Getting to the Bottom of Hate: Charleston As Case in Point

A lot of people have said that we saw hate in what Dylann Roof did in Charleston, S.C., last week. I agree. But I also think that we throw around the word “hate” these days without giving much thought to what makes hate, hate.

I approach the subject of “hate” with great trepidation, as there are those who would like nothing more than to put words in my mouth. However, it seems to me that today we sometimes throw around the word hate much like we throw around the words hero, superstar, and discriminate. Not everyone who is called a hero or superstar really is one, and we all discriminate all the time. All choices we make—whether to spend time reading this or moving on to something else—entail a form of “discrimination.”

So what is hate? It’s a word the Southern Poverty Law Center likes to use a lot, putting different people and organizations on its “hate list.” But it’s also a word that is used a lot in the Bible, and in some interesting ways.

Jesus, who many cynics of Christianity say they admire, even used the word in reference to Himself. In fact, He said that being hated might not be as bad as everybody might tend to think. Specifically, He said the world hated Him, and He told His disciples they would be hated, too (John 15:18). Jesus even had the audacity to say that they were blessed in God’s sight if they were hated for His sake.

Then there is this interesting verse: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil” (Psalm 97:10). A command to hate in the Bible? That just doesn’t compute to the modern mind (which I discussed last week). But this verse contains a clue to the meaning of hate that perhaps we’ve overlooked. It is the matter of evil.

Jesus said that the world hated Him because He “testified” of it, “that the works thereof are evil” (John 7:7). The world, which includes me, doesn’t tend to like the thought that there is an objective, absolute standard by which what we do and think are to be judged. And the world, which includes me, doesn’t particularly like those who point out that standard to us. In fact, today we call them “hateful” and “haters.”

But it is the existence of that standard that helps us understand what really is hateful and make sense of just how amazing the response of the victims’ families was.

How do we decide what is hateful if there is no real, objective standard by which to judge the attitude or action of another? (Please don’t flippantly say something about not judging other people, because in doing so, you are making a judgmental statement and violating your own standard.) By analogy, those who deny that there are any standards by which to judge a work of art say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Likewise, absent any real, objective ethical standard for behavior, could not Dylann Roof say to his accusers, “Hate is in the eye of the beholder?”

Such a statement, of course, is not true, but it’s not true because there is that which is objectively good and evil. And what Mr. Roof did was evil (and hateful) because he violated the clear command of God, “Do not murder.”

It’s only when we acknowledge that there is a real, objective standard for right and wrong and that someone has violated it in relationship to us that we can see what real love can do—forgive—and its power. Its power turned away the kind of rioting and violence that seems to follow in the wake of those who go around calling people hateful.

When we cheapen the word hate by calling everybody who simply disagrees with us hateful, then we also cheapen the word love and that manifestation of it we call forgiveness.

In Charleston, we got a glimpse of something beautiful—real love and its power—because we got a glimpse of something God says is really evil.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Calm and Curfews Aren’t Enough

I don’t know all the facts about the shooting incident in Ferguson, Missouri, that prompted the ongoing civil unrest. But looking at the totality of the situation from the thirty-thousand-foot level, I see a problem that curfews and calls for calm can’t solve.

At first, it is easy to focus on who was at fault in the shooting, the police or the deceased. Fault does need to be determined, and justice does need to be done. That’s what trials are for.

But there is a bigger issue that we can and should ponder: What really fueled and sustained the violence that flowed from the initial incident? And is that “thing” something unique to Ferguson? What if that “thing” is lying dormant in the soil of every American city, like a seed ready to sprout as soon as the environment is right?

As we think about the “root cause” of the violence that sprouted, I’d like to suggest something that I’ve not heard anyone say yet, or at least not say it this way—it is a lack of love.

Reading that, my conservative friends will think I’ve gone soft, that I’ve turned liberal on them. But hear me out. I’m talking about the kind of love our society wants nothing to do with anymore.

The kind of love about which I’m speaking is that found in Matthew 24:12, which records Jesus as saying, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” The word “lawlessness” is from a root word that literally translated means “not law.”

Of course, the law to which Jesus referred was not civil law. He wasn’t saying that love will grow cold and society will become “loveless” if there aren’t a lot of civil laws on the books. He wasn’t saying “big government” is a precursor to or condition for a loving society. To the contrary, we have big civil government because we lack the kind of law Jesus was referring to.

The kind of law to which Jesus was referring is law in a real, ultimate, and final sense, the law by which God has ordered all of His creation, including human beings. When mankind wants to pretend there is no moral law by which we must conform our conduct in order for us, individually and corporately, to prosper, then love will grow cold.

In that kind of “lawless” environment, which is our current national environment, love must grow cold because in the absence of such a God-ordained and imposed law, every man is a law unto himself. And that breeds a self-centered, egotistical human being. For that person, there is nothing and no law higher than himself. He wants what he wants when he wants it, and whatever gets in his way is wrong and must go.

Sadly, lawless love has infected the church, which is why our society continues down this path of fomenting anger and violence. I tire of the preachers who today call us to just “love God” and “love our neighbor” but never bother to remind those whom they so exhort that those “calls to love” were summations of what it meant to live out the Ten Commandments, the law of God.

What is happening in Ferguson truly makes my heart heavy not just for those who live there, but for my country. What happened in that community is bound to happen at some point in every community where lawlessness is allowed to abound.

