The Problem with “Hate Has No Home Here”

In recent years, there has been a proliferation of Hate Has No Home Here lawn signs across the American landscape. Similar to blatantly political lawn signs (many make the case that Hate Has No Home Here is indeed a subliminal political message), they reflect the owners’ commitments and values. Yet the Hate Has No Home Here signs are negative affirmations, in the sense that their presence announces that toxic attitudes are not welcome. Instead of promoting a value or a candidate, the lawn signs are markers of resistance and are meant to be prophylactics against hate. In some sense, they are firewalls against the growing virus of hatred that may be seeking to establish itself in the neighborhood or community.

Hate Has No Home Here is a sign of renunciation (rejection): that hate has no part of the owner’s life and is refused entrance to the owner’s home and is embargoed from even walking on the sidewalk.

To think that hate can be banished is a fool’s errand, because in my experience, incidents involving hate have intruded into nearly every home. These hate moments are usually fleeting—involving nasty words and, in some cases, violent actions; but like grief, the memory and hurt from these moments can last a long time. The reason TV and movie dramas often feature a teenager yelling “I hate you!” to a parent is because it is a fairly common occurrence. Growing up, I never uttered those words to my parents, but there certainly were times when I thought them.

More often than not, hate is an impulse. It is usually a response to a threat to or attack on one’s self-worth or identity. A privilege is denied, a hurt is applied, intentionally or unintentionally a prejudice is invoked, a person’s integrity is unfairly impugned. Without taking any time for thinking or reflection, the wounded person responds in kind—and if the conditions are ripe for escalation, as they often are in a household, verbal or physical spasms of violence can result. Hate shows up, and when it does, it causes damage.

Especially when the hate moves beyond impulse to become a political force, which is what we are seeing more and more on a public scale.  While President Biden didn’t specifically mention hate in his speech last Thursday evening, as he decried the inciting of political violence that is being threatened (and in some cases being carried out) from so many quarters across the country, his repudiation of hate was, for me, clearly inferred.  After he finished, his opponents immediately cited incidents of hate being carried out against them and their allies,and insisted that the President has become the divider in chief, implying that Mr. Biden has weaponized hate.

Hate is a manifestation of evil.  It can be an impulse, and can morph into an ideology.  Either way, it is dangerous and destructive.  Hate, and the corresponding evil which produces it, needs to be called out.  Boundaries need to be put up around it.  But fighting hate with hate; or trying to get rid of hate– which is an impulse we all share, never works.  The hate just metasticizes.

When I was in the fifth grade my teacher gave us a confounding homework assignment:  what is cold?  An easy problem, we all thought.  Not so.  After diving into encyclopedias and dictionaries, no definitions were forthcoming.  The next day the teacher asked what we had come up with.  Not much.  Except when a quiet kid named Mike recited what he read somewhere:  cold is the absence of heat.  “That’s right”, the teacher said.  And the class, while relieved for coming up with the answer, was still confused.  What did it mean?

I have spent sixty years pondering the question and the answer.  Cold is defined by heat – or its absence.  Extrapolate that to hate.  Hate – and evil, is the absence of good.   For centuries, theologians, philosophers and psychologists have tried to fathom the source of evil and hate.  Why does it exist?  Where does it come from?  On one level, they are important questions.  On another level, I have found them to be endless distractions.  What I have learned is that when goodness begins to waver or wane, hate and evil will inevitably fill the vacuum.  So the challenge is not so much to dissect the source of hate, but to support the good.

Which is what the President sought to do as he continued his speech.  He highlighted values of goodness:  fairness, civility, living into the better angels of our nature (from Lincoln’s first inaugural address.)  We may – and should, argue over what those values mean, but it is a wrestling with goodness – all of which serves to deepen the good; and which, when embraced, has the capacity to drown out the hate.

The Ten Commandments: Laws or Guidelines

Last week the governor of Louisiana signed a law mandating that the Ten Commandments be displayed in public school classrooms.  In some ways I get it, in spite of the fact that like so many it challenges the constitutional separation of church and state.  The Ten...

Mistrust and Trust

It was the spring of 1970.  The United States had just announced that it was expanding the war in Vietnam by authorizing bombing campaigns in Cambodia.  Campuses across the country erupted in protest.  On May 4, four protesting students at Kent State were shot and...

Challenges to Trusting the Process

Trust the process. This was a phrase I often heard when a strategy session or a problem-solving meeting bogged down.   The group would get stuck, and in frustration someone would either suggest we scrap the whole enterprise, or would start accusing a participant of...

Ep 13 – “A Common Humanity” with Wilk Wilkinson

Wilk Wilkinson joins me to discuss his journey from political apathy to toxic political engagement, followed by the epiphany that since led him on a mission of bettering the world, one attitude at a time, by charting a course toward understanding, bridging divides, and fostering a community where wisdom prevails over discord.

Time and Space Needed for Grief and Mourning

“In war, death interrupts nothing.  Time doesn’t stop; it seems to accelerate.”  So wrote David French, in a New York Times column on May 25, 2024.  A veteran of the Iraq War, French goes on to say that in battle there is no time or space for mourning the loss of a...

Whose Land is It?

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this passage from my daily reading:     “From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates,all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory.   No one will be able...

Ep 12 – “The Church Cracked Open” with The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers

Canon Spellers shares her journey from being a skeptic and critic of the Church to becoming a senior leader with a deep faith and a commitment to social justice. We explore the themes of mission, evangelism, the power of genuine curiosity in bridging divides, and ongoing efforts to address systemic issues like white supremacy within the church.

Dealing With Fear

Tornados of fear are swirling around the world, many of them invading our psyches.  Wars in Ukraine and Gaza, not to mention Sudan and Myanmar; escalating climate change; unrelenting gun violence; immigration crises.  To my mind, the storms of fear are particularly...

The Different Layers of Campus Anger

I lived a block away from a campus protest that erupted in November, 1974.  I was a teaching fellow at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, and the campus was about to be shut down in opposition to Gerald Ford’s visit to the city, the first time an American President...

Campus Protests: What We Bring to What We See

In the past week I have had several conversations with friends about our respective opinions on what is happening on college campuses across the country, as students have set up encampments to protest the war in Gaza and insist that their university divest any...
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join my mailing list to receive the latest blog updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!