Love and Hate: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Not long ago, I happened to observe an ugly clash between a group of Japanese leftists and anti-Korean rightists in downtown Sapporo, Japan, each group chanting its own slogan.  The leftist one was "No more hate speech!"  Regrettably, some anti-Korean feeling still exists in Japan.  Nevertheless, the booming popularity of Korean singing groups and dramas in Japan has done wonders to elevate the image of Koreans in recent years.  Less effective have been the sermons of leftists, who have manifested plenty of bigotry of their own.

Nowadays, many imagine that humanity is divided into two tribes: the party of love and the party of hate.  People proposing this theory tend to flatter themselves that they belong to the love tribe.  On top of that, they often believe they can abolish the other tribe's existence by passing edicts against it.

This summer, Japan joined ranks of the EU and other nations by passing its own hate speech law.  Thankfully, the law has no teeth, since there are no penalties attached to it.

Besides providing legal sanction for bullying the politically incorrect, such laws are also an exercise in futility.  The reality is that everyone loves and everyone hates, including those who wish to ban hatred.  This is plain from the fact that they demonize hatred itself, which clearly reveals their hostility to that emotion.  In reality, those who talk ostentatiously about love and hate often turn out to be people with great animosity to various groups and practices.  For instance, the hippies were great haters, though they talked a lot about love and peace.  They usually hated "the system," monogamy, chastity, conventional clothing, short hair, the military, and sobriety.

Love and hate derive their moral character from the objects they are directed toward.  They do not exist in some kind of vacuum, where we can admire or abhor them as isolated emotions.  As an example of "a very loving person," consider someone who loves torturing frogs and bullying the weak.  Few would be impressed by his love, and fewer still would feel inclined to censure the hatred of someone who declared, "I hate human trafficking."

Progressive mantras such as "love trumps hate" get it completely wrong.  Those who use them seem to believe that good people are motivated by love, while bad people are motivated by hate.  However, love and hate are not somehow in opposition; they are joined together at the hip.  A person will always hate the opposite of what he loves.  Moreover, hatred is always the proper response to something that is truly odious.

The eighteenth-century American theologian Jonathan Edwards understood this well.  In his book of sermons about love, titled Charity and Its Fruits, he wrote, "From love arises hatred of those things which are contrary to what we love, or which oppose and thwart us in those things that we delight in[.] ... From a vigorous, affectionate, and fervent love to God, will necessarily arise other religious affections: hence will arise an intense hatred and abhorrence of sin."

When someone mistreats a beloved family member, that person naturally incurs a strong negative reaction from others in the same family.  Likewise, Edwards believed that genuine love for God produces hatred for those things that offend God and considered this hatred a necessary evidence of real Christian love.  Clearly, he did not hold to the modern psychotherapeutic concept of love as "unconditional acceptance."  The nineteenth-century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon concurred, remarking, "It is well to be a good hater."  Men like Edwards and Spurgeon were simply taking to heart passages in the Bible such as Proverbs 8:13 ("the fear of the Lord is to hate evil") and Psalm 97:10 ("hate evil, you who love the Lord").

Evil does not necessarily arise from a tainted emotional root.  As many have observed, people can do destructive, malevolent things on the basis of cool-headed, ideologically motivated calculation.  Fanatics of all stripes have slaughtered multitudes without being particularly consumed with hostile feelings; at times, they have even had to fight down compassionate feelings for their victims.  Their ideologies simply demanded those deaths in the name of the cause.  A murderer motivated by mere hatred will stop when his feelings are satisfied; an ideological killer will never stop until his utopian dreams are realized – something that never happens.

At an education conference, I once heard a presenter from the University of Minnesota at Mankato testify that she proclaims during her lectures, "I declare this classroom to be a no-hate zone!"  That proclamation seems as likely to succeed as forbidding students to daydream in class.  Since good and evil both exist in the world, there will always be an appropriate place for both love and hate, and as long as people love, they will also hate.

Bruce W. Davidson is a professor at Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo, Japan and a contributor to the forthcoming Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia.