Monday, August 20, 2012

Family Research Council Shooting & the Ghettoization of the American Mind

There are some people we just don't want to understand. They are not worth the time or energy, and frankly we believe that they do not deserve our love or understanding.
We live in a society where the people who can express hatred with the most wit and semblance of class get congratulatory slaps on the back and more cocktail party invites.

Building walls and throwing a certain group of people within them gives us permission to let out our suppressed rage. It allows us to behave in normally unacceptable ways. We spout vitriol, bully, stereotype, and use violent language. But as long as we direct our rage at a group of people everyone else in the room (or cyber room) hates, well bully for us! No one holds us accountable. 

Think you don't fall prey to this behavior?

Take a look at this list and tell me you don't have feelings of hatred for any of these groups of people:

Homosexuals, Republicans, Liberal Christians, Murderers, Democrats, Rich people, Pedophiles, Abortionists, Rapists, Atheists, Muslims, Pro-lifers, Fundamentalist Christians, Terrorists, Orthodox Catholics, Politicians, Poachers, Racists, Abortionists, Human Traffickers, Anarchists

It is human, of course, to create mind ghettos. We do it for survival. We do it because as humans we feel the need to limit how much we love. Humans ration love as if we were living in an underground bunker after a nuclear war and love is the last five cans of beans we have left. We don't think we can afford to love the guy boarding the bus next to us, let alone the cast aways, the no goods, the misunderstood and the bad guys of the world. Who has enough love for those people?

What makes this natural human tendency in the United States even more problematic is the polarization of American politics. Many of us rarely speak to or interact with people who think very differently from us, and if we do, we rarely discuss our disagreements without practically spitting at each other. Many people are unwilling or unable to think with subtlety when it comes to their political views. Most people twist and contort their convictions to either fit within the bounds of the Democratic or Republican platform. This is what is comfortable to us. Otherwise, what would we have to be angry about? If our views were not subtle enough to fit into neat categories, it would be much harder to throw tantrums that others would join in on. Who would we skewer when we are among like-minded people? Who would be left to hate?

Many Americans are stuffing millions of people in the ghettos of our minds because they mindlessly give in to the false divisions that our political parties encourage in our country.

Many of you have probably heard of the shooting that occurred this past Wednesday at the Family Research Council’s headquarters in DC.

The suspect was heard ranting against the organization’s conservative views and carried Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack before he shot the security guard who heroically prevented him from entering the building.

I am not very familiar with the Family Research Council and its work. I actually only recently heard of them through the publicity surrounding Chick-fil-A, before the shooting occurred. Like many of you, during the Chick-fil-A brouhaha, I read several articles with “evidence” that Chick-fil-A supports hate groups. When I looked at the list of the purported “hate groups” the company supports, I got chills. They were almost all Christian groups with the word “family” in the title.

The Family Research Council is a lobbying organization in DC, whose vision, according to their website “is a culture in which human life is valued, families flourish and religious liberty thrives.”

Sounds fairly innocuous right? Not so, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which deemed the organization a "hate group" in 2010. There was protest when the group received this label in 2010, but only now after a shooting has occurred does it seem that this label is under any scrutiny.

Many major media outlets have been referring to the "hate group" label every time they report the shooting. CNN, for one, dug up a 13 year old quote from an FRC pamphlet that said that the “primary goal of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws.”  This quote is extremely off base and inaccurate, and people have every right to be incensed when they read this. But to label an organization as a hate group when the last quote you can dig up that qualifies as hateful is from 1999 is extremely questionable and dangerous reasoning in my opinion.

To give the label of "hate group" to an organizations opens it up to possible retributive actions. It is a label that belongs to the KKK and other groups that are ideologically based in hatred for another group of people. They receive this label because their hateful rhetoric incites violence.

Incite violence.

Yes, that seems to be what is happening here.

But it is not just the extreme right or the fringe gay rights advocates who are inciting violence. It is all of us. Our ability to numb our minds to the violent rhetoric on both sides is shocking. Our mindless capacity to participate is even more bone chilling.

We have all fallen victim to the ghettoization of our minds.

Who are in these ghettos? People who are not acceptable to us because of their views or behavior. People we can spew venom at because they deserve it and because they really are that terrible. People we can box up and dismiss, because their point of view or actions are really that vile and unforgivable.

Where does this violence of the mind lead? It leads to violence of the heart, violence of the words, violence in our actions. How can we possibly think that speaking violently does not lead to literal violence in the world?

We cannot control what others do. The gay rights movement could not control Floyd Corkins’ decision to enter the headquarters of the Family Research Council with a gun. Pro-life people could not control Scott Roeder when he murdered abortionist George Tiller. Christians cannot control other people who claim to speak for God, but encourage hate and violence. Atheists cannot control the loose cannons who spout hate for people of faith.

When tragedies like this happen, everyone wants to blame someone. The fingers start pointing right away. It is indeed possible that the "hate group" label contributed to this event. Maybe it was the inflamed rhetoric. Or maybe it was just one crazy guy who seriously needs some help.

The thing is, when things like this happen, the only thing we can really do that helps anyone is to start looking inward.

