Flickr photo by Francis Storr

Ask An Evangelical: Where does hate come from?

By Elizabeth Backstrom

Haven’t you heard what we have lived to learn?
Nothing so new—something we had forgotten:
War is for everyone.

–Robert Frost, The Bonfire (1920)

Q: Where does hate come from?

Hi, thanks for writing. I’ll give two answers. I think many Evangelicals would say hate comes from the Fall of Man, detailed in Genesis 3. Before that, hate and darkness had no place in the world. After that, it did. Once Adam and Eve ate from the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden, there was no going back.

Here’s where I think that narrative is missing something. It implies, without directly saying so, that hate came into being during the Fall. I don’t think it did. I think we discovered how to hate.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5

Hate, in my experience, is impossible without love. Without truly caring for and loving someone or something, how can we then hate it?

Some say the opposite of love is indifference – I think that’s pretty true. Hate is closer to love than indifference, because it requires us to feel something, even if that something is violent and wrong, for another person or idea or group.

But where does hate actually come from? How do we get from there to here?

I think it’s fear.

We hate what are afraid of losing or becoming. We love who we are or what we have so much that the just the idea of someone or something threatening that makes us afraid. But to fear is to be vulnerable. Nobody wants that. So instead we get angry. We hate because it’s easier than admitting anything else.

Someone who loves their body, the one with the happy marriage, the one who doesn’t care what anyone thinks, the one whose life doesn’t look like our expectations, but has still achieved (how have they gotten ahead while I’m still back here?) is a threat. Because if that person is happy the way they are, maybe it’s okay not to be normal.

Maybe it’s okay to live life differently. Maybe normal doesn’t mean anything at all. And if I’ve put a lot of effort into that, it’s suddenly become a waste of time, and I’m angry. I’m afraid. I’m irrelevant. I hate you. Look how you’ve made me feel.

That’s how love turns to hate. Yoda was right all along.

After the Fall, we didn’t start to hate. We simply learned what it was. We took our love and tested it to its limits. The full knowledge of what it means to be human includes hate. Is that dark? Absolutely. We’re good at dark. That’s why many would say we need some help down here.

About Elizabeth Backstrom

Elizabeth Backstrom majored in journalism at Western Washington University and currently works as a content analyst and grant writer in Spokane. Her background is in newswriting and features, but if an overabundance of caffeine is consumed, she has been known to write a humor piece or two. Backstrom attended various Christian churches growing up in Spokane and currently attends First Covenant Church, an inner-city ministry in downtown Spokane.

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  1. Sherrilewis Lewis

    I would add that Adam and eve didn’t know they were naked until the ‘fall’ when they did not follow God’s instruction to not eat of that one tree. After eating, they became aware of their nakedness and were filled with shame which is another component to hate I feel. From your perspective of hate being there, but them not being aware, I think this is plausible on the same sense that they became aware of their nakedness.

    I would also add that if you’re looking at the fall indepth, you see fear from the standpoint t of fear of missing out. Eve ate the fruit because she was promised it would create something or reveal great thongs to her. She didn’t know and wanted to find out. Fear of missing out. Fear of the unknown.

    Great thoughts!

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