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Moral People Must Learn How To Hate

‘For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.’ (Ecclesiastes. 3).

How many times have we heard that the problem with the world today is that there isn’t enough love, when precisely the opposite is true. Evil currently stalks the earth because there isn’t enough hate. Moral people, afraid of being poisoned by hate, are becoming indifferent to evil.

The history of the modern world is a history of genocide and the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents. Historian Paul Johnson estimates that at least 100 million civilians were murdered in the twentieth century alone by despotic and murderous tyrants. All too many of the murderers, like Pol Pot and Idi Amin, died comfortably in their sleep rather than at the end of a gallows. The world simply could not summon enough hatred of these individuals or their actions to stop them and bring them to justice.

Rehabilitation of murderers and dictators has also become the norm. Just look at how in death the godfather of modern terror and the embezzler who stole billions from his own people, Yasir Arafat, was elevated to sainthood. And still the good people of the world refuse to hate, thereby weakening their commitment to fight evil.

I have heard all the arguments repudiating hate: Hatred is evil. It is the cause of all wars. It consumes the soul of he or she who hates. Silly arguments all.

Hatred is only evil when it is directed at the good and at the innocent. It is positively Godly when it is directed at cold-blooded killers, motivating us to fight and eradicate them before more people die. Hatred does not cause wars, it ends them. Because Churchill truly hated Hitler he inspired a nation to put an end to his blitzkrieg conquests. The French, who did not hate Hitler, collaborated with him instead. It is indifference to evil, rather than its hatred, that sends a message to the tyrants that they may pick on anyone they like for the world will be silent.

Anyone who does not hate Abu Musab al Zarkawi, a monster who shouts ‘God is great’ while sawing off the heads of innocent human beings, is barely human himself. Can a man love innocent victims without hating their tormentors? Loving victims might generate compassion for their suffering. But hating the perpetrators will generate action to stop their murdering.

Which ‘moral’ man or woman can lay claim to decency if he or she is not sickened by the likes of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden? Can a moral man have compassion for a dying Arafat when such love and compassion ought to be reserved exclusively for his victims? While innocence should evoke compassion, evil should evoke only contempt.

Bobby Frank Cherry, the Klansman who killed four black girls in a church bombing in Alabama in 1963, died recently in prison. On my radio show I expressed my satisfaction that another evil man had perished from the earth. A black caller phoned in disgust. “I used to be like you, Shmuley,” he said. “When I was a boy growing up in the segregated South, I hated the Klan so much that I wanted to be a sniper and shoot them. But as a Christian I have worked my whole life to fight that hatred and get it out of my system.”

I answered him, “What do you think God would prefer? That you use your energy to fight your hatred, or use your energy to fight evil? Now, no one would sanction your running around and indiscriminately shooting people, because that itself is immoral and illegal. That’s not hatred. That’s rage. But it was due to prosecutors’ odium for this man that they pursued him for almost forty years, finally obtaining a conviction and sending him to prison just two years ago. If they had not detested him and his actions, he would have died peacefully at his home and the message would have gone out that you can get away with murder.”

Hatred is not necessarily of the devil. Like any emotion, it is neutral, its morality determined solely by the object to which it is directed. Hatred is demonic only when directed at innocent people who happen to have darker skin than you, but truly appropriate when directed at someone whose murderous actions have made the world a darker place.

Exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in the Bible. The book of Proverbs declares, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Likewise, King David declares regarding the wicked, “I have hated them with a deep loathing. They are as enemies to me.” Hatred is the moral response to those who have gone beyond the pale of decency by committing acts which unweave the basic fabric of civilized living. To encounter evil is to come under the injunction of never showing even a morsel of sympathy lest we weaken our determination to destroy it.

The demonization of hatred in our time has derived principally from liberalism, for which toleration of nearly everything is paramount. Hatred of evil implies both the right to make judgments, as well as a belief in absolutes, both of which are anathema to liberalism.

While liberalism has some redeeming qualities, my foremost argument against it is that it harbors no abhorrence or detestation of evil. Indeed, liberals hate war much more than they hate evil, which is why Kofi Annan and Jacques Chirac were prepared to leave Saddam in power in order to avoid conflict. But with so much evil in the world, people have grown weary with those who serve as its apologists, and thus liberalism has been largely discredited, with even former president Clinton deciding to abandon the term and replace it with ‘progressivism.’

