On Sunday, I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend the Love Not Hate Protest in Newton. This event was a direct response to the vitriolic sermon preached by the Rev. Charles Worley at Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden on Mother's Day. It was a peaceful event attended by approximately 2,500 on the side of love and 50 on the side of Pastor Worley's views. One of the supporters of Rev. Worley was a gentleman named Pat who traveled up and down the sidewalk screaming scriptures an demanding that the supporters of the protest repent.
He spewed names: pervert, Sodomite, pathetic, damned. He tried consistently and continuously for three hours to engage, enrage, challenge and provoke members of the crowd to no avail. At one point, after a particularly degrading tirade, I asked this man his name. He simply said "Pat."
This morning, I awakened with Pat's name in my mind and the following letter on my heart. ... Here it is, my open letter to a hater. Perhaps it is worthy of consideration. Perhaps someone might see that hate has never been changed through more hate and understanding has never been reached through name calling and condemnation.
Dear Pat the Hater,
After such an uplifting and momentous occasion as the protest in Newton (Sunday), after all the calls for peace and love and the beauty of the kindred souls who stood their ground to protest hatred and bigotry and a call for genocide, it is you I cannot forget. It is you, with your damning rhetoric, your selective use of scripture, your “in your face” words of condemnation and hatred, you for whom I prayed this morning.
You see, Pat, I grew up with a vengeful god and lived in fear of never being good enough to enter into his magical kingdom. I grew up believing that because I was born a sinner I had to find some miraculous way to earn the love of this god so that I could make it into the hereafter and hear the angels sing. I grew up in a fear bordering on terror and when horrific events occurred in my life I was told “this was god’s will.” I came to hate that god and I continued to live a fear-filled life; until eight years ago when I was introduced to the God of Love.
Pat, you asked me directly, “Why NOT hate?” Here is my answer: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8 NIV).”
I began to ask myself, “If this God is love, how can He be hate? Why would He condemn innocent people to horrific circumstances?” and in time, I asked, “How could the God of LOVE, the God of all creation, of all living things, bring into this world of His creation, some He favored and some He abhorred?” These were not at all the loving actions of a Father God as He was portrayed in the New Testament. Nor were they the actions of a God who could create the simple beauty of the human spirit. And so I began to release my fear of the “made-up” god of my childhood and embrace the God of Love. My life has since been profoundly and forever changed.
So I write to you today ... perhaps the Spirit of this letter will somehow reach your fear-filled heart.
I write to say to you that God, being all perfect, is perfect Love. And because He loves you just as He loves me, and because He lives in you just as He lives in me, I am called to love you, too. In spite of the vile names you spewed at me during (Sunday’s) protest in Newton, in spite of being told how you hate me, how I am pathetic, cursed, perverted and damned, I offer you Love. I pray that your heart may one day be released from your god of fear and filled with the peace of the God of Love. I ask God, whose Love is greater than all He created, to fill your life and Spirit with good, with joy, with peace. And I ask blessings and grace be your daily gifts.
Finally, on this Memorial Day when we celebrate the freedom we have been given to have such an event as (Sunday’s), I thank you and all who came with you to vilify the peacemakers at the Love Not Hate Protest, for giving us an opportunity to live the Love we are called to live; to offer the Love we are made to offer and to BE the Love we are called to be. For, I believe Pat, we are all one in the Spirit of the Creator who made us and the Christ in me sees and extends my love to the Christ in you.
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