Love Your Enemy, Even When It’s Your Duty to Kill Him

By John Zmirak Published on July 10, 2017

Though last time I wrote about the abuse by the Left of the epithet “hate group,” don’t get me wrong. It’s perfectly legitimate to worry about real hate groups. Actual hatred is the second most corrosive force in society, rjght after envy, with heedless lust bringing up third.

Despising the Sinner, Instead of the Sin

But what is hate? It can mean a number of things. Here are three useful secular senses of the word:

  • To loathe someone for things which aren’t his fault, which he can’t control and which do no harm to innocent third parties. Hence enmity aimed at members of ethnic groups fits the bill, or at people just because of their sexual temptations, drug addictions, or the fact that they are homeless — or that they were born into wealth.
  • To target the sinner as much as the sin. Hence deep personal animus aimed even at Communists, sharia advocates, aggressive atheists or sexual liberationists can cross the line into hate. Likewise, of course, hostility to pro-family activists, pastors, or Trump voters.
  • To wish such people not just defeat on the issues where you differ, but suffering or destruction. It’s easy to fall into this with a family as politically toxic and tragedy-prone as the Kennedys.

The Shadow Cast by Love

But we shouldn’t lose sight of the deepest meaning of hatred. Because it’s the black shadow cast by the deepest kind of love. As I wrote in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre back in 2012:

We are not a religion for pacifists, or those who would stand by dabbing our tears and caressing our consciences while the weak are victimized. Sometimes we have to wade in, sword or gun in hand, and use deadly force to quash the actions of evil men — and we must do so without hating them. That doesn’t mean without anger, or even without (where needed) the will to kill. The plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944 was carried out by a Catholic war hero, Claus von Stauffenberg, and met with the approval of Pius XII — who transmitted messages on behalf of the conspirators.

Nor is it hate to want to see a criminal be punished, or to take a grim satisfaction in the execution of his sentence. Only those who do not believe in life after death who could think this way; to them, earthly life is the only and ultimate good, so wanting to spoil that for or take that from someone (for any reason) amounts to hate. …

We believe that earthly life is good, and eternal life with God is infinitely better. So the only real act of hate we can commit is to hope that someone is damned.

If you are justly enraged at someone, and feel he must be confronted, defeated, even imprisoned lest he commit more injustices that does not mean you hate him. If that question worries you, ask yourself: “Do I wish this person damned? Would I rather see God’s will to save this person thwarted?” If you do, then you have crossed that fiery line inside the human heart, and have begun to side with the Enemy. If it helps, remember this: The same devil who goaded that evil man to sin takes delight in his damnation. The spirit which (Pius XII believed) possessed Adolph Hitler would have been happy to meet him in Hell.

The Answer Lies in Hamlet

The best way to illustrate this point is, not surprisingly, by citing Shakespeare. No artist saw the human person with the same depth as the Bard. What causes the tragic outcome in his most famous play, Hamlet? His father’s ghost informs Prince Hamlet that his uncle, Claudius, murdered him. That he stole both his wife and his throne. The ghost asks Prince Hamlet, as the rightful heir, to justly avenge his death by killing Claudius. So far, so good. There was no judicial way to redress that wrong and depose a tyrant. So Hamlet should have just done it.  There would have been no tragedy and hence not much of a play.

But Hamlet muffs his best opportunity. In Act 3 Scene 3, the Prince catches Claudius alone, unguarded, vulnerable. He could quickly and cleanly remove the tyrant and restore justice to Denmark. But Hamlet won’t act. Not out of hesitation or cowardice, but hatred. Because, you see, Hamlet sees that his uncle is kneeling to ask God for forgiveness.

Prince Hamlet:
Now might I do it pat. Now he is a-praying.
And now I’ll do ’t. And so he goes to heaven.
And so am I revenged.—That would be scanned.
A villain kills my father, and, for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven.

“May All My Enemies Go to Hell.”

Hamlet refuses. He gives up this golden chance at justice, at removing a tyrant with no innocent bloodshed. And why? Because he wants his uncle to go to Hell. He resolves to wait until Claudius reverts to his sinful ways — and to kill him then, in the midst of his sins.Hamlet

If you know the play, you remember that a long list of other people (most of them innocent) die because of Hamlet’s cruel decision: Ophelia, Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Laertes, Hamlet’s mother, and Hamlet himself. Had Hamlet loved his enemy, he still would have killed him. But wishing for his salvation, he wouldn’t have postponed this act of justice, trying to land his uncle in Hell.

Shakespeare drew on the deep Christian roots of his culture for a rich understanding of hatred, and the price it exacts. We can’t let our own responses to charges of “hate” be informed by the cheap, shallow discourse set by activist groups like the Southern Poverty Leadership Center, or the mainstream media.

We must seek the best for everyone, even our enemies, in this life and in the next. That means an ordered, virtuous life on earth and beatitude in heaven. We can settle for nothing less.

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  • tz1

    The easiest solution in the post homogamy world is to legalize and encourage necrophilia. The Corpse Bride is a thing. Though it might need to be the Gay Corpse Bride.

    But that isn’t the worse weakness. Liberals often use incendiary rhetoric (literally: “Lets burn down Memories Pizza, who’s with me?). There are lots of people who are my sworn enemies, many domestic, most slaughtering innocent babies to sell their parts at abortion clinics. Will you defend me killing them if I say I did it out of love?

  • I don’t need to be bribed by heaven nor frightened by hell into conducting myself decently, thank you very much. I treat others as I hope they would treat me, and not for hope of some kind of spiritual trophy.

