Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Howard Thurman on the rise of hatred

According to Howard Thurman (in Jesus and the Disinherited), our hatred is normally taboo. But occasionally (as in a war or national crisis) it "provides for us a form of validation or prestige". Thurman, for example, "noticed a definite rise in rudeness and overt expressions of color prejudice" after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. These times also serve to illustrate the way in which hatred arises.

"In the first place, hatred often begins in a situation in which there is contact without fellowship, contact that is devoid of any of the primary overtures of warmth and fellow-feeling and genuineness." It has often been observed that hatred of a certain person or group dissolves once the hater comes to genuinely know the hated.

"In the second place, contacts without fellowship tend to express themselves in the kind of understanding that is strikingly unsympathetic. There is understanding of a kind, but it is without the healing and reinforcement of personality." Not all understanding is sympathetic. There is a kind of understanding "that one gives to the enemy, or that is derived from an accurate knowledge of another's power to injure". Understanding without fellow-feeling may contain pity but never sympathy. "I can sympathize only when I see myself in another's place."

"In the third place, an unsympathetic understanding tends to express itself in the active functioning of ill will."

"In the fourth place, ill will, when dramatized in a human being, becomes hatred walking on the earth."

A current example of this process is Islamophobia. Those who are most clearly guilty of this are people who have no real fellowship with actual Muslims, or if they do it is not a relationship of sympathetic understanding. Some of them do have enough knowledge to quote bits of the Quran (often with no apparent awareness that the Bible contains troublesome passages as well). And some of them merely say, "All I need to know about Islam I learned on 9/11". This is fertile ground for hatred.

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About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.