“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."It struck me, as I once again pondered this teaching of Jesus, how many of us don't have actual enemies. To be sure, most of us have workplace tensions, conflicts with people who are snarky, hyper-competitive, gossipy, jealous, rude, boorish, or adversarial. But are they enemies? I'm sure it's an issue of gradation. And many of us do have true enemies, people actively and malevolently set against us.
What strikes me about this is that, even without hosts of enemies, we still do a lot of hating. As I tell my classes when I lecture on Freud: You got to hate someone. According to Freud all our pent up aggression and frustration has to go somewhere. It seeks an outlet, a catharsis, a target. And more and more often this "hatred" is directed at pixels.
What I mean by this is that when I hear someone just going off on someone, channeling a lot of anger, more often than not they are talking about someone on TV, not someone in their actual social sphere.
Most of our enemies are pixels.
Two example. First, take hate in the realm of sports or celebrities. People hate rival sports teams or team owners or players. You mention the name of a team or player and you'll hear people say, "I hate him." You mention some celebrity getting divorced or going through some trouble and you hear people say, "I hate her." Which is curious as we don't actually know any of these people. We're hating pixels.
Same goes for politics. I have liberal friends who hate Sarah Palin. That's what they tell me. On the other side I have friends who hate President Obama. Again, I have their word on that. But as with sports stars or celebrities, we don't actually know any of these people. We're hating pixels.
More often than not, our enemies aren't real. They are virtual. They are, if Freud is to be believed, dark projections and representations of our fears and paranoia. They are pixelated bogeymen and demons.
And if that's true, I wonder what it might mean to "love your pixelated enemies."
Might the souls of my liberal friends be hanging in the balance depending upon how they love (or fail to love) Sarah Palin? Might the souls of my conservative friends be hanging in the balance depending upon how they love (or fail to love) Barack Obama?
Might one of the greatest acts of Christian charity in the modern world be love toward the pixelated enemy?
The command "love your enemies" is very, very hard. And I wonder, do we think of that as we watch TV?