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After America’s tragic terrorist attacks of 2001, many Americans were inclined to ask the question, “Why do they hate us?” “They” being a foreign enemy cloaked in a hijacked Islamic religion of misinterpreted jihadi retribution.

Now, on the very eve of America’s Thanksgiving holiday 2022, and in the wake of yet four more episodes of mass murder of Americans by Americans (two in Virginia along with one in Idaho and another in Colorado) in this month of November, I am inclined to ask a different question.

“Why do we hate us?”

So many traditional answers to questions of hate, and of love for that matter, venture in the direction of familiar cliches. We prefer, it seems, those answers that confirm our existing biases and beliefs. We resist any challenge to think outside our own box and comfort zone. We seek new consequences from making our same old choices.


Reality doesn’t happen to work that way.

Old understandings lead to ongoing ignorance. And ongoing problems.

My colleagues in areas of behavioral healthcare here in America seem so drained by our hard work in putting out the individual fires of our individual clients on demand that we are neglecting our larger calling. As a Clinical Social Worker, the call I hear is to use whatever voice I have to address the macro dynamics that effect the micro suffering within individuals today. Public discourse fuels the private narratives of our hurting clients. And while changing those narratives one person at a time is a healthy alternative, there is a matter of public health and public safety and common good that seems to be an ethical imperative as we approach our collective Thanksgiving Table in the America of 2022. Addressing personal morality while avoiding social ethics carries its own insanity. It’s like putting out the smoke above but not the fire below and the fuel below that because people are dying of smoke inhalation instead of actual burns.

We can do better.

Hate in our homeland of America, like smoke inside a burning home, is killing people. But below that smoke is fire and below (in effect) that fire is fuel.

We have a fire and fuel problem and it isn’t the price of OPEC on the petroleum markets. Has nothing to do with America’s obsession with product pricing at the retail levels to keep our cars on the road at high speeds. And nothing about firing our political leaders, almost all of whom we re-elect at every opportunity. I’m talking about a different fire and different fuel.

The fire that produces the smoke we see as hate that murders our own people in record numbers is an emotion called fear. Anger and hatred are surface emotions. They’re like smoke. But the fire itself comes from our fear. Anger and hatred are defense mechanisms aimed at protecting us from whatever we fear. Sadly, they are equal parts defensive and offensive weapons. Anger and hatred can easily end more lives than they save.

Americans are literally scared to death even now on the eve of our own Thanksgiving holiday, of all times. What’s more, we’re afraid to talk about being scared. We’re afraid of being afraid, as if our fears had some magical powers over us. By the same token, we fear talking about the question of suicide, as if doing so might magically cause more suicides. We fear our own weaknesses and lead ourselves into times of self-hatred. Our more common escape from suicide is to project our self-hatred onto others. Although that takes the form of words far more than bullets and thoughts far more than deeds, we remain at high risk for more bullets and more deeds going forward.

Even now, we’d much rather change the subject, think positive, and paper over our problem in hopes it will just exist for other families in other places and not “hit home” for us. Maybe it won’t happen here. Maybe it will just go away on its own. And maybe pigs can fly.

Hatred comes from fear. And what fuels our fear?

I happen to think it is our desire for control. We like the thought of being in control over the world around us even though that thought is totally irrational, the product of our infantile brain’s limbic system. In infancy we lack the brain capacity for reason as we await the much later development in our brain’s frontal lobe function of rational thought. So we, like infants, exercise our capacity to grasp ahold of and control that which is around us as if our very lives depended on it. Our infantile fear of losing control over the outer world upon which our lives depend makes perfect sense for infants. The problem is that if we stay infants too long we really will die. We’ll fail to thrive and then fail to survive.

We Americans can still grow up and accept the reality that we are not in control over the world around us but instead have the ability to simply influence, not control, that world. Influence takes us into an entirely different America. One full of ballots, not bullets. And one full of love, not fear and hate.

America must lose our fearful control and the hatred it fuels if we are ever to gain the loving influence that supplies our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

But is that even possible?

I believe it is.

It may take several decades of time, but then God has all of eternity to still work with. For the time being, things may have to get much worse here before they can get much better. Fearful control and its 2nd Amendment addiction to armed conquest of those we hate will, inevitably, die by the same weapons we live by. I’m no more optimistic than a biblical prophet when it comes to suggesting any quick fix here. America’s exile into hatred’s abyss will not end until American Christianity repents of its own fearful control, including its medieval holdover of faith in a frightening god of wrath who irrationally loves us by controlling us with threats of eternal torture if we don’t love that god in return. That god is an idol not even found within scriptures, where instead the words “do not fear” appear 103 times (at least in the King James Version) in text and some 300+ times in context. Such Christianity has traded in the loving influence of Jesus for the fearful control of medieval Christendom, the Constantinian hijacking of the original 1st century Christianity.

Indeed, American Christianity itself has poured fuel onto the fires of American hatred and violence. It has sown the seeds of fear and the nation has reaped the whirlwind of hatred. It has bowed to a false idol of some wrathful god whose chief lie is that loving people means controlling them or else torturing them if they cannot (think Calvin) or will not (think Wesley) be controlled. In this way, we (and I say we because I, too, am an American Christian who has as much as held the very coats of those doing the stoning) American Christians have bottle-fed our infantile desire for control. We Christians have infantilized our American neighbors when we should have been loving them with the good news of growing up and learning to think outside the comfort zone of our brain’s limbic system.

Yet, today I am thankful.

I thank God that Jesus came to earth to reveal the uncontrolling love of God. I thank God for the loving influence drawing us to think with our God given adult brains (frontal lobes) instead of remaining stuck in our infantile brains (limbic system) driving us to fearful control over the unfamiliar. I thank God for the gift of reason and insight and enlightenment as it leads us out of our own emotional blindness and darkness.

I am thankful that we are better than a nation that hates and kills each other. I am thankful that, through the Jesus who returns in just another month, we have the new fuel of good reason for why we love us.

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