Loving Our Enemy?: the Politics of Hate

Recent readings in the Bible, fiction and the media awoke me to considerations of friends and enemies, both personally and nationally.

Hate is a potent weapon which seems to be today’s default emotion of many people and nations. Hate mobilizes unity of effort and sacrifice to defend oneself. But hate eats at the hater as well as attacking the hated. Hate tears down.

And hate lasts longer than joy or other emotions. It’s not a switch we can flip at our convenience, as portrayed in Orwell’s dystopic 1984. National or cultural hate often carries across generations. Some nationalities have hated others for centuries. When I was a child, my parents’ generation were still damping the fires of hatred generated during World War Two against the German and Japanese people, then becoming our allies against the threat of the Soviet Union and Communist China. The twenty-first century finds us clinging to antipathy toward Russia and China, who should be our allies against the ethnic and sectarian evils of our day.

I’m not talking about whether they deserve our love or our hate; I’m talking about us. Perhaps we focus too much on their threat and too little on our joint humanity. No, we can’t just hold hands and sing “Kumbayah,” but we should also eschew knee jerk calls to hate our neighbor.

Because that’s the point, isn’t it? The illegal immigrant or the Islamic jihadist is as much our neighbor as the person who lives next door. And aren’t we supposed to love our neighbor? Who is my neighbor? You know. He who needs my mercy. (Luke 10:29-37) Even though he may not want it.

Love? Love the guy who’s trying to kill me? Love those who threaten all that I hold dear? Love that man, or this woman, and those people? Yeah, pretty much. But you don’t know what they’ve done or intend to do. So?

That’s our example from Jesus to Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. They loved their neighbor more than life.

All three were murdered.

Nobody said it was going to be easy.