Responding to the Haters

In a couple of weeks, the University of St. Thomas will be hosting a conference on “Man, Woman, and the Order of Creation.” As a gay student at UST, I signed up to receive emails from their LGBGT+ and Allies group. I got this message today:

Some of my thoughts, if you’re interested:

This is not scholarly engagement. It’s avoidance. The only way to change hearts and minds is to listen, to exercise greater compassion, and to cultivate quiet confidence in the face of adversity. *Then* maybe a follow-up discussion event. ‬

This approach only furthers divides us into groups where we give our own echoing rallying cries, where we demonize detractors rather than hear them. Ironically, this is precisely the approach that contributes to things like the 2016 Presidential election.

One big issue with “hate groups” is that they can’t break out of their echo chambers, that they try to crowd out those who may be different from or challenge them, that they can’t engage with that which they perceive to threaten them. So giving them the label of “hate group” and then doing your best to crowd them out just 1) proves to them their validity (in their eyes) and 2) does to them what they do to others.

If you want to rally your troops against the haters, then use the haters’ tactics. But if you want to open a door that might change them, then listen to them to discover the things that they might fear or that hurt them. Be willing to be hurt a bit yourself in the process, and then demonstrate a better way.

It’s a question of whether you want your engagement to draw from a metaphor of war or a practice of compassion.

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