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In the early seventies, there was a song on the radio called “Murder in my Heart for the Judgemental.” It was about resentment and hatred toward someone who had caused harm to the singer/narrator. This is an essay about “murder in our hearts for the judgmental.”
Someone once said that “hatred is like taking poison and hoping the other fellow gets sick.” It’s true. The first victim of hatred in every situation is the person who hates. Hatred eats away at the person who harbors it, and destroys his/her chance for happiness. It consumes and overwhelms every other emotion. Hatred is “murder in your heart.”
Hatred that is acted upon sometimes damages the person who is hated, but it always damages the person who hates. Hatred that is not acted upon might not damage the hated person, but it is no less damaging to the person who hates.
Several years ago, a man named Ted Haggard was the preacher at the largest Christian church in the world. He railed against homosexuals from his pulpit, calling them “abominations against God,” and actively working against equal rights legislation that might have benefited gay or lesbian people.
At the same time, “Pastor Teddy” (as his congregation and the world called him) was secretly paying a male prostitute to have sex with him. Pastor Teddy’s “murder in his heart” toward homosexuals was triggered by a (completely justified) fear that he was himself a homosexual. Pastor Teddy was the proto-typical homosexual homophobe.
But this essay mustn’t be about Pastor Teddy. He is a polarizing figure, for whom many people have “murder in their hearts.” It’s better to first illustrate this point with a lesser known, and less polarizing example.
Let’s examine instead someone who has some things in common with Pastor Teddy, but who isn’t as well known, and isn’t such a polarizing figure. We’ll call him “James” for the purposes of this essay.
“James (like Pastor Teddy) was born a homosexual AND born a fundamentalist evangelical Christian. Like Pastor Teddy, James could not safely admit to being the gay man that he truly was to his family and friends. Nor could he simply become the heterosexual he wished he was.
To accept and admit that he was a homosexual would mean being “cast out” of his culture, his family, and his entire support group. To come out of the closet would mean James would almost certainly be rejected and vilified by the majority of the people he loved, needed, and counted upon for emotional support.
For many (probably most) evangelical fundamentalists, the God they are taught to worship at their mother’s knee is a frightening being. God’s love (according to evangelical fundamentalists) is incredibly conditional.
Their God loves them “only if…”
Their God loves them “only after…”
Their God loves them “only until…”
Their God loves them “unless… “
Their God loves them “except when…”
The God they are taught to worship from earliest childhood will NOT love them if they are in any way different than their religion tells them they must be. Their God and their religion tells them to NOT be gay. To be anything but a completely compliant conformist is to incur the wrath and hatred of God himself.
In short, the God that fundamentalist evangelicals are taught to worship from birth is capable of love only toward totally obedient followers. Toward “inadequately compliant others,” this God they are taught to worship has “murder in his heart.” Not only does this angry, vengeful God hate those who do not comply (according to the dogma), but he has the capability and will to destroy those he hates.
Worse yet, for many (probably most) fundamentalist evangelicals, it’s not just God who loves them only under certain conditions; it’s God AND their families and their complete church oriented support system.
Failure to meet any one of the conditions with which they must comply in order to be “worth loving” means to be excommunicated from nearly everyone they have loved and counted on since they were born.
According to many fundamentalist evangelicals, to defy the restriction against being gay or lesbian seems to be the worst of all possible violations, worse (according to those who knowingly claim to speak for God) even than murder, theft, or child abuse.
Now, we come to the crux of the problem for people like James. He is BORN irrevocably gay. He cannot help having been born gay, he did not choose to “become gay,” and he cannot change being gay. He can deny it all he wants, but he is who, and what he is. He cannot “just say no,” and he cannot “opt out.” He is the way he was born.
And at the same time that he is born irrevocably gay, he is born into a religious culture (fundamentalist evangelical Christianity) that loves and supports him ONLY if he is NOT GAY. He did not choose to be born into this culture either. He cannot help having been born into this culture. And he cannot easily and safely leave this culture. It isn’t impossible to “opt out” of the fundamentalist evangelical culture, but it is incredibly difficult and frightening.
Imagine if you can, being born into a family that will love you only if you deny being who you really are. IMAGINE being James. (Unfortunately, some of you might not have to do much imagining.) James was born gay, AND born into a culture that says a person is defective and evil if he/she is born gay.
James cannot “opt out of” being gay. He cannot “opt out of” being a fundamentalist evangelical without huge emotional cost and pain. And he CANNOT reconcile being both. It cannot be done. It’s a horrifying situation to be born into. IMAGINE being 15 years old, realizing that you are gay, and dealing with THAT situation. IMAGINE IT.
Now, who among us can find much “murder in his/her heart” for poor James. If your heart fails to bleed for James in this horrific double bind, there is something wrong with your heart.
And now… we come back to the hypocritical, exposed, vilified human being that is Pastor Teddy Haggard. Pastor Teddy’s situation isn’t different from the situation that James was in. He is more visible, louder, and more exposed than James is – but he was (and still is) in the exact same double bind that James is in.
Like James, Pastor Teddy grew up having to EARN God’s love by conformance with rules that he couldn’t possibly live up to. He could only gain God’s love and approval by being other than himself.
Like James, Pastor Teddy grew up having to EARN the love of his parents, friends, teachers, and others in his support group by living up to those same rules. Like James, Pastor Teddy was born gay; and thus was born into involuntary non-compliance with one of the rules that God (and his family and support group) would despise and hate him for violating.
And so, in the end, even the judgmental Pastor Teddy must be exempted from “murder in our own hearts.” Even Pastor Teddy must not be hated. Even this man who did so much damage to gay and lesbian people before, during, and after his exposure as a hypocrite must be pitied and loved instead of hated.
In the first place, if you cannot find unconditional love in your heart for Pastor Teddy, then you are no less conditional in your love, and no less demanding of conformance with YOUR values than the culture that created HIM is. If you can find “murder in your heart” for Pastor Teddy Haggard, you have BECOME him.
In the second place, it’s not probable that hatred directed toward Pastor Teddy will ever affect Pastor Teddy. But hatred of Pastor Teddy is guaranteed to have a negative and corrosive effect on those individuals who allow themselves to hate him.
To hate Pastor Teddy will not elevate Pastor Teddy’s blood pressure like it raises the blood pressure of the person who hates him.
To hate Pastor Teddy is unlikely to further sour Pastor Teddy’s disposition, like it sours the disposition of the person who hates him.
To hate Pastor Teddy will not become a barrier between Pastor Teddy and his God like it becomes a barrier between God and the person who chooses to hate.
Only Pastor Teddy can construct meaningful barriers between himself and God. Only YOU can construct barriers between yourself and God. Only I can construct barriers between myself and God. Murder in our heart is the ideal tool with which to construct these barriers between self and God.
What can one person do in a world filled with hatred? Well, the answer is simple and profound. One person can choose NOT TO HATE. Refuse to hate ANYONE. Choose to hate no one.
Even if that is all one can do, then it is what one MUST do. Unlike sexual orientation, hatred is always a choice. We should choose wisely.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Verlon Gates is a 60-year-old construction/maintenance worker in Salem, Oregon. He supports LGBT rights because he supports HUMAN rights, and also because he has loved ones who are gay and/or lesbian. He is a genuine political independent, who neither loves nor hates either political party, and does not think either has a monopoly on truth, common sense, patriotism, God, or decency. Verlon writes essays, fiction, opinion, poetry, and songs. Songs he has written can be heard at www.reverbnation.com/hardtwistmusicsongwriter.