You see hate in our political system, where hate gets you further politically than love.
President Obama seems to be a special target — and the tea party, many of whom seem to be haters, is now learning what it feels like to be hated.
Sports rivalries are fueled by hate — which seems an egregious waste of energy, especially when we look at our academic institutions. If your mental health is dependent on your college football team crushing its rival, you are entrusting to teenagers a power over you that borders on the ludicrous.
As a friend once said to me as I screamed at the TV on a football Saturday, "Get a life!" I am trying.
History offers the best illustrations of hate. Anne Applebaum, in her wonderful new book, "Iron Curtain," writes:
"The Germans considered Slavs to be subhumans, ranked not much higher than Jews ... and they thought nothing of ordering arbitrary street killings, mass public executions, or the burning of whole villages in revenge for one dead Nazi. The Soviet Union, meanwhile, considered its western neighbors to be capitalist and anti-Soviet strongholds whose very existence posted a challenge to the USSR."
We all know what Hitler and Stalin — the greatest haters in recent history — did to those they hated. They are only different in degree, not kind, from the bullies who strut around our schools.
So, why do we hate?
I thought I would consult "The Harvard Guide to Psychiatry," but the index failed to notate "hate," which says all I am going to say about where modern psychiatry is in terms of cultural analysis.
So, here is a theory not found in the above mentioned tome:
Groups are held together by shared ideals and symbols — here, think of religions or rah-rah football factories such as the universities of the Big Ten or especially the SEC.
But there is a second part of this theory — and I am here influenced by the school of psychoanalysis, which argues that the real energy of a group comes from a shared hatred of another group, an "outgroup," such as the Jews in Germany in 1933. They only made up 1 percent of the German population, but look how Hitler mobilized hate against a small minority to grease the skids to his rise to power in that pivotal year.
Another factor in hate is envy, which is why Cain killed his brother, Abel. Some of Jesus' fellow Jews were jealous of his great popularity among the people, especially the poor. Hate and envy led to his demise at the hands of the Romans, who hated Jews.
Organized religion, instead of helping people overcome their hate, is often an instigator of hate. Some churches and religions think of themselves as God's only path to salvation or his unique instrument in history. What arrogance! Look at how preachers have stirred up hatred toward homosexuals, Muslims (and Muslim preachers have returned the favor far too often), and those who uphold Roe v. Wade.
What is the solution to our hate? I would like to argue for the power of reason and critical thinking, but I am not optimistic about our power of reason, because what has far more power over us is our emotions. However, in our churches and schools, we must try our best to foster critical thinking and sharpen our tools of reason.
But the best way to overcome hate is with a power that emotionally is equally strong, and that is the power of love.
Compassion, empathy, our depth of emotion that can be harnessed to human frailties and suffering — these are our most effective weapons to combat hate. This was the path Jesus took. And so must we.
— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune religion columnist