In fairness, however, it is not just liberals who have forgotten how to hate. Many of my Christian brethren mistakenly believe that God loathes hatred. They quote Jesus’s teaching to turn the other cheek and his admonishment to love your enemies as proof that we dare never hate.

On my radio show many evangelical Christians have called to tell me that in God’s eyes we are all sinners, and thus from a heavenly perspective Osama bin Laden and the average housewife from Kansas are equal. Osama must indeed face justice for his crimes, but we dare not hate him, seeing that Jesus still loves him.

But this is a travesty of Jesus’s teachings. Jesus advocated turning the other check to petty slights and affronts to our honor, not to mass graves and torture chambers. Likewise, while Jesus taught that we ought to love our own enemies, this did not apply to God’s enemies. Our enemies are people who are our rivals for a promotion at work. God’s enemies are those who slaughter his children.

Let not any Christian think that Jesus’s sympathy was for anyone other than the oppressed and the poor. True, the Bible commands us to ‘love our neighbor’ as ourselves, but the man who kills children is not our neighbor. Having cast off the image of God, he has lost his divine spark and is condemned to eternal oblivion from which not even a belief in salvation will rescue him. He or she who murders God’s children has been lost to God forever and has abandoned all entitlement to love, earning eternal derision in its stead.

To love the terrorist who flies a civilian plane into a building or a white supremacist who drags a black man three miles while tied to the back of a car is not just scandalous, it is sinful. To love evil is itself evil and constitutes a passive form of complicity. The old saying is right: those who are kind to the cruel end up being cruel to the kind.

The Bible instructs us “rejoice not when thine enemy falleth” and I am not advocating that we dance in the streets when we hear about America killing terrorists in Iraq. But to extend compassion to these impenitent and incorrigible monsters is an act of mocking God who has mercy for all yet demands unequivocal justice for the innocent. To show kindness to the murderer is to violate the victim yet again.

Pacifists will respond that fighting hatred with hatred accomplishes nothing. They will quote the old Bob Dylan song that says, “If we take an eye for an eye we all just end up blind.” But the purpose of our hatred is not revenge, but justice. We do not seek to breed hatred so that it might linger in our breast, but so that it might inspire us to stop murder and bloodshed. If you don’t hate Saddam Hussein then you will find ample reason not to topple him from power. But if watching him gas Kurdish children makes you see him for the abomination he is, then you will risk blood and treasure to put him on trial for his crimes against humanity.

How bizarre that the French and Germans today hate George Bush more than Saddam Hussein. Their efforts to prevent the United States from invading Iraq, and their treatment of Saddam as nothing more than a nuisance, speaks volumes about their indifference to bloodshed and their troubling neutrality on the subject of evil. At Sinai God entrusted humanity with the promotion of justice, enjoining us to turn an immoral jungle into a civilized society. We seek out the Saddams of this world to prevent further genocides and establish justice. In the words of Aristotle, “All virtue is summed up in dealing justly.”

Some will say that by promoting hatred of evil I am trampling on the ideas of atonement and forgiveness. I disagree. Repentance is based on recognizing the infinite value of human life. Because God loves humanity He provides a point of return so that the individual might find his way back to the light.

Since repentance is predicated on the value of life, it cannot be offered to those who undermine its basic premise by irretrievably debasing life. For a murderer to lament his actions in public and achieve instant absolution is an affront to everything forgiveness stands for. There are those offenses for which there is no forgiveness, borders that are crossed for which there is no return. Mass murder is foremost among them.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” Only if we hate the truly evil passionately will we summon the determination to fight them fervently. Odd and uncomfortable as it may seem, hatred has its place. It is time for moral people to learn how to hate again.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is a nationally syndicated radio host from 2-5 p.m. EST daily on the Liberty Broadcasting Network, and was named by Talkers magazine as one of America’s 100 most important talk-radio hosts. A best-selling author of 14 books, his latest work is “Face Your Fear” (St. Martins Press).

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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