Charlottesville on Wednesday on the Today Show he remembered reporting during the civil rights movement encouraged those working towards justice to also embrace non-violence as that is a strategy against hate and speaks to the souls of the nation. When Tom mentioned that I remembered a sermon that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote for Christmas Eve only four months before he was shot. He wrote about peace and a strategy against hate saying,
“I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say: ”We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. had a strategy against hate to which he called his movement towards, love and suffering. To work against hate and towards justice we must know that we will need to love all and know that we will suffer. Our Christian teaching calls us to love all and care for the souls of all and to not see anyone as lost. As we work towards justice we must pray for our enemies and those who persecute others. We must care for the healing of their souls and that their hatred might be transformed by the power of the love of God and others. This loving might look like talking with a friend who has expressed hatred. This loving might look like praying for those who hate. Loving might also be suffering with those who suffer.
The suffering part of a strategic towards justice will hopefully not be any of the things MLK mentioned above but it might be ridicule from a friend or family member who believes differently. Suffering may look like giving more to organizations that work towards the end of hate groups. Suffering might look like spending a Saturday working to educate others on racial reconciliation. Suffering might be asking questions and learning the story of another who has experience hate and crying with them. One might ask the question, what hope is there is suffering?
A Strategy of Hope
One of the main tasks of Dr. King was to share hope with African Americans as they marched and worked towards justice. He said, “The arch of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” For those of us who believe in Jesus Christ we believe that in the end justice will reign and that even here on earth we will see glimpses of it and we believe that the Holy Spirit empowers us to be part of those glimpses.
In the above sermon MLK even believes that those of us who work for justice and against hate will see a double victory when those who work for hate will have a transformed heart. Some might believe this is a pipe dream yet there are many stories that give a history to this type of hope. One of my favorites is the story of Ann Attwater and Clairborne Elis. I had the privilege of meeting Ann a few times while living in Durham. You can read their story here: http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/how-a-white-supremacist-became-a-civil-rights-activist. In short, Elis, a KKK leader was put in a group with Ann Attwater, Civil rights activist, to figure out how to spend a government grant for the work of desegregation. In their work together Elis was transformed and became a civil rights activists with his new friend. Their story is what gives me hope. Hope that hate will end and that love will win.
Nelson Madela also believed in this hope when he wrote, “”I never lost hope that this great transformation would occur. Not only because of the great heroes I have already cited, but because of the courage of the ordinary men and women of my country. I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps for just a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”
I pray that we as First Church Miami and as Christians would work against hate, not simply in tweets or facebook status but even more so in our daily lives. May we suffer with those who suffer, hope with those who have no hope and pray for those who hate- knowing that from time to time we all fall into one of these categories. May humility be the song of our heart and love be the words from our mouths.
In prayer with you for Charlottesville and Spain,
BACK TO SCHOOL BASH
Sunday, August 20th will be our Back to School Sunday Service where we will pray for students and teachers. All are invited and please do invite your friends. After the service we will celebrate with a hot dog lunch, music, games and special raffle prizes! Plan to stay around and have fun together as a family of faith!
OFFICE ATTENDANTS NEEDED!
The office is in search for two individuals who are willing to help in the office one morning a week from 9am-1pm. The volunteer duties include answering the phone, folding bulletins, and other light office support. If you are interested please email Pastor Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOMELESS JESUS SCULPTURE COMES TO FUMC
We are excited to announce that acclaimed sculpture Timothy Schmalz has chosen FUMC Miami as the location for his Homeless Jesus Sculpture in Miami. Only one statue is placed in a city around the world. If you would like to give you can follow this link to give towards this effort: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=79N5AM65V6BW6 For more information about the sculpture you can visit the following address: https://www.sculpturebytps.com/
WEEKLY PRAYER CALL
We are looking to choose a new time for prayer calls. If you are interested in joining our weekly prayer call please click this link and choose a time that will work for you! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HDZZX68
MAKE GIVING EASIER
Are you having a hard time giving regularly? Do you constantly forget your checks at home? If this is you, please know you are not alone. Also know that FUMC is now making it easier to give online. Simply follow this link: http://firstchurchmiami.org/online-giving/