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Words Matter: Hate and Bigotry

The intense discussion about the Rick Warren choice for the inauguration here and in the media has really been both enlightening and surprising.  I’ve been overjoyed to see the concerns of our community get national attention (which is always a battle), but a bit shocked by some people’s response- especially those in our own community.

It seems that some in our community think that words like “hate” and “bigotry” should be used more sparingly.  One of the comments on this blog even said that those words should be saved for people like the Phelps clan- you know, “real” bigots.  If we use those words for people like Warren, some say, then what do we have left to call the Phelps of the world?

My answer to that is that we use the same words.  Hate is hate.  Bigotry is Bigotry, whether you hold up a sign that says “God Hates Fags” or call us pedophiles and incestuous on national TV.  

The tactics of the bigots may be different, but the message is the same.

Polite Hate is Still Hate

So when did we buy into the fact that polite hate is okay?  As long as you hate us with a smile and a nice cardigan sweater, we have to accept it?  

Maybe that’s the real problem with our movement.

It seems that some think that by calling polite haters out, we somehow weaken our cause.  I would argue that it is just the opposite.  By allowing polite bigotry, hate with a smile, to pass unchallenged, we make it more acceptable and palatable to society as a whole.

Yes, the Phelps Clan represents outrageous, pure hatred in its most heightened form.  But that very over the top nature has made them largely irrelevant and easy to write off as nutty extremists.  I doubt they move many opinions to their point of view.

The same cannot be said, however, for the Rick Warren’s of the world.  His smiling, affable brand of hate (the fact that he can laugh as he compares us to pedophiles and then offers us doughnuts) is far more insidious and damaging to our cause.  

He seems, on the outside, to be reasonable.

That makes it easier for people to say that his extreme views have a valid place at the table.  That he should be included in the big tent of ideas and views.  But if you look at what he is saying, is it really any different from the Phelps of the world?  

His hate is just packaged nicer.

Hate in word and action

And let’s be clear- just because he gives Melissa Etheridge a hug and says he loves gay people doesn’t make it so.  His actions (and a lot of his words) show what he really thinks about us:

* He compares our relationships to pedophilia, incest, and polygamy.

* He supports “ex-gay” ministries.

* He actively fought to strip away marriage rights

* He says that the only difference between him and James Dobson is tone.

Why should we sit by and allow someone to say deplorable things about us, our families, and our relationships?  Because he seems nice?  Hardly.

By saying he doesn’t hate us, we somehow are buying in to the old “love the sinner, hate the sin” line that has been used as an excuse for bigotry for years.  Who I am, who I love, my relationship, my family- those things are me.  They are who I am.  By attacking those things, Warren is attacking me, not just some vague idea.  He is calling me the hateful names, saying my relationship is comparable to a sexual deviants, and saying my family isn’t as good as his.  That is hate, no matter how flowery his language is or how much he claims otherwise.

Aristotle described hate as “the desire for the annihilation of an object that is incurable by time.”  That pretty much describes Warren and his ilk.  They want to pray us away, be it through ex-gay ministries or by taking away so many rights that it shoves us all back in the closet, and he has said these views are “non-negotiable.”  That’s a big yes to Aristotle’s definition- they seek to get rid of us and nothing is making it going away.

Words Matter

Warren is a bigot.  He spews hate about LGBT people.  

Those statements, while strong, are not false.  There may be a debate to be had about the importance of Obama giving him a international platform and legitimizing his message by making him the new Billy Graham (you can tell which way I lean on that discussion), but the fact that the man, for all his smiling and laughing, is a bigot isn’t really a debatable point in my eyes.

Words do matter.  They have power.  By calling attention to Warren’s message, we can help people see past the smiles and best-selling books and at his real words.  

Hate, in whatever its form, should never go unchallenged.

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