What is Love?

The misidentification of “Love” and “Hate”

from theodysseyonline

I am so sick and tired of hearing people claim that they don’t hate the (fill in the blank here), rather they love them unconditionally. Let me give an example that I heard at an African-American Baptist Church several years ago. “We don’t hate the homosexual, we love him but…” The pastor then went on to discuss how sinful the homosexual lifestyle was, but that hating homosexuals was bad- we must love him regardless of his sins while helping him leave that perverse lifestyle behind. Another time, at a predominantly Caucasian Baptist Church, I listened to the pastor say, “We don’t hate the fool that doesn’t believe in Christ, we pity him and we love him nonetheless.” When I hear these statements, all I want to do is expose the fallacies of the individual claiming their unconditional love. I want to tell them that loving someone does NOT mean denying them their rights or denying them their happiness! While this seems obvious to me (and hopefully you as well), there is clearly an inconsistent definition of what is considered “love” and “hate.”

This concept is elaborated on in Sara Ahmed’s article The Organization of Hate. Ahmed quotes the “Aryan National Website” in order to depict how misleading definitions of “love” can be: “It is not hate that makes the average White man look upon a mixed race couple with a scowl on his face and loathing in his heart…It is not hate that makes the White working class man curse about the latest boatload of aliens dumped on our shores to be given job preferences over the White citizen who built this land…It’s not hate. It is love.”

Disgust and repulsion are only two of the emotions that I have in response to reading these blatantly inaccurate definitions of love. The amount of denial these individuals are living with is dangerous! To claim that you love someone and then say you have “loathing” in your heart or to say you love someone but then label them as an “alien” is inconsistent. If there is “Loathing in [one’s] heart,” that equates to hatred (according to Merriam-Webster’s definition of “loathing”).

Ahmed states that it is common for hate groups to label themselves as organizations of love rather than hate as a way of justification for their cause; however, what about religious organizations (like the churches I mentioned above), that claim they are acting out of love rather than hate as well? Where do they fit in? In theory, and at times in practice, churches are sanctuaries for love and safety; but they too fall into the damaging behavior of misidentifying their hate for those who “sin” as love. It is false to say that you love someone if you are unwilling to accept them for who they are because love is about who the person is, not who you want them to be. I argue that regardless of who the source of these inaccurate definitions of love, whether they are organized hate groups or religious institutions, they are dangerous places. They foster individuals that accept hateful behavior as beneficial to society, and only bad can emerge from that perspective.