What's hate got to do with it?
Yesterday, a man holding a Chick-Fil-a bag in one hand and a gun in the other stormed into the offices of the Family Research Council and shot a security guard. He was wrestled to the ground and subdued until police arrived and took him into custody.
Reading this news, I was at first horrified that another act of gun violence had showed up in the headlines. (Add to that: two sheriffs deputies were shot dead outside of New Orleans this morning. That story is still unfolding.)
“Today’s attack is the clearest sign we’ve seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as ‘hateful’ must end,” Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said in a public statement. (The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the FRC as a hate group.)
Not so fast, argues Christian Century’s Steve Thorngate, who points out that while hate certainly has something to do with the shooters motives, it doesn’t let the FRC off the hook for their own demonization of a group of people:
'Shooting someone is without question a hateful thing to do. But the word "hate" is as slippery as it is explosive, because we all agree it's bad but we don't have a consensus at to what exactly it is. When the Southern Poverty Law Center listed the FRC as a hate group, I affirmed the SPLC's move (as did a Century editorial). Others protested, often contrasting the FRC with violent fringe groups. Hate, this argument seems to take as given, by definition lacks widespread support and engages in violence.
But that's not the SPLC's definition. And the SPLC didn't simply lob the label "hate group" at the FRC and let people react as they may. It carefully and soberly spelled out its case: the FRC doesn't just criticize gays and lesbians, it speaks of them in totalizing and demonizing ways. And it relies on junk science to do this. According to the SPLC, this constitutes a form of hate.
In any case, violence is certainly one form hate can take. But I'm not convinced the solution is to refrain from applying the word "hate" to other, lesser forms. Better to use the word with care, be clear about what we do and don't mean, and commit ourselves to Martin Luther King Jr.'s conviction: "Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."'