When Presidential Candidates Refuse to Hate Evil
Last week, presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was asked whether he would meet Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader. Cory’s response: “I don’t feel the need to do that, but I’m not one of these people that says I wouldn’t sit down with anybody to hear what they have to say.”
He then added that he is highly acquainted with Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam from his time as mayor of Newark: “I am very familiar with Minister Louis Farrakhan and his beliefs and values.”
Of course, what Cory should have said, is this: “I just condemned a former vice president of the United States for saying he hung out with segregationist Senators. So of course I would not meet with Louis Farrakhan, who has called Jews ‘termites’ and ‘satanic,’ and referred to Hitler, who murdered six million Jews, as ‘a very great man.’”
But Cory did not say any of this. Instead, he left the door open to meeting a man who employs Nazi terminology about Jews.
A repulsion to evil seems to be missing from many of America’s presidential candidates and leading political figures. Democratic US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii made the colossal mistake of meeting with Bashar al-Assad, even after he used poison gas on Arab children.
Ask yourself how it is that the world watched as multiple genocides have unfolded.
The liberal answer is that we do not love enough. Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, a fine and wise woman, said in last week’s Democratic debate that we have to change America through love. That’s an uplifting message. But only so long as it is matched on the flip side with a hatred of evil.
Many liberals seek to understand rather than detest evil. They justify murderous actions based on poverty, persecution, or gullibility. We are often told that murderers of Israeli Jews were humiliated at checkpoints, unemployed in Gaza, or felt their only option was to engage in terrorism.
The failure of liberalism, and the reason for its repudiation in the political arena — where now it has to use the new name “progressivism” — is rooted in its unwillingness to hate evil. Many learned this from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, when he said, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
This noble sentiment is often misinterpreted, however, by those who fail to distinguish between the petty grievances Jesus was referring to and mass murder. Jesus did not mean to equate the person who stole your parking space with a mass murderer. He said to love your enemies, not God’s enemies, such as neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville.
The act of taking a human life is a crime against God, who created life and endowed it with infinite worth. Individuals who have erased the image of God from their countenance through savage acts of brutality have removed themselves from the human family. Our love must be directed toward the victims of violence, not the victimizers.
The Bible teaches in Psalm 97, “Let those who love the Lord hate evil.” Proverbs Chapter 8 tells us: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” And, in Ecclesiastes, King Solomon says, “there is a time to love and a time to hate.”
Last week was the third anniversary of the passing of Elie Wiesel, the great Holocaust survivor and humanitarian, who once told me, “We can’t hate our enemies. It seeps into our blood and poisons us.”
True. We should never hate our enemies. But we must detest God’s enemies, those who engage in mass murder and genocide, slaughtering God’s children.
There was a reason that Franklin Roosevelt forced Winston Churchill to accept the American insistence on the “unconditional surrender” of Germany, when both were at the Casablanca Conference. Churchill was sure it was a mistake and would make Germany fight to the last man, which it did. But for Roosevelt, Nazism was something repulsive and odious, and an armistice could never be offered.
How are we supposed to demonstrate our moral resolve to fight extremists — right-wing, left-wing, or religious — who wish to exterminate Jews, Christians, or Muslims if we don’t leverage a loathing of them which compels us to fight them?
How are we supposed to react to terrorists who bomb babies, who use children as human shields, and who indoctrinate their youth with the belief they will reach a heavenly paradise by blowing themselves up along with as many innocent bystanders as possible?
Abraham Lincoln did not suffer from an ambivalence to evil. He recognized slavery as an abomination, and said in 1854, “I cannot but hate slavery. I hate it because of its monstrous injustice.”
And while Churchill challenged the American policy of unconditional surrender, he did not equivocate on his own hatred of the German Nazis. He said openly that “I hate no man but Hitler.” And because he hated the beast, he inspired a nation to fight him.
Is not every stain of genocide upon the human timeline accompanied by a larger, darker mark of global indifference? The mass murder of Jews began in 1941, with the German invasion of Soviet Russia and the Einsatzgruppen death squads. After the Wannsee Conference, it would lead to the gas chambers and the murder of 10,000 Jews per day for the next three years. But these crimes could not have occurred without the world first excusing Nazi antisemitism as a benign phenomenon that would ultimately pass.
The appropriate response to today’s evil was expressed by former French President François Hollande following a horrific terrorist attack in Paris. “I despise these terrorists with every fiber of my being,” he said. “I hate them and everything they stand for. And I will fight them to the last man.”
We must passionately hate antisemitism and other forms of bigotry, in order to summon the determination to fight them fervently. The threat of genocide today becomes the reality of mass murder tomorrow.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. summed it up best: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
Love alone doesn’t work. Darkness is spreading around the world because we sometimes love evildoers too much. We have forgotten that hate can be kosher, but only when it is exclusively directed at the truly wicked.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the author of 32 books including The Israel Warrior. The Washington Post and Newsweek call him “the most famous Rabbi in America.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.