What ‘teaching hate’ does and doesn’t look like

Ismael Estrada of CNN reports on the aftermath of another recent bigotry eruption in a nondenominational evangelical church: “We don’t teach hate, says church where anti-homosexual song filmed.”

About 20 protesters gathered on Sunday outside the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle here to voice opposition to a viral online video that was taped in the church and shows a young child singing song with lyrics that offer a harsh message for homosexuals.

The video, which surfaced on YouTube last week, shows a child in front of the congregation, singing “I know that God is right, and somebody’s wrong … ain’t no homo going to make it to heaven.”

The congregation erupts in applause at those lines, which the unidentified boy repeats as the pastor looks on.

… The Apostolic Truth Tabernacle posted a statement on its website that says in part: “The Pastor and members of Apostolic Truth Tabernacle do not condone, teach, or practice hate of any person for any reason.”

OK, see, the song in question was sung by a 4-year-old. He didn’t write it himself, so somebody taught it to him.

And all that cheering and whooping when this little boy sang the word “homos”? That’s condoning hate.

All that cheering is also a kind of teaching. How do the good Christian adults of this church respond when a child says this slur directed at gay people? They cheer. A reasonable child will conclude that saying slurs directed at gay people must be good behavior.

That was the lesson this congregation was actively, earnestly teaching this poor kid. And it was the lesson this little boy was learning.

If you’re at a church that “does not condone, teach, or practice hate of any person for any reason,” then this scene plays out very differently.

At a church that isn’t condoning, teaching and practicing hate, if a kid says that word in public, then everything screeches to a halt. The music stops, the audience gasps and lapses into an awkward silence. The child’s mother rushes up front, grabs the kid by the hand and drags him out the back for a lecture about never, ever using such hateful words — Do you hear me?

That’s what it looks like if you’re a church that doesn’t teach hate.

One day in the summer between fourth and fifth grade, a bunch of us were at Mrs. Washington’s house waiting for her oldest son, our baseball coach, to get home from work so we could go practice. We split up teams for basketball in the back yard. The big kids — the sixth-graders — decided the easiest thing was for the four black guys to be one team, with the three Hispanic guys and me on the other team. “It’s n—s versus sp–s,” one of them said, and we all laughed.

But Mrs. Washington heard that.

She came running outside, furious, and gave us a 10-minute tongue-lashing, explaining the many fearful things that would befall us if she ever, ever, heard words like those coming out of any one of us ever again — if she ever heard one of us even think those words again. (None of us doubted for a moment that Mrs. Washington could, in fact, hear what we were thinking.)

Mrs. Washington did not condone, teach or practice hate.

The Apostolic Truth Tabernacle did. They cheered and laughed at hate-speech from a child. That’s what teaching hate looks like.


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  • Kelex

    I wonder if there are any bibles in that church…someone should point out the gospel of Luke to them.

    “It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone
    tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to

  • Tonio

    I’m ashamed to admit that part of me wants to inflict soul-crushing emotional torment on the parents. That poor child most likely doesn’t even understand what constitutes a “homo.” Very sad.

  • Nirrti

    That kid’s parents ought to be charged with child abuse for instilling so much hate into him. We can lock up parents for putting bruises on their children yet we can’t do the same when they inflict emotional and intellectual bruises on a kid’s heart. “First amendment rights!” and “Free speech, Ra Ra Ra!” and all that crap, you know. 

  • That video is on my list. I keep this short list of things, so that if I ever find myself in the position where I have the option to burn the whole world down and start again, I can look at the things on the list to help me make the decision. 

  • This reminds me of the woman who hollered down the phone at someone at Sesame Street. She literally said, “You are teaching our children tolerance!” I read this in a newspaper article and just found  that supremely bizarre.

  • hidden_urchin

    That poor kid.  God help him if he or someone he cares about turns out to have a sexual orientation other than heterosexual or a gender other than cis. 

  • I think that, to them, this does not constitute “hate,” in the same way that doing nothing to help the poor constitutes love.  They only consider the emotion of the thing, not the tangible effect.  

    I am reminded of the WBC.  What is so bizarre about them is that they preach a message that comes across as extremely hateful.  Like, foaming-at-the-mouth, fanatical rage type of hateful message.  Yet, they themselves do not display the kind of belligerence and wrathful disposition that matches up with their message.  Instead they are actually kind of… happy.  They will be quite happy, cheerful even, to tell you about how you are a horrible person who is going to hell for being a “fag enabler” by not being part of their extended family.  They realize that the world find them hateful, but they do not care, they are right and you are wrong and that makes them happy.  It is not their hate they preach, it is God’s hate, and so they can be perfectly okay with it.  

