I suppose our ability to hate could be the monster offspring of the fight-or-flight impulse. In order to survive, we human beings learned to detect a threat, and to run away or defend our turf. Do that often enough and a pattern forms, an enemy becomes a familiar threat. We grow an emotion that is attached to the impulse. Hate is born.
What about love? Where does that come from? People like me who believe in God believe that love is an extra chromosome-like thing that God drops into the human heart. Of course, we believers struggle with God and the existence of hate, too. If God created us in the divine image, does the Divine One have a fight-or-flight impulse? Or is fear part of free will, and part of the development of the human psyche that God allows to unfurl as we march onward? We have free will, therefore, we have fear and hate – that’s the pat answer in my head when those sticky questions arise.
This morning’s glance at the news apps on my I-phone prompted the thinking. Today is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and this morning there are blog posts and headlines and editorials in abundance about the value of that speech and the state of race relations in our nation today. The president and his advisors are contemplating military action in Syria. I looked at a gorgeous and heartbreaking slide show of elephants in Africa being slaughtered for their ivory tusks. The controversy of gay and lesbian athletes at the Russian Olympics continues. Perpetrators of rape in the U.S. and India are being sought and persecuted, while some of those victims die or take their own lives. Miley Cyrus seems to be getting a fair bit of press, too.
Hate abounds, borne out of fear and control and ignorance and a desire for power (which comes from fear and control.) Does love abound more? Is there more love than hate, or are we fighting a losing battle? And should I even use military language to describe love? Is hate easier to see than love? Is it easier to hate than it is to love? Is hate more natural than love?
I want love to win. I really do. I want love to be stronger than hate, I want love to stand up to the racists, and the chemical weapons, and the poaching, and the homophobia, and the violence, and the judgment. I want love to win, but it’s not going to unless we let go of all the crap that is the by-product of that primordial fight-or-flight impulse.
I want love to win, and I want more love. Not everyone who wants love to win shares the same belief system that I do. That’s okay. I know some very loving atheists, and I’d be interested in knowing what they think is the source of love. Is there even a source of love, or is it someone we develop, work on, strengthen, build up?
We’ve been reading Robert Coles’ book about Ruby Bridges with our daughter. I cannot read it without tearing up, thinking about that brave little six-year-old going to school with an armed guard, praying for the people who were shouting such terrible things at her. There was love in that heart; there was courage too. Maybe that’s it: hate is borne out of fear, but love is borne out of courage.
May we have brave hearts.