And faced with that possibility, let’s hope the church will do more than join the calls for calm and curfews.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Reducing Marriage to a Bumper Sticker Slogan

This week I was in Cincinnati to observe the oral arguments in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on the constitutionality of Tennessee’s marriage laws. While there, I observed the rallies for “marriage equality.” And it struck me that a number of our young people are being seduced by bumper sticker arguments for same-sex marriage.

The bumper sticker argument was the sign “love is love” that I saw plastered everywhere at the same-sex marriage rallies. It goes with the sister-slogan “same love” that I saw on t-shirts. Those sound really good, and for those in my generation, may be good titles for a syrupy 1980s Meg Ryan chick-flick. But as an argument for same-sex marriage? Not so good.

First, if marriage is just love and if all love should be treated equally because it’s the “same,” then we’re not really talking about redefining marriage to include same-sex couples; we’re talking about un-defining marriage.

The judges who have said there is no rational basis for people to think that marriage should be limited to men and women will find they have no rational basis for limiting marriage to just two people either. After all, the bumper sticker logic they’ve bought into says love is love, and all love is the same. It would actually be irrational for these judges not to rule that polygamy is also constitutionally required.

In fact, those judges who think you’re homophobic if you believe marriage should be limited to a man and woman could rightly be labeled polyphobic if they don’t approve marriages between more than two people. For them not to approve polygamous marriages would have to be based on a fear of unleashing polygamous marriage on America. And we’ve already established it would be irrational for them not to support polygamous marriages. Irrational fears are the very definition of a real phobia.

Contrary to the bumper sticker philosophy, all love is not the same, and deep down everyone knows it.

We all know that the love between a man and a woman, when expressed in physical union, can naturally manifest itself for all to see through the creation of a life that is a unique blending of that man and woman. I see the evidence of this truth every day in the young woman that my wife and I call our daughter.

Yet no relationship between two men or two women, no matter how much they love each other or how sincere they are in that love, can ever produce such a manifestation of their love. And no child, no matter how loved, will ever be the perfect blending of that relationship.

Catchy bumper sticker arguments are nice if we want our political dialogue about important subjects to be reduced to that. But no bumper sticker can ever paper over the truth that has been written into nature for all to see, if we will but look and be honest with ourselves.

Watch the related YouTube video, Questioning the ‘Love Is Love’ Marriage Equality Rally Invocation

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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What My Computer Taught Me About Progressivism

I learned a valuable lesson the other day when I updated the software on my computer. I believe it is a modern-day parable of what is going on in our state and nation, a striking parallel to a situation about which the biblical prophets warned Judah. They didn’t listen. I hope we will.

This week I took an hour away from productive work on my computer to upload the latest operating system, thinking that the extra speed and functionality would be worth the “lost” time. But when I re-launched a video recording program, the program would no longer recognize my internal camera.

After an hour of trying to troubleshoot, I gave up. I’ll now spend an hour or more standing at a help desk trying to get fixed what was not broken when I decided to “upgrade” to the “latest thing.”

And in that moment, I realized that my experience in the technological world is nothing more than what in culture we now call “progressivism.”

The Parallels

Who needs an out-of-date Constitution when judges can “breathe” into it life that it better fits our more modern, progressive, view of man, government, religion, and the world?

Who needs to “restrict” marriage to a relationship between a man and a woman now that we’ve progressed in our understanding that “love” has no “boundaries?”

Why do we need boundaries to “love” when the progress of the “sexual revolution” has taught us that sexual acts are the sum total of what it means to “love”?

Why do we need an understanding of true love or a definition of marriage now that we understand that our existential existence requires us to “actualize” ourselves and to heck with others who just need to actualize themselves?

Why would we think that children need both a mom and a dad now that progressive government can provide agencies to do the job, leaving the sperm and egg donors to pursue their existential self-awareness?

Why do we need to stay committed to the spouse of our youth when there is an upgraded and perhaps surgically enhanced version so readily available?

And in the church, why do “preachers” need to talk about “sin” now that our progressive understanding of the human psyche tells us that there is no true moral guilt before a Holy God, only guilt feelings brought about by the patriarchal, sexually repressed society of the “dark ages?”

And, really, why do we even need to talk about God now that our scientific progress allows us to manipulate practically everything through our own ingenious devices?

The Problem

To these questions, the word of the prophet Jeremiah came to me, and with great alarm, because what the prophet said would happen to Judah did, in fact, happen:

They have lied about the Lord, and said, “He is not; misfortune will not come on us; and we will not see sword or famine” (Jeremiah 5:12 NASB).

They have stumbled from their ways, from the ancient paths, to walk in bypaths, and not on a highway (Jeremiah 18:15 NASB).

These words came to an ancient people and nation that “progressed” beyond the antiquated ways of their forefathers and embraced the ways of the world around them.

Past As Prologue?

I know it’s not very progressive to say this, but our situation in America seems eerily the same. We have progressed beyond the sacred words of those flaming pulpits of the Second Great Awakening that stirred the flame of liberty upon which our nation was forged. We, like Judah, have “stumbled from the ancient paths” upon which our journey to greatness began. We have “lied” to ourselves and said that “misfortune will not come on us.”

Unpleasant thoughts, I know, particularly in a culture that has made pleasure its god. But perhaps we would do well to ponder them, because I can’t help but wonder when all our “progress” comes to an end, if we’ll find that, like my computer with its upgraded software, we just don’t function right any more.