Now if we can only figure out who’s doing the hating.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

which kind of seems to be about as insightful a thing as any one has ever said. But like every insightful thing there is a puzzling aspect to it – a Catch 22, if you will.  This paradox can be identified by just about any child who is told “It’s never okay to hate.”  Most kids, assuming they’ve reached that quizzical age will bombard you with questions like: “Is it okay to hate killers?” or “Is it okay to hate the devil?” or “Is it okay to hate evil?” or “Is it okay to hate Lima beans?”

This is a common philosophical quandary that comes from not really understanding what you mean by hate. Importantly, with regard to MLK’s context, he certainly did not mean it simply in the context of racist white man’s problems, but also in the context of a black response to their deplorable with hatred toward the oppressors.  It was certainly an inspirational plea to embrace Christianity’s turn-your-cheek ethic. Without a doubt, King was speaking of the human tendency of people to be blinded by their hatred. I don’t think he would say “Be sure not to hate evil, because you will be blinded to the beauty of evil.” Likewise, he certainly wouldn’t argue his statement applies to the state of discrimination, such as in “Don’t hate your lack of civil rights, because you will be blinded to the beauty of the state of inequality.” In fact, it would be accurate to say he did in fact ‘hate’ the unjust condition he spoke against in the sense that his dislike was so strong, he felt it demanded action. He was certainly imploring listeners not to confound the people for the principles they hold.  (This is the familiar love-sinners-hate-the-sin credo of Christianity.)

So, yes, of course King was influenced, even driven by admirable principles he gleaned from the Christian message. In this sense, he was inspired by religion. But the actual sin he fought against was not a biblical sin – if it were, the institution of slavery could never have persisted in a nation dominated by Christianity.  Yes, the story of Moses leading people out of slavery is a poignant metaphor, but the exodus of Moses and the Israelites from Egypt was followed by the subsequent conquering and enslavement of nation after nation by the Israelites themselves, so it could hardly be claimed that God was offended not by slavery, but by slavery of the Israelites.

“Hey, Moses, my feet are killing me!
I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but why don’t you
just use your magic to directly transport us to the Promised Land?”

So while Martin Luther King Jr could certainly effectively use biblical metaphor as an inspirational cry to rally the oppressed into action, the ethical reform he sought was civil in nature (a plea for an improved social order) not religious in nature. When I compared the civil rights movement to the gay rights movement, I’m speaking with regard to civil reform in my comparison. The ethically superior civil state is to allow gay couples the same civil rights from a legal perspective as heterosexual couples. In this sense, the biblical argument is irrelevant, because it is not a question of theology, much like with the civil rights movement, any biblical argument was irrelevant. Objections could then be in the form of claims about how this policy adversely affects society as a whole, but reasons that appeal to religion (per the First Amendment) cannot be lent respect in this matter. For example, you can come up with good social reasons why brother and sister should not be afforded the same rights (problematic offspring) although that could go off into a discussion all its own if you started down the ‘voluntary sterilization’ road. (But let’s save that for a rainy day!)

While it is doubtful MLK would see the plight of gays in the same light, this is largely because while he did suffer the civil rights plight as a black American, he certainly did not suffer the civil rights plight as a gay American. I’m sure his own words would give him pause in the matter in spite of his religious perspective:

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

Much like those fighting against civil rights for blacks lack the reasonable grounds to claim, “your hatred of the status quo blinds you to its beauty,” those fighting against gay marriage rights cannot claim “your hatred of traditional marriage blinds you to its beauty.” Rather, I suspect it leverages in the same way as it did for King’s agenda – against the status quo.

It must be terrible to be blind to the beauty of girl-on-girl action.

jk

One Comment to “Now if we can only figure out who’s doing the hating.”

  1. Jon K 31 October 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    Just reviewing some old posts. Wow – I can’t believe this one didn’t garner a single comment!


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