Howard Thurman on the Contagion of Hatred and the Antidote of Love
Lesson 1: The Infection of Hate
Concept or Focus: What do we mean when we talk about ‘hate?’ How should we talk about hate as people of faith who believe in a God of love? “What is the anatomy of hatred in our times?” (Jensen, 7)
Setting: Adult/young adult gathering; ~45 min-1 hour
Goal: To explore what ‘hate’ means, how it operates in our world, and wonder together how we might witness it and define it. Specifically, take time with Jenson’s essay to outline what Thurman means when he talks about hate and the work it does in the world.
Objectives: Participants will…
- Share their own definitions and experiences of hate
- Reflect on those definitions in light of Thurman’s algorithm of hate as outlined in Jensen’s article
- Choose a contemporary case study in which they see Thurman’s algorithm at work
- Discuss how hate might be disguised in their current context and wonder together about how it contributes to the disintegration of faith, ethics, and morals
Materials Needed and Preparation:
- Participants will have been strongly encouraged to read Jensen’s essay “Howard Thurman on the Contagion of Hatred and the Antidote of Love;” if possible, have copies on hand during the lesson for reference. White board and markers (outline agenda), computer or notebook paper and pens for participants to use for reflection. Chairs in a circle or around a large table, arranged in such a way that all participants can see and engage with one another comfortably.
|Lesson Step and Time Allotted||Teaching Activity||Resources Needed|
||Nametags, markers, extra copies of Jensen’s essay if possible|
||Whiteboard or newsprint to write definitions/keywords on in order to share with the entire group|
|Move to discussing Jensen’s essay by reminding participants that his argument hinged on Thurman’s assumption that people of faith must “possess a deep understanding of hatred” rather than merely preaching about it. Hatred is not a distant, sentimental subject, but rather a visceral reality in our broken world. A love-ethic hinges on understanding hate. (Jenson, 2) If the group is large, divide them into small groups and invite them to discuss the following questions for ~7 minutes:
After ~7 minutes reconvene the group and ask each group to share insights or questions from their conversations. Make sure that the three stages of hatred are delineated and broadly understood by all participants.
|Space for small group conversation if necessary; Jensen’s essay for Thurman references|
|Transition to encouraging participants to look back on their own definitions of hate and comparing them with Thurman’s algorithm. Where is there overlap and why? Where do the definitions diverge and why? Do their definitions align with a particular ‘stage’?
||Pens and paper to use for personal reflection; Jensen’s essay for Thurman references|
Rationale or Explanation:
This first lesson serves to introduce hate: the concept that the ‘antidote’ of the essays is focused on irradicating. The group will not only reflect on their own ideas about what hate is and how it works in the world, but they will be challenged to use Thurman’s algorithm of hate to explore the dynamics of hate in their chosen examples or contexts. This will help the class avoid the preaching sentimentality that Thurman warns against when people of faith discuss hate. Instead of abstract notions of dehumanization and ill-will, participants will discuss the current realities of hate they observe in the world.
That said, it is possible that class members will have experienced hate in their own lives. This tragic and painful reality should not be avoided or glossed over. However, it is also important that class members for whom this might be true do not feel as though must be ‘ambassadors’ for their experience by reliving their trauma. If these participants feel moved to share their stories, remind everyone present that it is important to listen without judgement or the need to ‘fix’ someone’s pain. Even if a participant who has experienced blatant hatred does not share, check-in with them following the class and connect them with any pastoral care or therapy resources that might be helpful.