We have no control over others. But we can control our own contribution to violence in our society.

And we can begin by demolishing the ghettos in our minds.

This does not mean that we all have to sing kumbaya around a campfire. We can still disagree. We can still hate certain behaviors and dislike certain points of view. We can still speak the truth, with the humble awareness that no one has a full understanding of the Truth.

But we can stop creating ghettos for our neighbors and fellow human beings. We can break down the walls, smash barriers. Get to know people we disagree with, even people whose behavior and views we hate. We can talk to each other respectfully, try to understand.

And most importantly, we can simply acknowledge that we are all made in the image and likeness of God.

No matter how much we try to mar ourselves in sin, we are all redeemable.

No one is beyond the love of God.

No one deserves to live in anyone's mind ghetto.


Anonymous said...

"But to label an organization as a hate group when the last quote you can dig up that qualifies as hateful is from 1999 is extremely questionable and dangerous reasoning in my opinion."

I know you're trying to avoid polemic debates, and I appreciate and value that. However, when I see information that is flat out wrong, I hope you'll appreciate that it has to be corrected.

To be clear, this is also not a defense of violence from EITHER SIDE. It's reprehensible and against ALL respected, modern moral codes.

Here is a SHORT list of things the FRC and it's employees have done/said (many can be found on the SPLC's own website [], not to mention wikipedia and google, so I'm not sure where the "not since 99" part comes from...):

March 2008 - Sprigg (FRC senior researcher), responding to a question about uniting gay partners during the immigration process, said: “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them.”

2012: Conflating homosexuality with adultery and drunkenness - "The month of June is Gay Pride Month," Perkins declares. He went on to note, "Now, I have not yet seen where they have declared Adultery Pride Month, I have not seen where they have declared the Drunkenness Pride Month," before adding that "we’re not celebrating those other forms as a society, we’re not promoting [them] and teaching [them] as normal in our schools."

2012: Perkins falsely asserts that "there are "studies" out there that prove children do better in homes with "a mom and a dad."

I can come up with many more if it'd be helpful, but I think you see my point...

tagnes said...

I appreciate your comment. I am always really glad when people engage with me.

I definitely did not write this post to defend the Family Research Council and all that they have said about homosexuality. Like I said, I have just become familiar with them and their work so I cannot defend an organization that I do not know that well. So, I appreciate the work that you have done to help me become more familiar with them.

The 2008 quote is certainly out of line. This quote reveals that there may be some underlying bigotry in the attitudes of some of the people who work for the FRC. However, to label the group as a hate group, I would argue that there must be evidence that this bigotry underlies the mission of the organization. I don’t see evidence of this. Rush Limbaugh and people of that ilk regularly say worse things than this organization has. I am not defending what is said, I am simply saying there is a difference between ignorant speech and hate speech. In order to label an organization a hate group, I would hope for far more.

As for the other quotes, conflating homosexuality with drunkenness – I am not sure what Perkins meant by this, but I honestly don’t find this very offensive. I find it more offensive when people compare homosexual activity to pedophilia and really horrendous nonconsensual sexual activity. Someone might make the same comparison as Perkins if there were a Sex Before Marriage parade. Christians believe that homosexual behavior is a sin. It is not hateful to believe behavior is a sin, it is hateful to hate people. There is a difference. People who do not agree with this point of view find it impossible to separate sexual attraction from sexual activity. Hence the assumption that all Christians are bigots. Unfortunately, not all Christians make the same distinction. Hence, the correct accusation that some Christians are bigots.

The last comment is not hateful, it is correct in my point of view. It is not hateful to argue that children do better with a biological mother and father. You may disagree with this point of view or think these studies are worthless, but to consider it hateful to even suggest this is really not a helpful way of thinking about public debate in my opinion:

I really think that defending the label of “hate group” for the FRC is not a good idea for gay rights advocates. If we honestly consider the FRC a hate group in the same company as the KKK, I think this is evidence that this debate has spun way out of control and we have lost the ability to listen to each other and dialogue peacefully, while giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Anonymous said...

(Some) atheists are probably number one on my (non-Christian-like) hit list. I am ashamed of my past argumentative clashes with atheists.
Anyway, i think the following is really relevant to your article here (also, to all Christians in evangelisation, and above all, to atheists). I recently stumbled across a video of Penn Jillette in which he is visibly moved by the goodness showed to him by a Christian in the act of evangelisation.
For those who don't know, Penn is from Penn and Teller (magicians) and an atheist / rabidly anti-theism.
As far as i know, Penn is still atheist / anti-theism, but he was still moved by the Christian.
Made me think that as important as arguments (in non-derogative sense - as opposed to being argumentative, for example) are, it is really goodness (genuine goodness, no tricks) that wins the day.
This is obvious. Jesus and Paul say this (in different ways). But it's so easy to forget. How we over-complicate things and get frustrated and angry and so on (and i don't mean you).
My iPad won't let me copy + paste video link, but just do search for Penn's name and "bible" and "youtube" and you should find it easily enough.
Really worth looking at and thinking about, i think.
Ed (UK)