The recent killings at Fort Hood, Texas are being cast as an aberrational act by a disturbed individual. Americans are urged to restrain from characterizing the perpetrator, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, in a negative light.
I think it should cause us to take a look at something else: Hatred.
Hatred impacts our daily lives. If you are a parent, you might remember taking some disciplinary action with a petulant child and the child retaliating with, “I hate you!” In our entertainment media, we see people infused with hate and watch their actions for enjoyment. The Star Wars movies dealt with hate and how it can take us to “the dark side of the Force.” To its credit, our entertainment industry generally teaches us that hate is not a good thing.
That is not true elsewhere.
Around the world, you don’t see attempts to restrict or reduce hate. We might have a “war against hunger” or a “fight to end poverty”, but we don’t see a battle against hate.
It is because hate is a staple of religion and politics throughout the world.
In Christianity, hate is directed at an abstract concept: The Devil. You are taught to fear and fight the temptations of The Devil. In other religions, the same idea is employed: Satan is that entity against whom you fight for salvation.
What’s the problem with this? It comes when the concept of Satan is transferred from an abstraction to human form. This is where politics comes in. Political leaders are happy to redirect your fight against Satan to a fight against “The Great Satan.” The fight is no longer an abstraction. It becomes a fight against people of the Jewish faith, Americans, or apostates in general.
When Religion and Politics intersect, and religious fervor energizes political goals, you feel the seduction of hatred in all its power. The zenith comes when the intensity of hate reaches that point where an individual is willing to die in pursuit of the death of others. The “suicide bomber” becomes emblematic of religious faith being driven by political ambitions. Hatred and the promise of glory in the afterlife are transformed into engines of destruction.
Hatred is legitimized in religion and celebrated in politics, but is this the right direction for human progress? Think back to Howard Dean energizing his supporters during the 2004 Democratic Primaries. At political rallies, he would shout, “I hate Republicans!” and his followers would cheer.
In America, we sometimes become aware of the intensity of political hatred when scorn and derision are used to fan the intensity of political debate. When we see these emotions carried to the extreme, it should cause us to pause.
We should stop for a moment and reflect…on hatred.