Reading reports on the September 20th protest and counter protest, listening to people who were there, it feels to me like we need to understand what is love and what is hate.

According to the Owen Sound Sun Times, when people supporting LGBTQ2s+ rights called the language of those with control of the microphone “hate speech,” those opposing the new curriculum claimed to love their children.

Love can be complicated, but I have known strong “Christian” families to shun their child who came out as gay or lesbian, to kick the child out of the house, to cut off all support for the one they “love.” What kind of love is that?

I have known families where a teenager had gotten into addiction, crime, and violence. For the safety of the other kids, that child was sent out of the house. They were sent away painfully. Sadly.  With tears and a love that hoped for a different future.

In some stories I know, when the teenager turned their life around, they were welcomed home. For me, that is love. There was a moment of “tough love” but caring prevailed. That is different from banning a child for their gender or sexual identity.

The thing is, the people in control of the microphone on the 20th claimed the Christian God was on their side. It is important for people of faith to respond to the kind of hate they proclaimed, to talk about what it means to live love.

Jesus spoke with gentleness and invitation to the people who came to him, to the people he met. He saw them, saw who they were. With the tax collector Matthew, he invited him to join his community of followers. With the wealthy chief tax collector Zaccheus, he saw him, invited himself to dinner at Zaccheus’ home, made space for Zaccheus.

These two men worked for the Roman empire, the government that kept tight control in the Judea and Galilee of Jesus’ day.

That empire was an oppressive, top-down government. The emperor was the Father of all. Governors had the role of Father under him. In a Roman family, the Father had absolute control.

Jesus constantly challenged this structure.

It is no accident that the prayer he taught, the prayer repeated by rote by Christians even today, begins with an address to a Father who is not earthly, who does not fit within the empire, whose very existence challenges the power of earthly Fathers.

It is also no accident that Jesus was put to death by the empire as a traitor to that power.

That’s what crucifixion was – a death that demonstrates the power of empire.

Jesus did get angry at times. He got angry at those who cooperated with the empire. He got angry with the religious powers who “have the best places in the synagogues…They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearances say long prayers.” (Mark 12: 39-40, NRSV)

Shortly after, when one of his followers spoke of the majestic beauty of the temple, he declared that the whole power structure was coming down.

For people who were suffering or were lost, Jesus had only love and compassion.

He told the story of a man who had two sons, one of whom took what would be his inheritance, left home, squandered the money. When he was so poor he took a job living with pigs, this son went home to ask for a position as a servant. The father ran out to welcome the lost son home.

The other son, the one who stayed and worked for his father, was angry at the welcome. He was chastised for not showing mercy and welcome.

Another place in the bible where we learn about love is Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth.

To address the deep divisions in that community Paul argued that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Cor 8:1, NRSV)

He began with a discussion of the difference between “wisdom” and the path of the crucified Christ.

He went on to show how a person who acts from what they know – that an idol has no existence – is wrong to eat meat  butchered at a temple if they are eating with someone who still feels the power of the temple. The act would hurt their companion. Knowing is not enough. Acting from love is essential.

We read the “love is patient; love is kind” passage at weddings, but Paul meant these words as instructions on how to live as a community. He told the people of the church in Corinth that all their actions had to build up the people around them not show their prowess or their knowledge.

With that context, I come back to the protest against the new gender and sexual identity curriculum.

I know people in the crowd were hurt at the way gender diverse people were spoken about. Taking control of the microphone to shout against people who are part of our community was not a loving thing to do. Hate hurts people. That’s part of why the words blared from the microphone were called “hate speech.”

Based on what Paul wrote in first Corinthians, he would say “even if you think you know something about gender and sexuality, if your words and actions hurt people in the community, you are wrong.”

Even Paul acknowledged that he didn’t know everything, that he only knew in part.

With that humility, he concluded that love had to be the guide.


Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.






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