Friday, January 19, 2007


One of the interesting things about my job is administering tests like the "Sentence Completion Test." You may have heard of it. You know, it's the personality test where the test starts a series of sentences for you, and asks you to complete them in a manner that expresses " you really feel."

Some time ago, I came across responses that made me think. Several of the items begin with prompts like "I hate..." or "I can't stand...." And this one individual repeatedly answered "non-Christians."

"Non-Christians?" I thought to myself. "By whose definition, I wonder?"

Putting aside for a moment the bizarre idea that worship of a God of love could be consistent with hatred towards another human being regardless of their beliefs, I think what struck me the most was how this really didn't seem that out of the ordinary. I hear that kind of reasoning from various (mostly fundamentalistic) sources all the time.

When faith and worship is reduced to a series of "correct" or "incorrect" beliefs, it is capable of producing hatred. Because then opposing beliefs or points of view become threats to that which is considered holy. People become enemies. Ideas become threats. Defending the rightness of one's position begins to feel compulsory. Hatred seems justified, even blessed.

It makes me want to tear my *%$#*&@ hair out.

As I spoke to the counselor working with this person (who sent them to me for the evaluation), she asked me whether I thought his statements were a reflection of his personality -- or just a repetition of things he had heard in his (rather conservative) church. I told her that I thought it was probably from his personality, though I wouldn't doubt if certain teachings reinforced that side of him.

I find myself praying that I'm right about that, because the other possibility is a bit too terrifying for me. In trying to defend what is seen as holy, do we have large numbers of people being taught to hate?

I've had other clients of GLBT persuasion who have talked to me about living in a relatively rural area in a state like this one. They tell me of the comments, not just by half drunk idiots at a bar, but by religious authorities a few dozen feet away from them. Telling them how sinful they are for who they love. Telling them how they are ruining the moral foundation of our country. Spewing hatred while mouthing the words "love the sinner, but hate the sin." Reinforcing the self-loathing these individuals developed from years of hearing this kind of thing over and over.

It saddens me deeply. And I have little enough hair left to be pulling it out like this.


Magdalene6127 said...

Steve, this story made my hair stand on end. How distressing. I don't know how I would begin to work with this person. Prayer...?

steve said...

It's upsetting, no doubt about it.

As far as working with individuals like that, I like to have a discussion about whether being "right" is really as important as they think, whether it reallys gets us anywhere that matters -- emotionally, in our relationships, etc.

Good to hear from you as always, Mags!