There is a great difference in excellency, usefulness, and comfort between people of clear, digested knowledge, and confused, undigested apprehensions. -Richard Baxter

do you really have to be taught to hate?

Whenever you read a story or hear about an individual who is unabashedly prejudiced or racist, it’s only a matter of minutes before you hear the “voice of reason” explaining that this kind of hatred is yet more evidence that, as the song in South Pacific sings, “you have to be taught to hate.”

"You've got to be taught to hate and fear,
you've got to be taught from year to year,
it's got to be drummed in your dear little ear---
you've got to be carefully taught!. . . ."

This afternoon I read of a two Olsen-like set of twins who’ve made it onto the national scene with their, I suppose, “hip” style of exalting such infamously racist figures as Hitler and his cadre. And of course, as you have come to expect, their unambiguously racist banter has immediately been labeled as one more instance of the inculcation of hate–hate that would never have emerged were it not “taught” them.

I would not deny that these twin tweeners have been bestowed a whole agenda that will, for a season, garner them a spike of blushing attention. Had they never been introduced to Hitler, to an ideology espousing the alleged advantages of a “pure” race, to the base lies that a diverse people is a doomed people, I’m reluctant to say they (the most ignorant pre-teens or the most learned baby-boomers) would’ve conjured such ideas themselves–much less turn those ideas into an agenda. But do you think hate–that mysterious feeling that is ironically “delicious” (nod to Frederica Mathewes-Greene) to those who indulge in it– is really some force that would not penetrate the human soul unless it were put in us by something external to us? The drive to hate, the urge to think oneself superior, the proclivity to shift blame to the “other” to such a degree that the blame manifests in contempt–sure, personalities, experiences or other external things may, as it were, add fuel to the fire, but is that fire not somehow kindled by something within?

I’m a pastor. That disqualifies my perspective in many eyes because I come to the table with the presupposition that there is something fundamentally flawed within us–that sin, often manifested in hatred, comes all too naturally for us. But based on the evidence of history, or on your own experiences, is it too simple to conclude that “you have to be taught to hate?” The objects of hatred, I concede, require something pointing us to them, but the propensity to see them as worthy of hatred–who can argue with Solzhenitsyn when he says, every human heart is shot through with wickedness?

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