Of course, virtually all people know that “there is a time to love.” It is, after all, the most important human virtue in life. But many people do not believe that “there is a time to hate.” They suppose that any form or kind of hate is wrong. Today, I want to explain why not all forms of hate are wrong; in fact, some are right. To support my point, I want to draw briefly from the writings of two heroes of the 20th century: Elie Wiesel, the prominent Holocaust survivor, and Martin Luther King, Jr., the prominent civil rights leader; both of whom won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Indifference: Worse Than Hate
Which is worse: hate or indifference? Indifference! Hate, at least, acknowledges the existence of someone. In other words, hate, a negative emotion, is at least directed at a human person. However, indifference does not even acknowledge the existence of the other as a human being. For an indifferent person, the other literally makes “no difference.” He or she, for all practical purposes, does not even exist.
Objections to Hate
Hate may also motivate a person to fight injustice and other forms of evil. Elie Wiesel observes,
“Even hatred at times may elicit a response. You fight it. You denounce it. You disarm it. Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response.”
However, some people may object to hate having any moral value, saying, “Hate is never right” or “Christians should not hate.” On the contrary, there is, in the words of the Jewish Scriptures, “a time to love and a time to hate” (Ecclesiastes 3:8a, NIV). Even Yahweh, the Lord, hates, among other things, “hands that shed innocent blood,” which is murder (Proverbs 6:17c). Wiesel, then, is correct: It is right to hate evil or morally abhorrent acts.
The Paradoxical Condition of the Living Dead
In a sense, indifference is the paradoxical condition of the “living dead.” Those who experience that condition are, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.,
“Too unconcerned to love and too passionless to hate…, too indifferent to experience joy and too cold to experience sorrow.”
Essentially, King and Wiesel agree about the sad condition of indifference. Wiesel even goes so far as to call indifference “a sin.”
Insensibility as a Psychological and Moral Defect
The psychological and moral equivalent to indifference is “insensibility,” which is not being able to feel for others, to have sympathy or compassion for them. Insensible persons have become desensitized to pain and suffering. They are, then, numb to various kinds of injustices from which people suffer. At least hate, directed appropriately, say, at injustice or oppression, is indicative of someone being alive emotionally. A person, then, may rightfully hate indifference or insensibility.
Hating the Moral Act, Not the Person
Of course, it is wrong to hate a person. However, it is not wrong to hate that for which the individual stands. Nor is it wrong to hate a person’s evil acts. In fact, Yahweh, the Lord, tells his people to “Hate evil, love good” (Amos 5:15a, NIV). A moral education teaches human beings to love that which is good and hate that which is evil, while neither confusing an evil act with the person nor the difference between good and evil.
Conclusion: The Moral Application to Afghanistan
It is, therefore, right to be moved emotionally by the moral crisis going on in Afghanistan: To see Afghans, in their own country, attempting to flee from terrorists; to see Afghan mothers giving away their own children for a better life in another country; to feel anger at the prospect of innocent American citizens and their allies being stranded by one of the most powerful military forces in the world. It is also right to hate terrorism and what it does to the lives of its innocent victims.
Who can see such things and feel nothing? Who can witness the evil of terrorism and not care? Only those that are not “alive” morally, spiritually and psychologically. Rather, says Dr. King, “they merely exist.” Inside, they are “dead” and do not even know it.