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When I was a small child, my father taught in an all-black college in Talladega, Alabama. He was the only white professor on the faculty, and there was a great deal of controversy about a white man teaching in an all-black college. This was catalyzed by the fact that my father was an atheist, was educated in Connecticut and New York City, and got his doctorate under the guidance of the famous philosopher John Dewey. There were times when people in the community expressed overt hatred toward us. I remember one incident that my mother told about over and over to dramatize our situation. I had a tonsillectomy at the time all of this was going on. My mother told me that the doctor wheeled the gurney into the waiting area, with me on it covered with blood. He pushed the gurney toward my mother and shouted, “Here nigger lover, you clean him up!” That was over 70 years ago, and fortunately, things have improved in Talladega, but the question that always arises with a story like this is where does such hatred comes from?
In the musical South Pacific, there is a song that speaks to this question. It talks about the fact that a child has “to be taught before it's too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate, you've got to be carefully taught.” The fact is that somewhere in the past any hatred, be it racial, ethnic, or political has to have a cause. That cause can have two possible origins. Either it naturally resulted from our biology, or it was programmed into us and has a design. This is very much like our discussion of the existence of the cosmos — either it is a product of chance processes in the natural world, or it is a product of design.
In our discussion of the creation, we have pointed out that our only assumption is reality — that we exist. If we accept the fact that we exist, that there is a reality, then the creation either had a beginning, or it is eternal. All evidence shows the creation of space/time and matter/energy had a beginning. If it had a beginning, then either it was caused, or it was not caused. We have pointed out that to say it is uncaused means something had to come from nothing. For that to be true, all conservation laws of science have to be in error. The last consideration in our cosmological argument is the question of what the cause was. Was the cause blind, opportunistic chance, or is there evidence of purpose and design in the creation?
I suggest that we can make the same kind of argument. There is no point in debating whether hate exists. While atheists like Richard Dawkins deny that evil exists, there is no necessary connection between hate and evil. Hate is not the only evil that exists. Either hate had a beginning, or it is eternal. Inanimate matter/energy cannot love or hate, so obviously hate had a beginning. Is the beginning of hatred something that was caused by the creator, or is it a natural product of the existence of living things? We can narrow this discussion by pointing out that hatred is not a part of the animal world, it is a peculiar attribute of humans. Animals do not hate. Some may want to dispute that saying that the dog next door hates them, but the fact is that animal behavior is always tied to survival. The dog's survival depends upon having a territory where he feels safe. He perceives you as invading his territory and threatening his survival by removing his safety. When an animal kills another animal, it is not out of hatred. The animal that is killed is either a food source or a threat to the territory of the animal or its offspring. Hate does not motivate instinctive drives, and a vast percentage of animal behavior, if not all of it, is instinctive.
If we can agree that hatred is a peculiar attribute of humans, we can narrow the discussion. I assume you agree that this is a human issue — not an aspect of the animal kingdom at large. The choice then becomes whether hatred in humans is present because God built it into humans, or whether it is a product of humans accepting the belief that their existence is ruled by “survival of the fittest”? More to the point, is there a solution for hatred? Is there some way that the kind of occurrence in Talladega 70 years ago can be stopped and changed?
From the beginning of human existence on Earth, there has always been the option of love or hate. If you view humans solely as a product of mechanical chance processes, then the first humans had a choice as to how to live. They could behave like animals and function on the assumption that only the fit survive, or they could love and care for one another. It is the assumption of “survival of the fittest” that causes conflict and war. Like with animals, territory becomes important, and competition for mates changes from the purpose of procreation to mates being secured to show status and prestige. In today's world, we have prominent people like Peter Singer, the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, suggesting that the unfit should be weeded out of our population emptying our prisons and mental institutions. This view of humans tells us that war and conflict are inevitable. Hate has long been a catalyst to participation in everything from racial conflict to world war. Hate is a tool for shaping human culture on every level because it is emotional and utilizes behavior to promote its agenda. I remember my father having a heated debate with a man in Talladega in which the man was so angry that I hid in fear behind my mother. As he screamed at my father with his fist in the air and his face flushed with rage and anger he said, “Before you know it, the blacks will take over everything.” I am sure that man attended some church on Sunday morning, and he probably opposed any concept of evolution, but his objection to my father educating blacks was an evolutionary argument based on survival of the fittest. He feared invasion of what he perceived as his territory and felt his survival was threatened if blacks became educated. I am confident that many people voted for or against Barack Obama solely because of his color, not realizing that their vote reflected a belief in survival of the fittest.
