The Power of Hate and Love

The Power of Hate and Love

2018.11.02

All Soul’s Day

 

The current events of this past week that made international headlines all had one common thread – hate.  Most of us think of hate as the polar opposite of love but it turns out that there are a great many things these two contradictory emotions have in common. 

 

In 2008 a study was conducted in the United Kingdom at the University College London regarding the effect of hate on our bodies, specifically the brain.  Test subjects’ brains were mapped with an MRI scanner while they looked at pictures of people they had identified as hating.  When they viewed these photos, activity was observed in the regions of the putamen and insular cortex – the very same two brain regions that also light up when a person sees a picture of a loved one.  The difference with those they hated, though, was that the frontal cortex remained active as well.  When we view a picture of someone we love, the areas of the frontal cortex associated with judgment and critical thinking typically become less active than normal.

 

The putamen region of the brain is also that section that prepares the body for action.  Its involvement with both emotions of love and hate are interesting.  Are we ready to protect someone we love?  Do we expect to need to defend ourselves or run away from someone we hate?  Does the frontal cortex take a break with someone we love because we feel safe?  Is the frontal cortex one step ahead with someone we hate, preparing an escape plan if necessary?  Apparently hating involves more thinking than loving someone.

 

Love seems to have been a part of our lives from the initial breath but hate is a fairly new emotion in human evolution.  Did it develop as a defense mechanism or to justify doing what was necessary in order to live in harsh circumstances? 

 

This week a mass exodus took place with thousands of people walking in a caravan towards the United States of America.  These people, much like the Hebrews in Biblical stories, are seeking a better life.  For many of them, it is the only way they feel they can have a life.  Such migrations are nothing new in the natural world.  Many animals do it every fall and spring.  IN the skies over the Mid-Atlantic states, geese are seen and heard migrating to warmer climates in the fall and then again back home to their northern homes in the spring.  Butterflies, birds, bison… Nature knows the effects of the harsh weather on itself and seeks survival.  Many in the USA, including those in Congress and the White House, are disclaiming those seeking a new life.  They feel threatened.  Is their hatred simply a defense mechanism in place?

 

What effect does this hateful rhetoric on have those hearing it?  Is it simply one way for politicians to make a name for themselves and garner public attention they feel translates into votes?  It is a tactic that has worked in the past.  People go to the polls and tend to vote on name recognition rather than stated platforms and experience.  Why else would a nation that considers itself more Christian than anything else vote in a leader who has publicly broken at least half of the Ten Commandments?

 

Hate kills, not only in past examples of lynching and this week’s murders motivated by racism and neo-Nazi rhetoric.  Hateful discourse harms everyone who hears it.  It raises our blood pressure.  Negative comments cause our bodies to have elevated cortisol levels which often inhibits weight loss.  It leads to depression which then results in higher suicide rates, consumption of alcohol and greater use of medications, both prescription and by those self-medicating.

 

Hate is mentioned in the Book of Genesis and in Indian Vedic scripture and ancient Greeks gave much thought to its meaning. The 4th century B.C. philosopher Diogenes Laertius defined hate as “a growing or lasting desire or craving that it should go ill with somebody.”  Science now can prove we do indeed go ill with hate.

 

Rutgers University sociologist Martin Oppenheimer, who with his family fled Nazi persecution in the 1930s, argues that hate is sown among a group by identifying and exploiting their frustrations, insecurities, and/or fear of losing out on things they want or need. The trick is convincing people that the explanation for their problems is someone else who is threatening to take away things that ought to be theirs, or is a menace to their safety. Additionally, he says, organized hatred helps give meaning to the lives of those who feel marginalized. “These are the movements of growing numbers of the insecure, who seek islands of safety in a rapidly changing and increasingly insecure world.”

 

The written and spoken word has done much to further the cause of hatred in the world.  What we often forget, though, is that the power of love can be equally as strong.  “Love thy neighbor” is not just a religious saying, one found in almost every religion in the world.  It is also a basic tenet of living with someone else.  We all live with others on this planet so we need to learn how to do that. 

 

The American bishop, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his homily at the wedding of the U.K.’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle earlier this year.  “The late Dr. Martin Luther King once said and I quote: ‘We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this whole world a new world. But love, love is the only way,” Bishop Michael Curry said.  “There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There is power, power in love.”

Answering the Call

Answering the Call

Detours in Life

Pentecost 27

 

I am not sure what they had originally planned for yesterday, Saturday, August 12th.  Maybe spending family time or simply doing chores at home.  One was a veteran law enforcement officer with more than two decades as a Virginia state trooper. The other was a pilot who transferred to the state police aviation unit last month and was one day away from his 41st birthday.

