"Smoldering cauldron": Knoxville pastor preaches on hate

"Smoldering cauldron": Knoxville pastor preaches on hate

The Call features a recent sermon from one of Holston Conference's own

I hate spinach. I hate olives, too.

I hate the McRib. I wish it would go away and stay gone forever.

I hate people talking during a movie. I hate when advertisers use dead people in their commercials.

I hate when someone uses a fork in the butter.

I hate Bluetooth earphones that make people look like they are talking to themselves or to me.

I hate seeing some guy’s boxer shorts because he intentionally lets his pants droop to his ankles.

I hate when women wear enough perfume to sedate a bear in the wild.

I hate clowns, puppets, and parades.

I know, I know … I am a terrible person.

These are a few of my least favorite things. Notice how I carelessly use the word "hate"? These things are hardly worth the gravity of the word. They are simply things that annoy me.

Hate is an ugly word. It is a kindergarten word, a childish idea. It belongs in the juvenile world of things you love or hate.

I hate Barney, but I love Dora.

I remember that once as a child I directed the venom of that word to one of my parents: I hate you. Of course, I did not. I was just being petulant. The memory still stings me more than it does my parents, I think.

Hate is something we should outgrow, leave behind, and overcome as we mature into the complexities of love. And yet, hatred remains ... even pervades. Hate is a smoldering cauldron bubbling its toxic influence just beneath the surface of our society and people.

From neo-Nazi violence to casual bigotry, hate lives.

Recently, the Secret Service looked into a case in Idaho in which a tree had the president-elect’s name posted on a sign that read, “Free public hanging.”

This is 2009, isn’t it?

There have been hundreds of such incidents -- from vandalism to burning crosses -- since the November election. I've pondered "hate" ever since I heard that protesters were expected at the funerals of four Scott County cheerleaders killed in a car accident last October.

In case you have not heard of these so-called Christians,they hail from a Baptist church in Kansas. They made a name for themselves by protesting at soldiers’ funerals -- but not protesting the war, mind you. Their message is that "God hates America" and is punishing us for our sins through the deaths of young men and women. This group's web page has HATE in capital letters all over it. The proclamation that offends me most is, "God hates you and God hates the world."

Most of this group's poison is directed at homosexuals and anyone who enables them to live in America. They protested the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the gay man who was beaten to death and hung on a fence in Wyoming in 1998.

The group's leader says that anyone who preaches that God loves everyone and died for their sins is going to hell. He even condemns Billy Graham on this account.

The Bible says, If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Some of the propaganda trash that circulates on the Internet today would be laughable ... if I did not know there are people out there who take it seriously. There is another group with a Web site that uses Christianity to promote racism and anti-Semitism. They teach that white people, not the Jews, were God’s true Chosen People and that Jews are descendants of Eve and Satan. Whites, they say, are superior to all other races, while non-whites are on the same level as animals, without souls.

Did I mention I also hate ignorance? I do not mean people who are simple and uneducated. I mean people who are stubbornly and willfully stupid. Intolerance is a veil to hide fear and ignorance.

Martin Luther King said:

When we look at modern man we have to face the fact that he suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance. We've learned to fly the air like birds, we've learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we have not learned to walk the earth as brothers and sisters.

It is hard to fathom the depth of the hatred that was given expression through the Nazis 60 years ago. How did people let it happen?

Hear a German minister give his perspective:

In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.

I made a promise to myself early in my ministry never to be silent on this issue of "hate." One of my first appointments was at a small, rural church. I loved the people and had a good ministry -- with one exception. Racism was rampant in the congregation. I actually heard a member use the "N word" in my home on Christmas morning as she described a gift given to her son.

I was too shocked to respond. I otherwise had a great deal of respect for this woman. I never confronted her or the others for the prejudice. I have regretted it ever since, but vowed to never again let it go.

At my very next appointment, I learned that a black woman had joined the church, yet no one had greeted her. I was furious and disappointed. But within weeks, I experienced a defining moment in my ministry. At that church, people came down and knelt for Holy Communion along the rail. As I got ready to serve, I looked down the line and saw three African refugees, a student from Vietnam, a Messianic Jew, and a man struggling with his sexual identity. I felt I was granted a glimpse of the grace of heaven.

You likely feel that hate is too strong a word to apply to you. Oh, you might make a few comments or jokes, but it’s not like you really hate anyone.

Someone once said, Hate is like a cancer. It doesn't matter if you have a little cancer or a lot of cancer - it's still cancer!

I think of hate as a seed. If you harbor this seed anywhere in your heart, it is eventually going to grow.

I think much hatred finds its root in self-loathing. People actually hate themselves or their circumstances. Hating someone or some group somehow makes them feel better about themselves. Clint Eastwood, of all people, once said, The less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice.

Hate is not a political issue for me. It is a moral one. I am not trying to be more PC. I am trying to be more like JC. Whoever says, "I abide in him," ought to walk just as he walked.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, The mind of the bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract.

1 John 2:29 says, Whoever says, "I am in the light," while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness.

You can shine a light on the dark recesses of your heart where perhaps you hide your own smoldering cauldron. Admit your weaknesses and your faults. Confess them, own them, and do not look for a scapegoat for your life. Then in turn, do not shrug or turn away when you witness any level of hate.

When we are baptized, we make a vow to resist evil, injustice and oppression, in any forms.

We promised God and the church to make a stand.

The Rev. Steve Doyal is pastor of Rutherford Memorial United Methodist Church in Knoxville District.