Fear: The Root of Hatred and Great Enemy of Community

I’ve been hearing the word “hate” a lot lately. It’s not a new concept. Though one may try and protect the unconditional loving innocence of a child, hatred is a notion that one grows into this world understanding at an early age. I watched examples of hatred in TV programs, learned about it in history books, and even experienced it from those around me personally. Hatred is not foreign to me. However, as of late, examples of hatred in our country have saturated our political, social and religious climate in ways that are inescapable. Everywhere you turn, hate is being discussed. Hate is being revered while at the same time that very hate is being challenged. Hate is being emblematized on my television screen and embodied on my computer screen. Its ignorance and violence is no respecter of person. I’d even go as far as to say that hatred’s blindness would have it believe itself to be love.

I’ve looked up definitions of hatred to get to know it better and to gain an understanding of it. I can see the effects of hatred and even the symptoms, but I fail to understand its philosophy. Definitions of hatred use terms such as “dislike”, “intolerance” and “hostility”, all of which seem to fall short of the vehement fruit that we see it bear. It was later that I realized that hatred never exists apart from its main counter part, and perhaps it’s through that, we can come to discover what hatred’s end game is. At the root of hatred is its counterpart, fear.

“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is really fear.” – Mahatma Ghandi

“In time we hate that which we often fear.” – William Shakespeare

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other[b] because he loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer,[c] that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?”– 1 John: 4

In his essay “The Growing Age”, Howard Thurman said that fear is the great enemy of community. If fear is the great enemy of community, could it be that this gives us an idea into the end game of hatred? In my mind, this end game would be to separate us from God and subsequently from our very own souls.

In the book of Genesis, the creation story concludes with God’s final creation in humankind. “Let us make man in our own image”, God says. In Christian Trinitarian theology, this “us” is an essential part of this creation story because it insinuates plurality, which would accommodate the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit. There is this idea that though God is one, God exists in community; and if God exists in community, and we were made in the image of God, then we, too can only discover ourselves and know God through community. Whether this aligns with your perspective of God or not, hopefully we can all agree to the significance of God’s continual emphasis on creating and sustaining community in and throughout history.

There is a poem by William Blake that Martin Luther King, Jr. used to quote.

“I sought my soul, But my soul I could not see. I sought my God, But my God eluded me. I sought my brother, And I found all three.”

It suggests that through our love of “other” and of neighbor, that we find both our own souls as well as God. If fear is the root of hatred, and fear is the enemy of community, then the further we move away from community, the further we move away from God. That is the godless society in which we should fear. A society so polarized and embittered that God cannot live among us. A society so detached that we lose our very souls.

In that same essay, Howard Thurman went on to say, “One has to deal with hatred.” I echo those sentiments. Hatred cannot only be assessed, but it must be dealt with. We must start with confronting it within ourselves among our own fears and how we may be out of harmony with others. Then we can navigate the challenging realities of confronting the human family in its own incongruity.