What You WON’T Hear About “Hate”

At the risk of—or more likely, with the purpose in mind of—sounding like I am politically incorrect, I’d like to offer some thoughts on the subject of “hate”. Let me preface this article with the suggestion that you likely will not hear these ideas espoused by Peter Jennings or Dan Rather anytime soon. And yet, it seems relevant to our lives in the “00’s” to consider this subject.

After all, we see examples of hate all around us. The recent tragic shootings in Pittsburgh apparently flowed from strong animus on the part of the shooters toward other racial and ethnic groups. Obviously, there is never justification for cowardly acts of violence toward others, regardless of the motivations behind such dastardly deeds. Predictably, we hear quick-on-the-draw responses as to how we can eliminate these terrible events from our society. Someone will always take the opportunity to inveigh against the proliferation of guns in our society. Of course, this will be countered by people quoting the Second Amendment. The truth is that emotion often replaces reasoning in these situations; truth is we often talk past each other instead of to each other as well—but these are topics for another column! Someone else will write a column about how “all of us in society are really at fault” for these kinds of outrages. Others will propose expanded “hate crimes legislation” as a way of combating these types of incidents. And you can bet that somewhere out there across the Fruited Plain someone is dreaming up a way of extracting millions of tax dollars from the federal government in the form of a grant to study why people blow other people away with AK-47’s.

Amid all of this hand-wringing and blabber, there are some truths about the nature of “hate” and about the current proposals to deal with its effects that cry out to be heard. If you’ll permit me, let me suggest several things you won’t hear on the subject:

 That we need hate.
Please bear with me on this first one! The issue here is really a simple one. I once read a bumper sticker that said “Hate is not a family value.” I beg to differ! I believe hate is a family value! Now just before you consign me to the loony bin, allow me to explain. “Hate” is an ethically and morally meaningless word without a subject attached to it! “Love” is no particular virtue by itself any more than “hate” is a vice. The appropriateness of these sentiments in any given situation is to be found in the thing being hated or loved!
The Bible indicates that we need to “hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12). It is every bit as appropriate to hate as it is to love, so long as we have the subjects right! In fact, we can take this a step further: love necessitates hate. I cannot love my daughter or my sons without hating some things. I hate, for instance, the menaces of drugs, racism, and promiscuity. I detest the sliminess of contemporary society. I am furious that we have a culture where, because of the actions of our president and some other “leaders”, there are words and terms that are part of our national vocabulary that ought to be reserved for private moments and issues. I hate anything that would cause harm to my family. We could very quickly develop a laundry list of things that are appropriate to hate by virtue of the fact that we love.
I would consider it a major victory as a parent and as a pastor if my children and the members of my congregation develop a healthy hatred of the things which ought to be hated. “All you need is love” might make for a catchy song, but it is most certainly far from the truth; we certainly need lots of hate as well. The important thing for us as individuals and as a society is to come to an understanding of which things we ought to love and which things we ought to hate—and we have miles to go before we arrive at that place!

 That crimes motivated by hate have their genesis in the original sin that resides in each of us.
We want to make the perpetrators of such “hate crimes” out to be “monsters” or “sickos.”
Now, there is of course no getting around the fact that these people have some very serious problems, and it is certainly true that sometimes there are physiological problems that cause things to go tragically haywire in people. But there are some other truths that often get overlooked when we are too quick to look for a psychological explanation to horrific crimes of this sort.

One of these is the fact that there exists within every human heart the potential for horrendous evil. Now I don’t mean to suggest that every person is a time bomb likely to go off on a murderous rampage at a moment’s notice! What I am saying is that there is a problem endemic to our race—and that problem is called “sin”. Yes, I appreciate the fact that it is just not fashionable to talk about sin anymore, but that certainly does not change the reality of its existence, both in the world around us, and deep within each of us. We are “natural born sinners”; the idea that man is a “blank slate” or even more incredibly that man is “basically good” flies in the face of the truth. Those who suggest these things not only fail to understand what the Bible says, but fail as students of history as well. One has to look no further than the acquiescence on the part of the German people to the atrocities of Adolf Hitler to understand this truth. One need only understand the workmanlike way in which the Mengeles and the Eichmanns subjected human beings to unimaginable horror—and then went home in the evening to romp with the kids—to understand the depth of depravity that exists in the human heart. Can I suggest that we need look no further than our very own society either? When “respectable” people dressed in suits and ties fight for the “right” to slaughter babies halfway through the birth canal, we can be certain that barbaric evil is alive and well among us.
I don’t pretend to know exactly what it is that causes people to “snap” and act in such brutal ways; certainly for every one who does so there are millions of people who can co-exist more or less peacefully in society. But let us not delude ourselves into thinking that the root problem which plagues the Richard Baumhammers’ of society does not reside in us as well. Jesus said that when we hate people in our hearts we are guilty of murder. We may be very grateful that this impulse doesn’t find literal expression with most of us—but sin is nonetheless a reality in the heart of every person.

 That so-called “Hate Crimes” legislation is probably more scary than the potential of the hate crimes that it proposes to remedy.
Turning to one political football issue, we should be very concerned about the rush to enact
legislation labeled “hate crimes laws” which would exact further punishment upon those who
are motivated ostensibly by hatred in the commission of their crimes. This seems to be yet another example of an idea which sounds good until we look at it more closely. “But shouldn’t we punish people who commit murder out of racist motives?” Absolutely—just as we should punish people who commit murder out of whatever motive! The simple fact of the matter is that when we enact hate crimes legislation, we go beyond the punishment of actions to the punishment of thoughts. George Orwell spoke of the “thought police”; hate crimes legislation would seem to bring this Orwellian nightmare much closer to reality! Already we see instances of this problem creeping in here and there. The Supreme Court is currently deliberating the right of the Boy Scouts to simply believe as they wish and act upon those beliefs. If the Boy Scouts are found against, how long before churches will be required to conform in their hiring practices to evolving societal expectations—effectively outlawing freedom to practice one’s faith? How long before this gets down to the level of the individual, when simply thinking in certain ways is enough to land one in jail? Think it can’t happen? Might I suggest a fresh reading of contemporary history regarding human rights abuses around the planet! Instead of pushing for bogus hate crimes legislation, let’s take a closer look at issues of responsibility and accountability; let’s judge the action without attempting to ascertain the motive.

No, you’re not likely to hear this kind of talk about hate on 60 Minutes. But as we consider how to live together in society, let’s let the voice of God’s truth—and the wisdom that God gives—guide us. Thousands of years after human authors penned words inspired by God, those words are fresh and alive and give us guidance to understand our problems today.

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