Howard Thurman on the Contagion of Hatred and the Antidote of Love

Lesson 4: Where Do We Go from Here?  

Emily Morrell

Concept or Focus: Having spent three sessions exploring what we mean when we talk about the infection of hate, the antidote of love, and the experience of one’s back being against the wall, where are people of faith called to go from here? How do we embrace a concrete love-ethic instead of resorting to abstract sentimentality?  

Setting: Adult/young adult gathering; ~45 min-1 hour  

Goal: To explore Collier’s reflections on the nature of routine contacts and the ways that fellowship must be included in those everyday exchanges and interactions in order to embrace a love-ethic. The group will take time to consider their unique context, the contacts they make (both within their faith community and, especially, beyond it) in order to create concrete ways that they might confront hate with daily antidotal doses of love.  

Objectives: Participants will… 

  • Reflect on the role of ‘fellowship’ in Collier’s essay (specifically his case studies involving dogs) 
  • Wonder together about their own daily contacts and consider the role of “fellowship” (or lack thereof) within them, using Collier’s example of routine interactions with dogs as a way to consider how routine contact can engender misconceptions and violence  
  • Consider the life of Jesus as a “subject” wherein examples of a love-ethic lie (e.g. washing his disciples’ feet—including Judas—as an effort to confront hatred with love and service)   
  • Wonder where in their community/context the contagion of hatred is spreading and consider concrete ways to introduce the antidote of love 

Materials Needed and Preparation: 

  • Participants will have been strongly encouraged to read Collier’s essay “There’s A Thin Line Between Love and Hate;” 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. Bibles to reference scripture (or cellphones to look up passages on). 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 
Opening 

10 minutes  

 

 

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.  

  • Once everyone has arrived, open with prayer and ask participants to share if/how they witnessed transformative self-love in the face of hate since the last gathering. How have they stood in solidarity or engaged in the practice of transformative self-love?  
  • This prayer could serve as a way to introduce the ‘so what?’ theme of this lesson—inviting participants to consider the ways that the past three gatherings might affect how they live as people of faith in a world that desperately needs an antidote to hate. 
Nametags, markers, extra copies of Collier’s essay if possible  
Reflecting 

10 minutes  

 

 

Before jumping to action items in their particular context, invite participants to revisit Collier’s essay. Encourage them to flip through it and find an example of ‘routine contact’ to share with the group. Ask: how does the example of routine contact you found serve as an example of love or a pattern that engendered hatred or fear?    

  • Make sure that participants are clear in Collier’s reference of Thurman that “contact without fellowship” often breeds misunderstanding and leads to hate. Perhaps revisit the original algorithm as outlined by Jensen that begins with “cold contact” and leads to “the active functioning of ill will” (Jensen, 2).   
Extra copies of Collier’s essay; whiteboard or newsprint to write examples on in order to share with the entire group 
Exploring 

15 minutes  

 

Once the group establishes a shared understanding of these patterned interactions and the power of fellowship within them to act as an antidote to hate, encourage them to reflect briefly on the routine interactions in their day, large or small. Perhaps have them write these down. Then, split into smaller groups, invite them to share both what these contacts are and consider whether ‘fellowship’ plays a role in them. Invite them to discuss the following questions for ~7 minutes: 

  • Name some of the routine interactions or contacts in your day. 
  • What role does fellowship or ‘warmth’ play in those interactions? Does it play a role? 
  • If you regularly encounter fellowship, how does that affect your perception of others and their perception of you? 
  • If fellowship feels absent from your contacts, why might that be? How does it affect your demeanor and perception of others?  

After ~7 minutes reconvene the group and ask each group to share insights or questions from their conversations. Ensure that the group has discussed the ways that fellowship engenders patterns of kindness and sympathy even in nondescript, daily interactions.  

Space for small group conversation if necessary; Shin’s essay for Thurman references  
Responding 

15 minutes 

 

 

Transition to Collier’s argument for Jesus as “subject” rather than mere object of worship. Invite the group to revisit the paragraph that begins “Thurman’s love-ethic is grounded in…” Ask: what are some stories or examples of Jesus choosing love “in the presence of fear, deception, and hatred” and how might we learn from them in our own context? 

  • A primary example here might be Jesus washing his disciples’’ feet in John 13, fully aware of Judas’ betrayal.  

After grounding this reflection in scripture, encourage your group to get specific. Invite them to reflect on their own context in order to identify places or interactions where fellowship is absent and wonder how that absence might engender misunderstanding that leads to fear or hate. Discuss the following questions together or in small groups:   

  • Where are ‘big ticket’ examples of a lack of fellowship leading to an epidemic of hate in our world? 
  • What would love as antidote rooted in warmth and fellowship look like in those contexts? 
  • Where are local examples where a lack of fellowship leads to misunderstanding, fear, and disdain? 
  • What would it mean for you to exercise love as an antidote in those local places? What risks would that involve? How does Jesus’ behavior inform the strategies this community of faith might use in exercising love as antidote to hate? 

Reconvene the group and invite people to share their ideas and reflections based on their own unique social location. (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  
Closing 

10 minutes  

 

As the class comes to a close, invite participants to take seriously the examples they have discussed—both local and ‘big ticket’ items. Rather than concluding the gathering feeling as though the epidemic of hate is insurmountable, remind them that the antidote of love is rooted in their identities as people of faith. Encourage them to follow-up on their examples with concrete actions.  

  • As the gathering ends, invite each participant to share a final image or action that comes to mind when they consider the phrase “love as an antidote to hate.”    
  • Close with prayer.  
 

 

Rationale or Explanation: 

This lesson works to reflect on Collier’s essay in such a way that invites participants to use their lives and interactions as case studies. Once familiar with the way that Collier uses routine interactions between humans and dogs to serve as an example of how fear and mistrust are cultivated when those interactions lack warmth or fellowship, participants will move to the specificities of their own lives and routines. Some of the examples that participants give may be trivial (e.g., the cashier at the grocery story) or they could feel weightier (e.g. a coworker experiencing grief or crisis). Allow the conversation around those examples the nature of those daily interactions to flow naturally. 

This lesson is intended to move participants to action. Rather than leaving people present feeling as though Jesus’ example either solved it all or is too lofty to live up to, the final reflective moment of the lesson is meant to prod participants to strategize real, effective ways that they might combat fear, misunderstanding, and hate in their community and the world around them. Remind those present that they do not do this good, hard work alone and encourage them to check-in with one another in the coming days and weeks regarding the nature of how their ‘antidotal’ work of love is playing out.  

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