    The people at the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle do not see what they are doing as being hateful.  It does harm, real, tangible harm, but the people themselves do not see that as hate.  After all, what they are feeling is joy.  Listen to them cheer, they are happy that a child said something demeaning to homosexuals, not hateful.  

    To quote C.S. Lewis, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.”

  • WingedBeast

    I guess it’s all in how you define hate.

    You see, hate is bad.  They aren’t bad, therefore, it’s not hate.

    … yeah.

    Here’s a hint.  If you ever have to say “We don’t preach hate” or any general category of bad, you do.  It’s a lot like saying “I’m not racist but…”

  • AnonymousSam

    So this would be like the Christians who descend upon the comments section of the atheist blogs with posts about how deluded and prideful they are, to say nothing about hellbound… and then conclude their posts–after a short, triumphalism-ridden description of the horrors of Hell that await them–with the words “BLESS YOU!!”?

    Those always amuse me so much. Pity it’s the replies that make me hate those posts.

  • Maybe, but I get the feeling that the “BLESS YOU!!” in those comments is more of a reflexive kind of thing, like a “Sincerely” at the end of a letter.  Kind of like when someone sneezes and another says “bless you,” as a polite expression, even if they are sincere atheists.  

    I tend to think that the kind of thing we run into with this is the kind of people who comment, in all sincerity, about how their theology says one thing, and therefor that is how things are.  When people try to point out that their myopia is hurtful to people, they tend to get defensive, and when people get defensive they get angry, and the tone of the conversation quickly spirals into angry mud-slinging, particularly since the aforementioned myopia tends to anger those it hurts.  

  • I had some really hard-core fundamentalists (also charismatics, fwiw) on my floor in college and one of them said that she thought that saying “Bless you” after someone sneezes was a waste of God’s time.  Like he has time to be going around blessing people just because they sneeze.

    My response was what does God have to do besides bless us?  Isn’t that kind of the whole point?  I should be asking God to bless everyone all of the time, but I just . . . don’t.

    I use the sneeze as a reminder that I need to get busy asking for blessings for that person.

  • noyatin

    The video shows the pastor smiling in approval after the boy sings the horrific lyric.  When the song is over, someone in the crowd (probably a relative of the child’s) shouts “That’s my boy!”.   

  • As bad as that is, isn’t it even worse that they’re teaching the kids that there are some people who are unsaveable? There are some sins that if you do them, you can’t be saved. How badly is that going to screw up the child? If he ever looks at a guy and thinks “hey, I can see why people think he’s cute, oh no, maybe I’m gay” then he’s not going to go “well, maybe I am and maybe I’m not” he’s not even going to go “well I better repent of that sin”, he’s going to go “oh man, now I’m damned to hell forever”. The blood of Jesus will wash away all sins… apart from those ones, so good luck not thinking about doing them kid.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    The tradition of saying, “God bless you,” when someone sneezes goes back to the time before antibiotics, back when getting sick was a serious and possibly fatal problem.  Blessing someone who might be getting sick was definitely not seen as frivolous.

  • Tonio

     Your point is valid from a nonsectarian perspective as well, because what they’re teaching the kids is shame.

  • Gloria

    I read this and I got bugged – irritated would be the other description.  I do not see how “homo” is a slur to homosexual people because I see it as a shortening of the word.  For example, we have ‘chatspeak’ and I personally have shortened words like “comp” for computer.  I do understand how using ‘homo’ in a song, in church, and the statement that they aren’t going to heaven would upset those who say it is hateful – but what about the whole Bible: Leviticus is discriminatory and hateful; Corinthians is discriminatory and hateful; Revelation is discriminatory and hateful.

  • ScoobyDoo

    “Bless you” – the “Have a Nice Day” or Smiley Face idol of inane conversation. 

  • Damanoid

    “The Pastor and members of Apostolic Truth Tabernacle do not condone, teach, or practice hate of any person for any reason.”

    See, this is a skill I do not have.  If I were confronted with a video of me performing a given behavior, I don’t think I could respond by flat-out denying I had ever performed that behavior.    I can’t help but feel that I would be a lot more successful in life if I had learned this knack early on.  I try not to blame my parents for this.  They did the best they knew how.

  • Wote

    The many gay men of my acquaintance would disagree with that sentiment. Mostly because the word “homo” is often used in the way it was used at Apostolic Truth Tabernacle–as a way of referring to a group for whom the speaker has a strong distaste.

