It can be disheartening to read the news these days. We seem to be in a season of time in which hatred is the prevailing motivator for many people. Just today, news stories are coming out that show explosive devices being sent to the homes of people such as George Soros, the Clintons, and the Obamas. There are increasing numbers of people being arrested for violent outbursts against those expressing political positions that differ from their own. There is applause for the use of force against dissenting opinions. The root of many of these situations is hatred. Hatred of those who see life differently; hatred for those who live life with a different motivation or perspective. Hatred for anything that is not us. Regardless of our political or ideological alignment, as followers of Christ, we cannot condone or support the use of violence to further a political ideology or to suppress a counter-ideology. Such pursuits of violence spring from hearts filled with hatred for those who are not “on our side” rather than from the heart of Christ, who said love others, including enemies and those who hate you.
I was reminded this week of the dangers of this prevailing wind of hatred while reading an article about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In a 1957 speech, commenting on the commandment to love our neighbor, our enemy, and even to love those who hate us, he said,
There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater.
If the darkness of hatred is multiplying around us, we must magnify the light of love into the midst of it. We cannot give in to the temptation to join the ranks of those who are motivated by hatred, fear, and division, and must instead stand firm on the foundation of love, hope, and forgiveness that marked the life and ministry of Christ. As Dr. King said, "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
My prayer for myself, my family, and this parish is that we stand firm, shining the light of Christ's love into the growing darkness of hatred around us.
(as published in St. Luke’s weekly newsletter, 10/24/18)