 

Both Virginia State Police troopers died Saturday when their police helicopter crashed and burned in Charlottesville, as they patrolled near the site of clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters.  State police identified the victims as pilot Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, 40. Both men died at the scene.

 

Their helicopter was “assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville,” according to a police statement.  The aircraft crashed in a wooded area near a residence just before 5 p.m. No one on the ground was injured, and officials are still investigating the cause of the crash.

 

Others had decided to spend their Saturday upholding the ideals of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.  A young paralegal from Green County, Virginia, Heather Heyer had decided to peacefully protest the white supremacists holding the rally.  She was run over twice by a car driven by a twenty-year-old man, James Alex Fields, from Ohio.  Nineteen others were injured and taken to area hospitals.

 

All of these people suffered a detour yesterday.  Three made a detour from the living to death while another made a terribly misguided choice that resulted in injury and death.    Sometimes these things happen – death and injury.  Hopefully, when they do, it is for a good cause.  Yesterday it was not for a good cause.  Hatred is never a good excuse for death. 

 

We should strive to detour away from hatred and yet, many see, to thrive on it. We need to realize that we alone are responsible for many of the detours in our lives.  When we answer the call to be kind and just, supporting equality and goodness, then we can detour away from hate and create a positive, effective world.

 

I have mentioned the names of these casualties because we need to remember they were people.  It really does not matter what “side” they were on or if you agree with them.  When one person dies, the fabric of humanity is weakened.  Each life matters.  Each death is a tragedy.  Tomorrow should be promised for us all.

Myth of Power

Myth of Power

Pentecost 32

Legend or myth has it that the man known as Saint Andrew was crucified on two pieces of wood reminiscent of the Roman numeral for the number ten of “X”. For most who call this man Saint Andrew, there are two different myths about who he was and how he came to be a disciple of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. Both come from scripture, one being that Andrew, a common name of the time, followed the traveling preacher now called John the Baptist. The story says that when Andrew saw John’s cousin, Jesus, he immediately recognized him as the promised Messiah John the Baptist had been preaching about and become a follower of Jesus. Another story tells of Andrew and his broth Simon Peter out fishing when the man Jesus calls to them and invites them to be “fishers of men”. Whether you follow the story of Luke or of John, all agree that Andrew was present at the final meal Christian mythology calls the Last Supper.

After the death of Jesus, Andrew embarked on travels of his own, continuing to preach as John the Baptist and Jesus had done. He traveled along the Black Sea into Kiev and other regions. For such travels and preaching, he is considered the patron saint of Ukraine, Romania, and Russia. Andrew was tied with ropes to a structure known as a crus decussate or saltire, an x-shaped cross. He hung there until he died, martyred for his beliefs. The Eastern Orthodox cross has near its base a similar cross piece that makes the bottom reflect such a symbol.

Many legends and myths abound regarding Andrew. One tells of a ship carrying Andrew that ran aground on what today we call Cyprus. Andrew supposedly went ashore and struck his staff in the sandy soil, causing a spring of healing water to erupt. There are others regarding Cyprus as well as Malta and places within Romania. Those in Kiev lay claim to visitation by Andrew although some historians doubt this is true, believing that some just wanted to be able to make the claim to aid in tourism.

It is not disputed that Andrew’s relics or partial remains ended up in Scotland. The Roman emperor Constantinople was aid to have had “divine guidance” in sending these relics to Scotland. According to legend or myth, in 832 ACE, a group of Scots and Picts charged into battle with the mighty Angles near the modern city of Athelstaneford. The Scots’ leader Oengus prayed top Saint Andrew, vowing that if he experienced victory, he would make Andrew the patron saint of Scotland. The legend states that on the morning of the battle a crus decussate or saltire appeared in the sky, formed out of clouds. The modern-day flag of Scotland reflects a white saltire against a blue background. A 1320 declaration named Andrew to be the “first to be an apostle” and the patron saint of Scotland. Saint Andrew crosses, the saltire proudly displayed on the flag, were carved into Scottish fireplaces to ward off evil spirits and worn to offer protections from witches.

The Andrew’s Cross has been used by many countries and groups throughout time to reflect devotion to a cause and strength. It is used, as previously mentioned, on the flag of Scotland and on the flag of Jamaica. It appears in reverse coloration from Scotland on the flags on the Russian and Imperial Russian Navy flags. A red variation on a field of white appeared as crosses swords on the Spanish Burgundy Flag, the flag of the Spanish empire from 1506-1701 and as a Spanish naval land battle flag until 1843. The Spanish burgundy flag was the first flag to fly over some of the Southern U.S. territories known as Southern states and it is reflected in the flags of two states today, Florida and Alabama.