    As for the Bible… That is a conversation that muddies the waters something fierce, mostly because it’s harder to have a discussion over theology than it is over the effect one’s words have on a real, actual person. Whether or not certain passages in the Bible are “discriminatory and hateful”, there are a greater number of passages just in the Gospels that are quite clear on the subject for the individual believer, condemning such behavior.

  • Guest


    It’s been used often enough by people as a slur that it’s pretty obvious when someone uses it that way they intend it to *be* a slur. I’ve never seen the word used in an innocent context. (As in, you might say “My gay friend, Neil,” not “My homo friend, Neil.” But I do hear phrases like, “Those (damn) homos,” and they’re always used by bigots).

    And many of us do think the Bible is pretty damn hateful overall, but that’s not what this is about.

  • Emcee, cubed

    I read this and I got bugged – irritated would be the other description.
     I do not see how “homo” is a slur to homosexual people because I see
    it as a shortening of the word.

    I want to give you the benefit of the doubt here, and say you are not from the US, so have no idea about US culture, instead of my initial assumption that you are being willing disingenuous. Because your point is ridiculous on its face. Yes, “homo” is a slur. It has always been a slur. It was a slur when I was in elementary school in the ’70s, and decades before that. It is still a slur. So, no, it does not become acceptable just because suddenly a form of speech that shortens all kinds of words is now popular. Anyone who wants to shorten homosexual in a non-slur way knows to use “gay”. I have never in my entire life seen “homo” used when it wasn’t a slur. (With the possible exception of gay men talking between themselves in the same way African-Americans might use the N-word. But even that is rare, we are more likely to use “‘mo”, “queen” or even “fag” long before we’d use “homo”.)

  • Samantha C

    The only time I’ve ever actually heard anyone use “homo” was on the TV show Soap. When a completely, earnestly well-meaning woman used it to excitedly refer to Jodi as “her first homo” (the first gay man she knew personally), and was always portrayed as a little dim but unobjectionable.

    It helps she had a great thick accent on the word so it came out as “Hoe-mow” and I can’t take it seriously as a result. That’s all I can hear in my head.

  • Timothy Conard

    man, there are some seriously mean people commenting on that article…

  • I read this and I got bugged – irritated would be the other description.
     I do not see how “homo” is a slur to homosexual people because I see
    it as a shortening of the word.

    A significant number of gay men (I won’t speak for lesbians or other QUILTBAG people) don’t care to be called “homosexuals,” either.  We find the term highly clinical and reminiscent of the time when a “homosexual” was seen as someone to be treated with (often harsh) therapy.  There are other words we prefer.

    Plus, it’s the rare (I want to say non-existent, though I suspect someone out there will prove me wrong if I do) person who uses “homo” in a positive or even neutral light.

  • connorboone

    It’s not unlike the N-word.  Some members of the LGBTQIA community might choose to use it among themselves as a way of reclaiming the word (though I’m pretty much unaware of such usage, I don’t claim omniscience.)

    That does not give anyone else who is not a member of the community permission to use that word – because it’s a slur.  Even if “[you] do not see how ‘homo’ is a slur,” that doesn’t change the fact that it is.

    So, even if you don’t get it, stop using it.  You can file that away with various other words (like the N-word) as ‘words I don’t get to play with.’

    Intent – It’s not magical.

  • Barry_D

    I’m not trying to hijack the thread, but this quote is rather puzzling, considering that Lewis lived through the days of Hitler and Stalin.  

  • Nick

    “Homo” is a slur, just like “Paki” or “abo”. It is used as a slur, with intention to insult and demean.

  • GDwarf

    “Homo” is no different from “Jap”, “Chink”, etc. Shortened forms of names are pretty common slurs.

  • Münchner Kindl

    “I want to give you the benefit of the doubt here, and say you are not from the US, so have no idea about US culture, instead of my initial assumption that you are being willing disingenuous. …”

    I don’t know where the adressed slacktivite is from, but from my perspective (straight, but not wanting to be offensive, but use the correct term) this is a thorny problem indeed, switching between English comments for US culture on message boards and reading /talking with people in my own language and culture, and getting mixed messages: some non-straight people don’t want to be called “gay”  (schwul) because that was used as slur (but use it themselves?), and prefer homosexual (homosexuell) as neutral term.

    Others don’t want to be called homosexual because it focuses on the sexual part, when they are attracted to / in love with people of the same gender, and want to be called gay/ lesbian (schwul/lesbisch). Some publications use one term, some use the other.

    Nevertheless, in this case, the context of a child not knowing what they are singing about, saying a homo doesn’t go to heaven, and the congregation applauding makes it clear that it’s intended as slur, no matter how correct/ neutral it may be in other context.

