There are, of course, instances of anger, fear, and even hatred that are functional (e.g., the fight or flight response to threats) and desirable (e.g., indignation at injustice). Scripture has numerous instances where these emotions are put in a positive light. King Solomon famously stated that there is “a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:8). And the shepherd prophet, Amos, enjoins the people to “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate” (Amos 5:15).
Unlike anger and fear, however, there is one emotion, namely envy, which is proscribed uniformly in Scripture, from Adam and Eve’s temptation to envy God’s knowledge of good and evil to the Tenth Commandment which forbids us to covet. The tragic effects of envy curdling into hatred are nowhere more evident than in politics, past and present. The animosity of competing political groups has a long, but certainly not venerable, history. The envy of the “outs” of the power and prestige of those in leadership (whether of the opposing party or their own) often makes the effort to govern a near impossibility.
It is no use simply to call — as many voices have done in the wake of the eruption of vitriol following the Tucson massacre — for a “return” to the civility of an earlier golden age in politics, an age that never was. If there is to be a shining age of civil discourse, we shall, by the grace of God, have to invent one.
To make the positive course correction being called for, it will first be necessary to recognize the difference between the direction in which we are heading and the direction that needs to be taken. And herein lies the rub. Which party to today’s political acrimony is prepared to admit the need to change course? Certainly those who have bought into the moral relativism pushed by today’s learned thinkers can hardly be expected to abandon the position that “your truth is your truth and my truth is mine.” If there is no absolute truth, then there are no facts, no lies, no moral standards — just feelings and opinions as to which course to follow. Admitting any need to examine the factual basis for their hatred of anyone opposing their ideas would entail postmodern secularists denying their feelings; this would be, to them, an act of self-betrayal.
One fairly representative stalwart progressive (who puts her perceptions ahead of the truth of Scripture) said it this way: “What kind of person would I be if I could not react, temporarily at least, to injustice, presumption, evil, or arrogant idiocy with feelings of anger or rage? Would that not be an amputation of my emotional life?” Hmm. Since there’s no recognized moral authority, is she referring to her definition of evil or mine? And what is a more “arrogant idiocy” than the attempt to construct morality out of little more than the feeling that the only thing worthy of opprobrium is prejudice and discrimination; otherwise it’s the amorality of “do as you please,” but don’t presume to try hold me to any moral standard.
The Old Testament, on the other hand, lays down a standard and requires of its adherents, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart” (Leviticus 19:17). Christ raised the bar even higher. He taught his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you’” (Matthew 5:43-44).
Only if our people return to the hard moral precepts revealed in Scripture can we find a new course — a true course — to an age where there is any hope that we can “all get along,” one where Martin Luther King’s dream of freedom, equality, and justice can become a reality.