Howard Thurman on the Contagion of Hatred and the Antidote of Love
Lesson 2: The Antidote of Love
Concept or Focus: What do we mean when we talk about love? How might we view and interact with people we encounter through an imaginative lens of love? How do we deconstruct classifications and cultivate experiences of unity?
Setting: Adult/young adult gathering; ~45 min-1 hour
Goal: To explore what ‘love means and how we can cultivate it in our world. Work to make practices of love both creative and tangible in ways that reflect Thurman’s argument that embracing an ethic of love is both hard work and also creative and practical. Connect Thurman’s ideas about declassifying people and experiencing unity to participants’ own experiences.
Objectives: Participants will…
- Share their own definitions and experiences of love
- Reflect on those definitions in light of Thurman’s definition of a love-ethic (Jensen, 2)
- Identify popular ‘classifications’ that inhibit “mutual recognition” that participants have observed, partaken in, or had put upon them (Jensen, 3)
- Discuss participants’ experiences of unity among people whose ‘classifications’ they did not share; reflect on the fears and assumptions that had to be left behind in order to experience that unity; cultivate tools to perceive a person’s ‘center’ and ‘potential’ rather than embracing reductive assumptions
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|
|Greet participants and, if nametags are helpful for the group, invite people to wear them. Point participants toward the outline for the class posted on a white board or butcher paper in the room.
||Nametags, markers, extra copies of Jensen’s essay if possible|
|Before delving into the essay, invite participants to share their own definitions of a love-ethic and briefly explain why they define the word the way they do.
||Whiteboard or newsprint to write definitions/keywords on in order to share with the entire group|
|Move to discussing Jensen’s essay by highlighting Thurman’s assumption that people of faith must “resist the near-irresistible…tendency to become angry, to hate, to retaliate, or to exact revenge” in order to embrace a realistic love-ethic (Jensen, 2). While the last gathering explored the innerworkings of hate, this class will consider the antidote: the work of love. 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 groups have covered Thurman’s argument about striping people of classifications and the role of creativity and imagination in that work.
|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 a love-ethic and comparing them with Thurman’s arguments about classifications and imagination. How do assumptions about different people or groups affect the ways that the group thinks about the work of love?
Reconvene the group and invite people to share their experiences of being ‘classified’ as well as their experiences of surprising unity. (If this sharing is better suited to occur in small groups in your context, facilitate that, then reconvene the broader group to hear reports from each cohort.)
|Pens and paper to use for personal reflection; Jensen’s essay for Thurman references|
|As the class comes to a close, invite participants to wonder about how their own examples of classification and unity might inform a broader love-ethic that meets people where they are—even if that place is “mean, distorted, sometimes vicious” (Jensen, 7).
Rationale or Explanation:
This lesson works to balance participants’ individual experiences of ‘classification’ and unity with Thurman’s broader argument about the hard and creative work of living out an ethic of love in a world full of hate. It follows a similar trajectory as the lesson on hate in order to encourage participants to weave their own experiences into Thurman’s framework and broader argument. This lesson undoubtedly leaves out fruitful avenues of conversation and quotes from Jensen’s essay. If your group’s conversation is pulled more toward examples where hatred has been tangibly countered by expressions of creativity and love, pursue those and leave the lesson plan behind as more of a guide.
If participants bring up the point of privilege involved in encountering people who express hate and ‘meeting them where they are’ as an act that only people with certain socio-economic, racial, or gender identities might be able to take advantage of and/or feel safe doing, ensure them that the next lesson will work to address those comp