  • katyhalo

    “Dyke” means a levee or a drainage ditch, but I’m pretty sure people aren’t thinking about civil engineering when they yell that at me and my girlfriend.

  • Emcee, cubed

     Yeah, it occurred to me after a few minutes of going, “HUH?” that it is possible that in other cultures (even English-speaking ones), “homo” might not be considered as much of a slur as it is here. I first heard it in first or second grade, as a way to tease unpopular kids. It was used in mainstream media, even in the ’70s (think Archie Bunker), as a way to show the anti-gay bigotry of a character. (heck, I can even think of an episode of Law and Order where it was used that way – so not that long ago). So anyone who lives, or has lived in the US knows “homo” is a slur. But people outside the US? I have no idea, so it is possible that she is not from the US, and just doesn’t get it.

  • the TV show Soap. When a completely, earnestly well-meaning woman used it to excitedly refer to Jodi as “her first homo” (the first gay man she knew personally), and was always portrayed as a little dim but unobjectionable.

    “Well, you’re my first Texan!”

    I remember that episode.
    I identified as straight at the time, and I was ten, and I had never met a queer person that I knew of, and I remember thinking at the time that the woman was being portrayed as too dim to realize how offensive she was being.

    But it was clear to me at the time (a ten-year old with no connection whatsoever to queer culture) that it was offensive, and that I ought not speak that way to others.
    This was also made clear by the rest of the conversation. (“So what do you people drink?” “What, New Yorkers? Well, we drink a –” “No, homos!”)

    Indeed, years later watching “Alien Nation,” it became clear that the pattern of this sort of marginalizing and othering behavior is recognizable even if the target  of it is entirely fictional. (Actually, given my upbringing, I suppose queer people were not noticeably less fictional to me at age ten than aliens.)

    Of course, it helped that I was acquainted with the dynamics of being a Jew among Christians, and a Hispanic among Anglos. I understood at a visceral level what that sort of marginalization feels like, what it sounds like, and why it sucks. That made it a lot easier to recognize it even when it was applied to groups I don’t belong to, or even groups that don’t exist at all.

  • Any readers living anywhere near the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle?  Because they need to have this column printed out and nailed to their front door.  I’d do it myself, but I don’t live anywhere near Greenberg, Indiana.

  • It’s still a word used to describe milk with about 3.25% fat content. Thank god in Canada the term is “whole” milk. I can’t say “homo milk” and not start giggling.

  • Tonio

    That term sounds like a conspiracy letter from the New Frontiersman crank file.

  • jonrober

     Agreed on the Soap woman and the thrust of it being meant as offensive even if she wasn’t.  To me, she came off as someone who was pretty horribly prejudiced not out of hate, but misinformation.  In another context she was the sweet old sheltered lady asking “Oh, you’re the first negro I met.. tell me, why do you people eat so much watermelon?”.

    I really did love that scene, just for how they handled it and Jodie’s responses to her.  Billy Crystal did a great job of coming off as someone frustrated and snarky at the conversation more than the person.  Jodie mouthed off at her very directly, but it also felt less personal than when he’d get into things with Burt.

  • Tricksterson

    It is?  Where?  Here we call it by it’s proper, clinical term, homosexual milk.  ;>

  • Atwinters

    Negro just means black, but I suggest you don’t use it to refer to people.

    I’m rather perplexed by the question of what sort of etymological prerequisites you think a word needs to meet to be a slur.

  • Will Hennessy

    I prefer to think the kid was being unintentionally prophetic; specifically, that none of the bigoted “homo(sapien)s” in that church were going to heaven.

    Or, as my friend put it last night when we were talking about this: “If there were a god who decided to make human beings, a significant percentage of which were only attracted to only members of the same sex; and communicated very little with humanity, only having humans write a few thousand verses into a book, and only a handful of those having the ambiguity to be vaguely interpreted as saying ‘don’t have sex with members of your gender;’ and then at these people’s death death decided to burn them for being the way they are… then you can burn me too, god.”

  • To be fair, “negro” used to be the polite, politically correct term for someone of African ancestry.  

    However, to address Gloria’s point, words have two sets of meanings, an explicit meaning, and an implicit meaning.  In the case of the word “negro”, its relationship with a certain derivation of it used as an offensive slur had tainted its implicit meaning.  It might still be accurate on the definition, but when you use that word in conversation, it communicates meaning beyond just its strict definition.  If you use that word out of ignorance of the implicit meanings, that can get embarrassing, and hopefully you can adjust your word usage in the future to avoid unintentional meanings.  However, if you use the word with full knowledge of its implications, then people can only conclude that you deliberately choose that word to communicate a meaning beyond its strict definition, and that meaning might not be appreciated in all company.  

