The world is in a desperate search for somebody to hate.
Acts of terror and violence abound all over the planet and it will not do to simply hate the perpetrators of those acts. We must locate our hatred in an entire community of people. There must be a “them” of which we are not a part and toward whom we can direct our venom. If we could just identify the community worthy of our hatred we could eliminate them, incarcerate them or at the very least exclude and ostracize them.
But who are “they?” We would like to believe that certain nationalities, ethnicities or religions loan themselves to acts of violence. People who are not at all like “us.”
The go-to group for many to pin our hatred upon these days are Muslims. After all, many recent acts of violence have been committed by those who cite some form of this faith as the motivation for their violence.
I remember being in Egypt directly after the “Shock and Awe” campaign which obliterated parts of Bagdad. The newsfeed in Egypt was still pumping out horrific pictures of the charred remains of women and children being pulled from the rubble of American bombs. Even hospitals were felled under the shock and awe campaign as one friend and eyewitness attests. On more than one occasion, George W. Bush cited his Christian faith as a motivation for various military acts, “I’m driven with a mission from God,” Mr. Bush told a group of Palestinians. “God would tell me, ‘George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,’ and I did.” [i]
I was grateful my Muslim friends and contacts in Egypt neither associated my faith nor my American citizenship with violence, though I am certain there were some who located their hatred upon all Americans and all Christians as a result of civilian atrocities in that campaign. Do Americans have a predisposition toward violence? Those who have been on the receiving end of American violence might say yes. But since I’m an American, I cannot locate my hatred there. I need to find another “them.”
What if we only focused our hatred upon all those who resort to terror and fear as a tool to bring about change? We’d then need to include a great many politicians, pastors and parents in that community. Well, that won’t do since I’m included in at least one of those categories. I need to find another “them.”
How about men? Since the vast majority of violence around the world is committed by men, and since there appears to be a genetic predisposition toward aggression in males, then let’s just hate all men. Again, I’m included there.
We could continue the search for a community who is tied to all this violence, but in so many cases I am in those communities. Depending on who’s doing the profiling, the white, male, Christian could be a category of persons to isolate, search, suspect, and exclude.
So perhaps the answer is simply to hate the perpetrators. Let us focus our hatred only upon the individuals who commit violence. This, to me, is the most reasonable target of our hatred. Set aside ideology, nationality, faith, gender, skin color … let’s just hate the people who commit violence.
This is my recommendation to everyone … everyone except those who respect or attempt to follow Jesus, that is. Hatred even of perpetrators of violence is off the table for anyone who holds Jesus in any sort of esteem.
This poses a serious problem. I am so grieved by the violence in Syria, in Paris, in Lebanon. I am pierced by the racially motivated incidents on the streets and campuses of the United States. My grief is so easily transformed into anger, and anger into hatred.
Christians talk about “loving the sinner but hating the sin,” but I find it esoteric to hate “sin.” We can be disturbed or angered by sin, but it is nearly impossible to hate a thing so amorphous as sin. Our hatred finds its best satisfaction when it locates itself on a person or on a people. And it is easiest to hate a people that you are not a part of. Hatred likes to land upon strangers – that is, upon someone who is strange to me. So in the wake of so many recent events I find myself and those in the blogosphere trying desperately to find somebody to hate.
And those who have finally satisfied themselves with a person or persons to hate are the least satisfied people I know.
But how do I prevent my grief which has turned into anger from becoming hatred in search of a person on which to land?
It is helpful for me to recognize that some misguided perpetrators of violence or sin have become some incredible saints. St. Paul for one.
It is helpful for me to recognize that my own heart is so often bent toward violence.
And it is helpful for me to recognize that I fall into various groupings of people whom others might be tempted to believe are naturally unkind, violent and arrogant.
If love is the greatest virtue, then hatred is the greatest vice. We must work at least as hard at stemming our hatred as cultivating our love.
I have re-interpreted one of the most potent prose on love from I Corinthians 13 in order to see the outcome of hatred. This is my attempt to stem the tide of hatred in my heart.
[i] Bush: God told me to invade Iraq, President ‘revealed reasons for war in private meeting,’ By Rupert Cornwell in Washington Thursday 16 August 2012, The Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/bush-god-told-me-to-invade-iraq-317805.html