And Hate the Sinner Too
Let me surprise you for a moment. The reason that tragedies, like the outrageous terrorist bombing in Boston this week, continue to take place is not because the world lacks love but rather because it doesn’t have enough hate. Living in a Christian world that teaches us to ‘love the sinner’, we find excuses for evil and refuse to dedicated ourselves fully to its destruction.
North Korea is a case in point. As the young, brutal, dictator Kim Jong Un threatens the world with nuclear Armageddon, we continue to make him the but of late-night jokes. As the world stood by and watched, North Korea launched a satellite into space in December of last year and conducted another nuclear test this past February. It has vocalized its plans to attack the United States with nuclear weapons and is building missiles to achieve that end.
Still, we refuse to hate the man, depicting him rather as a moron who watches movies with Dennis Rodman. Visiting North Korea in February, the NBA space alien called Un “a friend for life” and announced plans to “have some fun” with Un again in August, saying he “just wants to be loved”. Through all this one of the world’s deadliest dictators inspires laughter rather than loathing, engendering entertainment rather than contempt. Forget the fact that his father starved 3 million people to death in order to feed his million-man army, a policy that the young monster continues, or that he terrorizes South Korea and the rest of the region. It’s an amazing thing. To be part of a regime that has slaughtered millions of people and to remain a fun curiosity to the rest of the world rather than an object of the deepest revulsion.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also regularly portrayed as, at worst, a clown and is given podiums at America’s leading Universities. Iran adds to this comedy with its foreign ministry recently scolding both America and North Korea to use restraint and not promote “provocative behavior.” As foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, “We think that the event that is intensifying between North Korea, South Korea and the United states should be controlled as soon as possible. Both parties should not move toward a corner in which there is a threatening climate.” Our reaction to such absurdity is to look upon the evil and lethal regime of Iran as a collection of buffoons. But make no mistake. They are deadly serious.
Sadly, the refusal to hate evil has become de regeur in world diplomacy. Speaking of the arch-murderer Hafez Al Assad at the time of his death, President Clinton said, “I have met him many times and gotten to know him very well. We had our difference, but I always respected him.” Respected the man who mowed down thousands of his own people with tanks in Hama? And was your refusal to abhor the man perhaps responsible for why his son thinks he can get away with the same thing?
Forgetting how to hate can be just as damaging as forgetting how to love. Immersed as we are in a Christian culture that exhorts us to “turn the other cheek,” this can sound quite absurd. Yet exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in our Bible. God Himself hates every form of wickedness as harmful to mankind. Thus the book of Proverbs declares, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Likewise, King David declares regarding the cruel: “I have hated them with a deep loathing. They are as enemies to me.”
Hatred is a valid emotion, an appropriate response, when directed at the truly evil. Contrary to Christianity, which advocates turning the other cheek to belligerence and loving the wicked, Judaism obligates us to despise and resist evil at every turn. In my book “Kosher Jesus” I explain that Jesus said to “love your enemies,” not God’s enemies. The former are those who steal your parking space. The latter are those engaged in genocide. Likewise, when Jesus said “turn the other cheek,” he meant to petty slights and insults, not to mass murder.
When I served as Rabbi at Oxford the BBC had me discussing the tragic bombing of a gay pub that killed three people. I referred to the bomber as a wicked abomination. On the line was President Clinton’s spiritual advisor at the time, Pastor Tony Campolo, who cautioned that we had to love the bomber in the spirit of compassion and forgiveness. In England I remember so vividly as victims of IRA terrorist attacks, who lost fathers or husbands, often immediately announced their forgiveness and love for the murderers.
This is insane.
The individual who, motivated by irrational hatred, chooses to murder innocent victims is irretrievably wicked, has cast off the image of God from his countenance, has irreversibly compromised his humanity, and has forfeited his place in the global human community. Of the terrorists who bombed innocent runners in Boston I say we have an obligation to destroy them before they destroy us.
Amid my deep respect for the Christian faith, I state unequivocally that to love the terrorist who bombs a marathon or the white supremacist who drags a black man three miles behind a car, is not just stupid, it is deeply sinful. To love evil is itself evil and constitutes a passive form of complicity.
The Talmud certainly teaches that the object of hatred should be the sin, not the sinner, whose life must be respected and whose repentance effected. The Bible teaches that it is forbidden to rejoice at the downfall of even those sinners whom it is proper to hate: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth.”
However, this attitude does not apply to impenitent and inveterate monsters who pay no heed to correction. For us to extend forgiveness and compassion to them in the name of religion is not just insidious, it is a mockery of God who has mercy for all yet demands justice for the innocent. To show kindness to the murderer is to violate the victim yet again.
I am waiting for an American political leader of either party, in the wake of a tragedy like Boston, to stand up and say, “America hates terrorists and will pursue them to the corners of the globe to purge them from the earth.” President Obama’s comments, by contrast, that “We will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable,” could have been said about someone who painted graffiti on a subway. It just isn’t strong enough.
Yes, I know the old Bob Dylan song, that if we take an eye for an eye we’ll just end up blind. But hating evil is not revenge but rather about upholding the infinite value of life and preserving justice.
The immorality and stupidity of pacifism is something that even brilliant men can get wrong, most notably Albert Einstein. “I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist.” He believed that the moral nations of the world should disarm, that is until Hitler started putting children in gas chambers. It was then that he alerted President Roosevelt, in August of 1939, to the imperative of the United States getting an atomic bomb before Germany.
Let us never forget the immortal words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “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.”
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books and the winner of the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. He was the London Times Preacher of the Year at the Millennium and has just published “The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering”. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.