The changing meaning of hate

Swift on the heels of the new definition of tolerance, the meaning of hate is being slowly eroded by the tides of cultural abuse.

Take, for example, this recent report in the San Francisco Chronicle (emphasis mine):

In papers filed Thursday night in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office argued that Proposition 8 was motivated by hatred of gays and lesbians and violates their constitutional right to be free of discrimination.

Although sponsors of the November ballot measure said they were trying to promote traditional marriage and protect children, “excluding same-sex couples from marriage does nothing to advance those goals,” Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart said in the 49-page brief.

Prop. 8’s “real aim (was) harming gays and lesbians and expressing moral disapproval of them,” Stewart said.

Clearly here “hatred” is equated with “moral disapproval.” Don’t get me wrong, moral disapproval can certainly be present alongside hatred. The problem is that hate and moral disapproval are mutually exclusive. Moral disapproval can exist without hate (I morally disapprove of people using “Jesus” as a curse word, and might even ask them to refrain, but that doesn’t mean I hate them). Likewise, hate can exist without moral disapproval (think of hatred caused by envy).

The irony created here by the abuse of the term is thick. While condemning Californians who supported Prop. 8 as acting out of hatred, the plaintiffs are expressing moral disapproval at their actions. A move which could — if their own advice be taken — be labeled as hatred. Go figure.

If hate is diluted to the point of simply meaning mere moral disapproval, the true, more dangerous nature of hatred is masked. Better the biblical take on hatred, which allows for moral disapproval while keeping hatred at bay:

You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. ([esvignore]Leviticus 19:17[/esvignore], NASB)