The recent article “Opposing hate speech a unique responsibility for Kansans 5/12/11) was insightful and challenging. The cynical slur by Legislator Virgil Peck and the ongoing verbal malignancy of Fred Phelps always bring sullied national attention to Kansas. Our state and our people are better than what is displayed by their foul speech.
The recent article “Opposing hate speech a unique responsibility for Kansans 5/12/11) was insightful and challenging. The cynical slur by Legislator Virgil Peck and the ongoing verbal malignancy of Fred Phelps always bring sullied national attention to Kansas. Our state and our people are better than what is displayed by their foul speech. But to me, such verbal assaults, either isolated or repeated ad nauseam, are expressions of an evil far more demonic than hate. Off-handed slurs and verbal violence are vicious voices of contempt. The Phelps’ hold homosexuals in contempt, and from Peck’s slur, he holds immigrants in contempt. That’s far more despicable than hate Contempt is crueler than hate. Hate is the emotional reaction to an intentional injury, threat or oppression. Hate is visible, verbal, vicious and often violent. Hate, however, is usually resolved when the injury is healed, the threat removed or the oppression lifted. Hate can be deadly, but it is energized and motivated by specific wrongs done by specific persons. The cause of hate can be identified. Contempt, however, is cold, calculating, cruel and encompassing. Contempt is an assault upon a group of persons who simply are different and not guilty of any specific offense. “They” (whomever ‘they’ are) are just wrong, bad, worthless, unclean, and beneath human respect and regard. Those held in contempt are to be denied, isolated or even removed from society. “They” somehow are a threat, yet with little or no demonstrable reason why. Contempt’s greatest duplicity is that it can become a virtue. The contemptuous are the righteous, the defenders of the good and the chosen of the Divine. Contempt is the haven of the virtuous. The contemptuous assume the privileged place of certainty, superiority and security. They can heap scorn upon ‘those’ people with an arrogant self-righteousness that smilingly speaks of love, piously offers prayer, while masking a heart that is filled with disdain. To do evil and call it good is a sin against the Holy Spirit. Contempt condemns the contemptuous without them realizing it. We’ve seen the horrors of contempt: Nazis toward Jews, Russians toward Slavs, pioneer toward Native American, raciest toward persons of color, the pious toward homosexuals, the jingoistic patriot toward Muslims and immigrants, and on and on. Contempt results in the slaughter of the innocent in the name of God. A great Anglican theologian, George McDonald, writes: “Hate is murder of the heart, but contempt is murder of the mind.” Hate is a reaction; contempt is a calculated evil. To defeat it is to work to remove it. It is to give homosexuals the respect and dignity due all humankind! It is to give immigrants the way to become citizens and not criminals! It is to greet American Muslims as fellow citizens who equally love this country! It is to lift all persons to real equality of respect, honor, and nobility as sacred children of God. It is to live the truth that spawned America: “all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator” with human dignity and work to insure that we truly are a nation with “liberty and justice for all.” Remove the target of contempt and it will dissolve. The vile speech will be silenced. Hate speech is a symptom; contempt is the cancer. Always in hope… Fr. Bob Layne (Episcopal Priest – retired) McPherson, Kansas