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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hate Group vs. Love Group

“1,000 hate groups active in U.S” was the headline in the CNN online news!  “Wow, that’s reassuring”, I cynically thought to myself.  Really I find that appalling.  It is not surprising…and that’s also appalling!  Not only do I find that sad, I find it even sadder that according to the news article, these kinds of groups are experiencing resurgence. 

How in the world would we know there are 1,000 of these groups?  The Southern Poverty Law Center apparently is carefully tracking these kinds of hate groups.  The article also quotes Jack Levin, a sociology and criminology professor at Northeastern University in Boston.  Clearly there are people who have become experts in this kind of movement.  That is not surprising. 

I don’t know the precise definition of a hate group, but it is fairly easy to guess.  Obviously a hate group would be a few people who hate another group of people.  Surely, a hate group has to have it “in” for more than a single individual.  Nobody can have lived in the last half of the 20th century and not know about anti-Semitism and Hitler.  The Nazis were a very well organized hate group that killed millions of Jews.  The African-American population in our land knows a thing or two about racism.  

It also seems obvious to me that a hate group has a clear sense of the “other” whom they despise and hate.  Doubtlessly, that “other” is stereotyped.  What may be lost on some of us is the fact that stereotyping the “other” is also self-definitional for who we are.  If I see the “other” as lesser or greedy or whatever, then I am by definition more and not greedy.  The imperfection of the “other” is a backdrop for my perfection. 

I was intrigued how a hate group forms and recruits new members.  I am so naïve that I would not have a clue where to go or how to join a hate group, even if I wanted to do so!  But in this day and age, probably all one has to do is go to Google and type in “hate group” and the group of your choice would pop up!  Apparently, according to Levin, music---especially far-right music---is a great recruitment tool for the young folks.  Again, I am naïve.  I would not have a clue what far-right music is!  Again, I found a quick, little Google check revealed some examples of such music. 

Now I am provoked to think.  Hate groups are a given.  Are love groups also a given?  Google is not always the ultimate answer, but it does give us a glimpse into the culture we live.  Type in “love groups” and Google references mostly links to friendship groups and links that have to do with love, relationships, and married couples.  That’s certainly not bad, but it is not the direct alternative of hate groups. 

I wonder if it is not time to imagine how churches, synagogues, and other such gatherings of religiously sensitive and active people might not form love groups capable of contending with the hate spread by the other groups?  What if these kinds of love groups became more active in the world and tried to love their way to change---change for the better?  These love groups could engage economic, political, and social issues in such a way to change conditions for the better. 

What if I became a part of a love group and began to work in the world to eradicate the kinds of conditions that feed hate groups?  I could do it.  That is true.  Could I do it is not the real question.  The real question is, would I do it?  That calls for a commitment and an honesty about my own situation and desire to follow what probably is God’s desire for me. 

I can’t imagine God asking us to join a hate group and learning to hate with gusto!  But people have joined hate groups and then hated with gusto.  That leads to violence, murder and mayhem.  What would be the love group alternative?  It’s fairly simple, I think.  But it is not easy. 

A love group would be folks who are driven by concern for justice, fairness, and service.  Love groups would be willing to share and, even, sacrifice.  They probably would look and act quite a bit like Jesus and the Buddha and the other spiritual luminaries of history.  They would be ordinary people doing extraordinary things. 

Most of us can’t jump big time into a love group.  But we probably could imagine beginning in small ways in our own little world.  I could do that.  For example, I could refrain from gossip and put downs of others.  Instead I could find some kindness to offer and encouragement to build up.  I could be more forgiving.   

I think if I start doing this, I probably will find others doing it too.  This can become my love group.  Likely we won’t organize as effectively as the hate group, but we can become bigger, more effective, and ultimately more successful.  I’m ready to go.  Hope you come, too.

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