I have friends who are atheists and trained in anthropology who agree with much of what I have said here but do not believe that Christianity offers any real alternative. Can hate be eliminated or at least reduced by Christians? There is evidence of caring in many of the remains of ancient humans. Anthropologists have found human specimens who had been cared for even though they were crippled or had problems that would have made them “unfit.” The notion that early humans were barbaric and no different from the animals is not true.
Out of the economy of language in the biblical account, we can draw a few insights into God's view of humans. The first incident that we can view as one of hatred involves Cain and his killing of Abel. We all know the story, but notice what the Lord says to Cain after he murdered Abel: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7). 1 John 3:12 tells us that Cain chose to let sin master him. The Bible tells us that God has given us the ability to choose between good and evil and between love and hate. Without that choice love cannot exist, especially the agape kind of love that humans can uniquely have for one another and for God. Ephesians 3:10-11 and 6:12 spell out this unique capacity for love which gives us purpose in existing, but also provides us with the ability to choose hate, evil, and Satan's way. The choice that Cain made is available to us all and defines hate as a choice — not an evolutionary imperative.
As the biblical history unfolds, we see people drifting away from the love and peace to which God called us. In Genesis 6 we see the culmination of this process. Verse 4 tells us that the “nephilim” were on the Earth in the time of Genesis 6. The Hebrew word nephilim means “fallen ones” (not aliens or giants) and refers to men of violence and hate. Verse 13 tells us that the Earth had become “filled with violence” which was detestable to God. Humans rejected God's plan and his desire for them to live in love and peace. Instead, they chose war, hate, and conflict even more violent than anything seen in the animal kingdom. For many years, Israel functioned under God's care and direction. Reading Deuteronomy 28:1-14 one sees God's desire and plan for Israel. There is no political structure in this plan — just peace and love and good things. There is no struggle for control or territory in God's plan, but in 1 Samuel 8:6-20 Israel demands that God give them a king — a political ruler. God warns them of what the consequences of that choice will be — all of the evil things that come from human political rulers. Israel wants to be the “fittest.” They want to assert control, and they are willing to accept the consequences of that choice — war, greed, power, evil, and hatred. The rest is history.
It is only with the coming of Jesus Christ that this changes. Jesus brings what he calls, “A new commandment, that you love one another” (John 13:34). Christ advocates loving your enemy and doing good to him (Matthew 5:38-47). This is radical, but it is what God intended from the beginning. It violates everything that “survival of the fittest” maintains. It reduces or perhaps eliminates hate. How can I hate a man who protects me and feeds me and allows me to live without threat? Jesus divorces himself from politics. The command to“render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's” removes the followers of Jesus from the conflict which the political world inevitably brings. This is a higher calling, and it offers the hope that through Christ the world may someday eliminate hate.
When the church in Galatia started to allow the seeds of hate and division to creep in, Paul warned them saying, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to another gospel which is really no gospel at all” — meaning no good news at all (Galatians 1:6). They were leaving the teachings of Christ and turning back to the nationalistic beliefs that created racial and ethnic hatred among the people of that day. He then brings them face to face with the way out of hate and violence and strife: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
So is there a solution to hatred? It may be a pipe-dream, but I believe the answer is “yes!” Getting people to understand that humans are special and that we are not driven mechanically by “survival of the fittest.” Being human involves a spiritual dimension that surpasses chance, politics, or race. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I believe that Christianity holds the keys to eternal freedom from hatred, and I would desire that for everyone.
© Dundanim. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
© NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
The next two pictures: © kikkerdirk. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
© Zwiebackesser. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com.