Flags were carried into battle as a mythology, a myth that denoted bravery as well as identification. During the early months of the United States civil uprising known as the War Between the States, the lack of such designation proved the reason for friendly fire on both sides. The Confederacy could not use the flag of the country from which it had just claimed independence so a new flag was adopted in 1861, bearing a left hand corner with seven and later thirteen stars in a circle with three broad stripes, two red with one white in the middle. This first flag of the Confederate States of America was called the “Stars and Bars’ flag.

However, this flag was very similar to the flag used by the United States and could not be easily identified on a field of battle. Resulting causalities from friendly fire were experienced on both sides due to the flag confusion. A plan was devised to use a flag of a state militia, the Northern Virginia militia’s flag. This second official flag of the C.S.A. contained a difference left-hand corner on a field of white and was known as the “Stainless Banner”. The corner decoration contained a Saint Andrew’s cross with stars embedded within the bars of the saltire on a field of crimson. The white background on which the corner sat would allow for easy visibility. A third flag was adopted with a red vertical bar on the right-hand side to prevent anyone from thinking the second flag might be flag of truce. Known as the “red-stained banner” it was under this flag that the final battles were fought and that the Confederacy stopped fighting.

The flag known today as the Confederate Flag is a myth since it never flew over any troops during the War Between the States. A radical group, based upon a myth previously discuss (see The Myth Killing Mankind” published June 18th), adopted a flag using only the left-hand corner of the second and third C.S.A. flags in the late 1800’s. Their myth believing their race to be superior has been responsible for the killing of many innocent people, most recently this past week in a church in South Carolina. Their use of the flag does not denote bravery but rather cowardice, the failure to be brave enough to be with someone different, the lack of courage to grow and become diverse, a weakness not to be respected, revered or duplicated.

For many, any use of a flag of the Confederacy evokes images of family and of the willingness to stand up for one’s convictions. Although many now recognize the multiple layers the War Between the States enveloped, most do not believe any way should be fought for the right to enslave any part of mankind. In a country that was founded for the rights of the common man to exist, a country whose major documents of organization, incorporation, and legislation all boast the words supporting and commemorating “human rights and dignity”, no emblems promoting slavery should be displayed in a judicial or legislative setting.

No one should fail to honor their ancestors, even when those ancestors fought for a cause now discovered to be in error. There is pride to be had in having courage but it takes even greater courage to live one’s belief. The U.S.A. was founded on religious principles that espoused “All men (women) were created equal”. That is no myth and continues to be the compass point from which all legislation and rulings are based.

The states that comprised the Confederacy were beaten and in their defeat had much to regain. The ensuing one hundred fifty-plus years have seen these once-defeated people rise up from the ashes, actual ashes, of their homes to once again thrive and survive. The original inhabitants of Florida and Alabama were the Spanish and their presence is reflected in the red and white saltire flags those states wave over their government buildings.

The Southern states were left with little after the war because war destroys. War never builds. The real strength of these people is not a misnamed flag. It is a myth to believe that a decoration can give power and the flag of a radical, cowardly group should not be desired … unless one wishes to proclaim cowardice and ignorance. The best testament and honor the modern South has given its history is the revival of its cities, the strength of its economy. To admit defeat and become strong again is a testament to its citizenry, people who today boast more integrated institutions, corporations, and entities than any other part of the U.S.A.

Like Andrew, power comes from walking one’s faith. You cannot claim to be Christian without remembering the words of Christian mythologies that state all are God’s children and all are to be respected. It is a foolish myth of power to believe one race to be supreme and to wave a flag that never was really a flag. What passes today for the Confederate Flag was simply a logo of a radical group of man who breathed hate, a hate born out of a fear of the future. It is a painful and embarrassing part of history that needs to die a natural death of misuse.

The flags of our history are just that – flags of antiquity, the past. No one can move forward by living in the past. Reenactments may seem like honoring the past but they must be done with wisdom and not become weekend entertainments. War is not entertaining. Neither is hatred and it should not be advertised in a nation that was founded on human rights. Be proud of your ancestors but let them live where they did – in the past. It is a myth of power to believe that we prepare for the future by repeating the mistakes of the past. Let the past live in museums and on the pages of history books. Today is for living. Today we need to write our own history of success and mankind working having the courage to work together.