US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Is hate an American voter value? No, but self-preservation is

Meghan Murphy-Gill | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Gary Laderman at Religion Dispatch says that hate is "as American as apple pie," and it's "[a] sentiment stitched into the fabric of national life from the early stirrings of Revolution in the colonies (they hated the old rulers across the Atlantic) to contemporary feelings about the government (we hate the rulers in Congress)." I beg to differ.

First, this is a rather crude reading of American history. I've heard people talk about the Revolution in terms of the Enlightenment's philosophies and ideals and American revivalism. When you look at these two streams of early American life as converging in the Revolutionary War, it seems silly to add hate to the equation. I'm no expert on early American history, but I know enough to at least say that the revolutionaries didn't so much as hate their rulers in England as much as they were fed up with monarchical government and, of course, "taxation without representation."

Second, I've never heard anyone describe contemporary feelings about government as hateful. Rather, I hear more in terms of disillusionment and frustration. Maybe that's just my generation though. Sure, there's a considerable amount of hatefulness alive in contemporary culture; the Quran burning fiasco is a perfect example.

What I think drives voters to the polls isn't hate-I'm much too optimistic about the human condition to think that-but a mix of idealism and self-preservation, both of which are rooted in our early history has a country.  The right of every human to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is stated clearly in the Declaration of Independence, and those ideals continue to be held dear today.

It seems simple enough, but when we add self-preservation into the picture, our sense of these ideals is muddied. It is often easier to affirm them when the humans we're talking about look like us, think like us, and act like us. Self-preservation is obviously more than just an American value; it's part of our hardwiring as creatures.

Laderman ponders, "Perhaps religion itself, at some early evolutionary point in human history, emerged not as an outgrowth of altruism or loving bonds between community members, but rather as a result of hateful differences between groups." I lament that it can often feel that way, that religion can be construed as exclusivist communities formed out of a need to self preserve.

Ironically, most religions teach us to deny this evolutionary trait, and it's these teachings that stand the test of time. John the Baptist said rather poetically, "He must increase; I must decrease." "He," of course, is Christ, but if Christ is the divine as human, then to we ought to love and serve the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of others, not just our own.