Words having meanings: disagreement doesn’t equal hate

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I know. You’re probably tired of talking about hate. The world and the news seems obsessed with it. Chick-fil-A hates gays. Gays hate Chick-fil-A. Everyone hates everyone else. But is that really the case? Is our culture as filled with open hate as so many insinuate? That all depends on how you define “hate.” That is the problem really.

We communicate using the same words, but we mean completely different things by those words. One person has one idea, while someone else has another. This is one of the shortcomings of a postmodern mindset – the removal of objective meaning, including the meaning of words.

Like hate.

Hate has a meaning and our ability to recognize this and respond to it will determine if our culture will survive and grow or become debilitated by division and disunity.

Now, obviously, every word has shades of meaning or, in some cases, varying meanings. We use the word “run” to speak of a person moving quickly with their legs, a political candidate seeking elected office, and a machine operating properly. All of those are accepted meanings of “run” and the context of our usage tells someone else how to interpret the word.

There are limits on how a word is used and understood, though. “Run” cannot be used to mean “eat ice cream.” You can attempt to use it that way, but no one will understand because you have pushed the word beyond the recognized usage.

How is “hate” being used?

Hate is a strong word, an emotional one. When we use it, we mean to convey emotion. It is not meant to be ambivalent. It is intended to speak on a deep level.

So, when someone says Chick-fil-A hates gays, what exactly is that supposed to communicate? Quite clearly, emotionality is the intention. It is supposed to evoke a feeling, one that we have been trained to find repulsive.

Hatred for a group of people, any group of people, is morally offensive to our culture – and rightfully so. To say that Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, or a random person eating a chicken sandwich hates all gay people is to say they are worthy of moral repudiation and condemnation. They are not fit to be a part of our culture because of their rejection of our moral code.

The issue arises when we investigate how hate is actually being used. Instead of actually meaning intense and passionate dislike, hate becomes a trojan horse of sorts, sneaking in other concepts instead.

Hate is still intended to rile the emotions and give the appearance of the original usage, but it is often used as a substitute for an ideological disagreement. When you disagree with the fundamental way in which I view things, then you must hate me.

There can be no room for disagreement because I am so completely convinced of my rationale that the only way I can process your divergent opinion is that it is one based solely on emotion – derived from hate. You disagree with me, you must hate me.

Dan Cathy said that he supported the traditional definition of marriage. That means he opposes gay marriage. That means he disagrees with the majority of gay individuals. That means he hates gays. Except that’s not really the case.

An analogy

It has been argued that working to prevent the rights of another individual equals hate or is a sign of hate. People sought to withhold civil rights from African Americans because they hated them.

The thinking goes, if you are not supportive of extending the definition of marriage to include same sex partners, then you are denying them rights, therefore you hate them.

Even if we accept the line of reasoning that supporting traditional marriage is robbing gay individuals of a right that is owed them, that does not equate to hating them. Let me explain.

For the vast majority of Americans, the issue of gay marriage often mirrors political affiliations of conservative and liberal. More importantly for our discussion here, it also tends to reflect one’s attitude toward abortion. Not completely, but by and large, those who support the recognition of gay marriage, also support the legality of abortion. Here’s why this is important.

Do pro-choice people hate unborn children? Obviously, they are in favor of allowing an action that prevents an individual from exercising his or her rights. The Declaration of Independence has something to say about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, after all.

This is not an abortion debate or a discussion of the personhood of the life inside the womb, but regardless of your stance on those issues my point remains. Does being pro-choice mean that you hate the life in the womb?

Personally, I would tend to give others the benefit of the doubt and say that they are not driven by hatred of the unborn child, but rather a misunderstanding of what life is and what it means to be a person. They are not supportive of abortion because they are exercising some vendetta against life in the womb. That should sound absurd.

It is no less absurd to me for individuals to suggest that Dan Cathy or myself must hate gay people because we disagree over changing the definition of marriage. Simply because others are not able or willing to recognize my rationale for my ideological stances, does not mean those positions are any less rational.

Disagreement is more misunderstanding than hate

Your misunderstanding of me and my reasoning does not mean that I hate you. Our disagreement does not require that we are driven purely by emotions. It often means that we are starting from very different philosophical presuppositions. We view the world in a fundamentally different way. One of us may well be right and the other wrong, but none of that dictates that either of us hates the other.

Words have meaning and hate means something much different than disagreement. In the next post, we will see the danger in continuing to misuse a word like hate. A funny thing happens when we continually tell someone that they hate us, eventually we’ll be right.

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.