Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers have settled on the word “hate.” They suggest that hatred of Trump motivates this second impeachment. “Hatred is at the heart of the House managers’ fruitless attempts to blame Donald Trump for the criminal acts of the rioters,” thundered Michael van der Veen during the trial on Friday.
Of course, it’s ridiculous to say that the House managers are proceeding with this impeachment in the first weeks of the Biden administration for the sheer joy of hammering Donald Trump. But let’s pause over the hatred accusation for a minute.
Hatred is sometimes the only appropriate response. I am no classicist, but from what I recall of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, learning to love what is lovable and hate what is despicable is part of the education of a well-balanced man. Aristotle taught that men should be even-tempered, but contained within that precept was this: “The man who is angry at the right things and with the right people, and, further, as he ought, when he ought, and as long as he ought, is praised.”
Most major religions teach that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, but we are also enjoined to hate sin. Proverbs 8:13 says “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Psalm 139 asks “Do I not hate them, O Lord, that hate thee?” Jews are taught not that hatred itself is evil, but that baseless hatred is the great sin, comparable to murder. For Christians, the command to love one another as people does not extend to loving evil words and deeds.
So it is no sin to hate the words and deeds of Donald Trump. If you do not hate cruelty, deception, and violent chaos, what are you?
Trump and his acolytes have attempted to conflate hatred of the man’s actions and what he stands for with hatred of his voters. That is false. Some of his voters are wicked, and their words and deeds merit hatred. But many are deluded. Trump’s attempt to hide behind their skirts is yet another offense.
It is he who stirs the worst hatred—baseless hatred. He incites hatred of others based on lies—his opponents are child molesters, Muslim Americans danced in the streets after 9/11, immigrants are rapists and murderers, a landslide election victory was stolen. Those lies incite baseless hatred. They are evil. Shall we not hate these deceits and punish the deceiver?
“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.”