Hatred Is In Your Neighborhood
The Southern Poverty Law Center identified in 2017 954 active hate groups in the United States. There is at least one such group in every state in the union and in some states there are 12 or more active groups. The groups range from the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi, White Nationalist, Racist Skinhead, Christian Idenity to Anti-LGBT, Anti-Muslim and General Hate.
Most of these groups have been around for a long time, yet we are still dealing with them today. They have grown in membership and operate under a variety of names. New organizations have developed dealing with the LGBT and Muslim communities. Racist extremist groups are still going strong. Not all members of any of the groups are violent, but there are people who promote and/or participate in violent acts in each.
It is the responsibility of the followers of Jesus to learn about these groups, develop programs to deal with the conflicts within communities, oppose the bigotry and military nature of these groups, and work to stop the spread of the messages of hate and violence within our society. Many of us have ignored the existence of such groups and assumed they were not in “my neighborhood.” Sadly it has taken the increase in the number of bombings and shootings that have killed children, teens and adults to wake us up to the reality of hate and violence in our midst.
Words of hate are filling some of our airwaves and social media. Words of hate are used by politicians as they talk about those who don’t agree with them. Words and acts of hate are portrayed daily on television and in videos and movies. These words of hate cause and contribute to acts violence. We cannot be indifferent to hateful speech. Our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, but gives us also the responsibility of overcoming words of hate with words of love and care. The writer of Proverbs 10:12 said: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”
It is time for us to deal directly with hate and violence. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Know the hate groups within your community or state. Try to understand the issues about which they are concerned. Who are the people targeted for membership? What are their issues and concerns?
2. Do not tolerate hateful activity or words within your family, church, work place/school, community. Speak out against such. Become an advocate for reconciliation, dialogue and mutual respect.
3. Encourage your church groups to study what the scriptures say about hatred. Practice the gifts of the Spirit.
4. Be alert to the political processes within your community, your state and the nation. Hate groups often cloak their agendas in respectable conservative words to gain control of government units including school boards and city councils.
During World War II, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “The only thing that needs to happen for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” The evils of hatred and violence cannot be allowed to continue. Let us join together as followers of the Christ to overcome them!