    With terms referring to people with sexual orientations other than heterosexual, this comes into play as well.  Heck, even the word “gay” itself has a different explicit meaning than its implicit meaning (though the implicit meaning has been overtaking the explicit meaning of it for so long now that the explicit meaning itself could be said to have changed; language is metamorphic like that.)  

    Another interesting thing is that the implicit meaning of a word can change depending on who is doing the speaking and who is being spoken to.  For example, the word “queer” has a different implicit meaning when used by one homosexual person speaking to another than it does when a heterosexual person is speaking to a homosexual person.  There is a little room for variance depending on the specific people involved, so if the homosexual and heterosexual people in the above example are good friends then the implicit meaning is likely to be seen as more of a friendly diminutive, while if they are not friends then it is more likely to be seen as a slur.  

    To quote the Buddha, “Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.”

  • If you did not grow up in a culture and do not know the culture very well indeed, it is foolish and arrogant to attempt to tell people in that culture that you think they are silly for thinking a slur in their culture is a slur. Especially when some of those people are the ones being slurred.

    But I don’t think that’s the case here. I think something else is happening. 

  • I hear that Buddha quote in Leonard Nimoy’s voice.

  • I was involved in this fight before. A rather arrogant asshole insisted on referring to a character played by an actress of Japanese ancestry as “Japbird”. He was told it was offensive. He insisted that because “Jap” was “just” a shortened form of “Japanese”, it could not be offensive. We presented him with actual japanese people complaining. He responded by citing the existence of clubs for enthusiasts of japanese cars who use the shortened form in their name, and demanded that we retract any claim that “Jap” was offensive unless we could force those clubs to change their name. We cited a speech by a Japanese government official decrying the phrase as offensive.  He noticed that the man’s name was Fukui, and dismissed him as either not mattering or perhaps not being real because “His name sounds like “Fuck-You””

  • Oooooooh boy. That reminds me of all the white guys I used to know online who’d metaphorically look down their noses and condescendingly explain in great self-important bloviating detail how they didn’t mean all black people were ‘niggers’, just those kind (and “those” of course was dog whistle for all the blacks who didn’t dress up or talk according to prevailing social norms).

    Basically a whole lot of rationalizing away plainly racist thoughts, when a few moments of honest reflection would have shut them all up.

  • My mother’s father joined the military at the close of World War II, and he ended up in the occupation forces of Japan.  He once showed me a scrapbook of the pictures and observations he made while there.  I remember seeing the photos of fire-bombed out cities, nothing but charred building supports and ashed-covered foundations everywhere.  I was surprised that he referred to the Japanese people he encountered then as “Japs”, and I brought that up.  He told me that, at the time, that was what everyone in the forces called them, but he would not refer to them as such now.  

    It goes to show you how much context matters in language.  

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    A good example of what teaching hate doesn’t look like has just come up here.

    In a weekend AFL (Aussie rules football) match on the weekend, a Collingwood supporter hurled racist abuse at Gold Coast player Joel Wilkinson, who was born in Nigeria. Collingwood player Dale Thomas, who played opposite Wilkinson, reported the abuse and told Wilkinson that he’d testify on his behalf if he wanted to take action. Collingwood tore up the arsehole’s membership (he was a paid up club member for 20 years at the highest–i.e. most expensive–level) and said that if he ever applied for membership again it would be refused point blank. No need to put out a media statement saying that they don’t condone racism.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Plus, it’s the rare (I want to say non-existent, though I suspect someone out there will prove me wrong if I do) person who uses “homo” in a positive or even neutral light.

    I was in Amsterdam recently and visited the Homomonument, the world’s first memorial dedicated to people killed because of their sexuality. The guy who pointed it out to me explained that “homo” is the Dutch word for gay, and doesn’t have the negative connotation that it does in English. Still feel weird saying “homomonument” though, especially for something so respectful.

  • One of the things I learned in my research to argue with the afforementioned douchnozzle was that apparently, the whole “Create a slur by abbreviating the proper term” thing doesn’t have the same precident in Japanese culture, so in general, native Japanese people are markedly less likely to find the term offensive than people of Japanese descent outside of Japan.

  • Nick

    This story improves my view of the Collingwood Football Club… and reinforces my opinion on its supporters. XD

  • mausium

    “Yet, they themselves do not display the kind of belligerence and wrathful disposition that matches up with their message. Instead they are actually kind of… happy”

    They aren’t. They’re deathly afraid. They literally believe that they’re going to hell.