    • JTLiuzza

      Your treatment of others is laudable but will amount to nothing if you reject Christ. Despite all the good deeds in the world you will land for all eternity with everyone else who didn’t fear hell and who rejected the only means of salvation: Jesus Christ, His Church, and His Sacraments.

      I know you don’t believe any of that but it is true nonetheless. Prayers for your conversion, Chuck. You have no idea how great it is to live in the Light. You’re alone where you are, no matter how you spin it.

      See the beautiful Lady in my avatar? She’s calling you.

    • Have you really thought your position through, Chuck?

      If you die and that’s the end, it won’t make any difference at all over the long haul whether you were a good person or a horribly evil one. People don’t get “spiritual trophies” in the afterlife, they get justice tempered with mercy.

  • Howard

    Actual hatred is the second most corrosive force in society, rjght [sic] after envy, with heedless lust bringing up third.

    I’m wondering where greed would be on Zmirak’s list. Would it be there at all, or does he see all the important sins as belonging to the Left, while the sins of the Right are mere peccadilloes? Not that there is much difference between Right and Left these days anyhow: the Republicans now control both houses of Congress, but their approach to abortion the slow-and-steady that aims to reverse Roe v. Wade in maybe a thousand years, they have completely accepted “gay marriage”, and they can barely be roused to defend States that have the gumption to say that girls’ restrooms should be reserved for, you know, actual girls. Heck, they can’t even come up with a sensible replacement for the Obamacare they have long derided.

    Frankly, I’d put pride at #1, followed by gluttony (not always about food, but generally all the selfishness that drives consumerism), sloth, lust, greed, envy, and wrath.

    Maybe the difference comes in what he means by “corrosive force in society”. The collapse of the family and the explosion of pornography have not created a political crisis (yet — their effects will bear fruit down the road) in quite the way a fruitcake shooting up some politicians has, but I would say these are much more corrosive to society than the envy Zmirak laments or even outright hatred. Even from a political point of view, the contented sloth of the American people, who have allowed us to go from a country willing to risk nuclear annihilation rather than become like East Germany to a country modeled on East Germany — spying on its own citizens, indulging in torture, etc. — has been more corrosive than envy.

    Don’t get me wrong, envy is bad, but the very fact that it is so prominent in the headlines is an indication it is not at the root of the problem. At any given time, the truly most corrosive force in society will be one that is unnoticed. The KKK, for example, was most dangerous when it was felt there was no real contradiction between being a Klansman and being a deacon in a church or a member of the chamber of commerce.

  • Robert McDealer

    “We must seek the best for everyone, even our enemies, in this life and in the next. That means an ordered, virtuous life on earth and beatitude in heaven. We can settle for nothing less.” I have got to admit that this piece ended far better than I might have hoped given it title. One thing does bother me, this idea of “our enemies”. What happened to the time when people were able to disagree on issues without becoming “enemies”. This very concept is one of the things that seems to be tearing this country apart. I am a liberal and have been one for ages… I believe in equals rights for everyone. I believe the law should be blind to the color of one’s skin, religion affiliation, gender, wealth/class, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc. I believe in American Values such as hard work and an even playing field. I believe in fairness. It is these American Values which are at the basis of my being a liberal and I believe that these values are shared by many conservatives. I believe that both liberals and conservatives believe we should take care of the sick, the elderly and the needy… because these are American Values. I believe we may have different ideas on how manifest these values but I believe we share the same basic values. I think there is another set of values which are also expressed in this country… greed, corruption and the pull to dehumanize others. As I approach 60 years of age, I am not naive. I know the wealthy rig the system. I know tax laws are manipulated to shift the burden from the top 1% to the middle class. I know that those who can afford lawyers tend to win the debate. I know that politicians will distract the voters with “red meat issues” such as abortion, gay rights, coded race baiting, etc as they push through will little effort laws and regulations which benefit themselves. I have watched them erode the social safety net, dismantle unions, ship manufacturing jobs overseas and create a narrow job market which does not serve our diverse population (let’s face it, not all Americans have the skills or capacity to be a high tech code jockey or a wall street investment banker). I know the politicians have catered to the wealthiest of the wealth and that these people are often motivated by Greed… which is one of the seven deadly sins the author forgot to mention. Greed, Glutton and Pride seem to be pervasive within our culture and seem to be as or more detrimental than Envy. I find it difficult to condemn the poor and the middle class for wanting a better life, especially when the wealthy flaunt their wealth and use their position and power to rig the system in their favor. Our democracy was not designed for the current economic system. Back in the colonial times, the differences in wealth between the rich and middle class and the working class was nothing like it is today. The wealthy was not as wealthy and the average american via hard work could move up in the world. Currently, upward mobility is far more difficult in the United States than it was a generation or two ago. We lag behind Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England and I think even Canada in this regard. I also remember that the GI Bill after WW2 opened the door to upward mobility by allowing the middle class to access to higher educations something which was rare prior to the 1940s. How many middle class kids became millionaires because of the assistance. I think both Liberals and Conservatives could agree that the GI Bill was a good idea. I think if we had honest conversations which were respectful and sought to resolve problems rather than to defend ideologies many Liberals and Conservatives would find they agree on more than imagined. Maybe it is time to tear down these man-made silos, the polarizing rhetoric and to see what we can learn from each other… because the truth is Liberals and well as Conservatives are Americans and no American is my enemy, we just might disagree on some things and agree on others.

  • Robert Hightower

    Perhaps, Shakespeare’s morality is the reason he has been moved from university? All people hear about is HIS love and of heaven. Nothing of HIS hatred or of Hell. They disapproves of a hateful and jealous God. Therefore, their disbelief. If one loves they discipline. When one hates receives wrath.

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