Hate Thy Neighbor

In his October 3 column in the Washington Post, Colbert King, Pulitzer Prize winner and very decent human being, confessed to pangs of Christian guilt at his reluctance to participate in a prayer for Trump’s recovery from Covid-19. He cited the doctrine of loving thine enemy and expressed the understatement of the millennium: It’s no easy task to love Trump.

King felt he was not living up to his Christian faith, disappointing God, by not being able to pray wholeheartedly for Trump. We can hate what the person does, says King, but shouldn’t hate the person. That’s because none of us is perfect and, like a big Mr. Rogers in the sky, God loves us all just because we’re us. In His eyes, no one of us is better than any other.

Easy for God to say. He doesn’t have to put up with Donald Trump.

Love has always been hard to define, but I suggest the meaning of “love” in this context is to display common decency to fellow human beings whether or not you like them and no matter how despicable they are. By “love,” I suspect Jesus meant we have to suffer fools, not embrace them.

I understood this is a very serious issue for believers such as Colbert, and he was truly suffering inside. I couldn’t sit by and watch this poor soul torment himself because he can’t “love” the most malicious and malignant person ever to rise to power in the modern cradle of democracy. A person whose ignoring of a pandemic for his own benefit, is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands. Maybe Jesus loves Trump, but, if he’s half the guy he’s supposed to be, he wouldn’t expect Colbert to.

So, I emailed him a therapy session free of charge. ( Not Jesus, Colbert) I suggested he should ease his mind about not being able to achieve the saintly state of truly loving such a scum bag. If God loves Trump, it’s another good reason to dismiss His claim to King of the Universe. I went on to explain to Mr. King that I am forever grateful to the Catholic church for having indoctrinated my patients (often through nuns armed with yardsticks) into this sorely misguided concept. They came away from their brainwashing believing thoughts are equal to deeds and anger equals hate. Fine by me. The psychopathology and emotional turmoil such teachings inculcated made for many hours of challenging and profitable work.

If we actually were to emulate God and company, would we “love” despicable people? God, after commanding us not to kill, commanded us to smite his enemies. I guess He meant kill them with kindness? An enraged Jesus overturned the money lenders’ tables. Perhaps, some anger management training would have saved him from the cross? Why should anyone honor admonitions against hate and anger from these two hypocrites? But it goes further than that. Devout Christians contend all of us are hopeless sinners, equally guilty regardless of the degree of our shortcomings, bound for hell no matter what we do. Unto thee, verily say I, “Speaketh thee for thine selves.”

Working with my patients, I helped them understand a person’s goodness or badness lies in actions, not thoughts or feelings. If we were judged by our thoughts, we’d all be sitting in prison. (The congregation will now turn to the chapter in “The Brief Long Term Therapy of A. Lester Lord” titled “The Jury is Out.” Didn’t buy the book? There is still time to repent. ) The essence of my work was to help people see and accept their deepest guilt ridden fantasies and most taboo wishes. They needed to be taught such feelings are normal, not sinful. We are accountable only for our actions and should embrace our emotions without being enslaved by them. Contrary to what people may think, the better we know our true feelings and the good reasons why we feel them, the easier it is to channel our behavior in mature and positive directions. Repressed and unconscious negative emotions make us sick and drive unproductive behavior. Maybe denial of unacceptable feelings and inability to take ownership of taboo desires help explain why so many preachers are pedophiles, lechers and con artists (and republicans.)

I reassured Mr. King, admirable though his efforts to live up to his value system may be, I saw no reason why he should feel obligated to pray wholeheartedly, if at all, for Trump. No decent person could be faulted for bearing anything but antipathy toward the man. Channeling my inner Miss Manners, I suggested one prayer less would probably do no harm. A respectful and dignified silence should suffice.

As for myself, I need not tell loyal readers what my opinion of prayer is or what I’d like to see happen to Trump. Still, I was amused to think that if I actually believed prayer had any effect other than making the person who prays feel better, I certainly would have offered mine for his recovery.

Why? Because Trump had a good shot at losing the election and, Praise Jesus, did. ( we hope) Pence (Who is starring in the new Netflix series, “Attack of the Robotic Nazi Zombies” and is so full of BS he attracts flies) had a decent shot at winning. Trump’s recovery, regrettable as it was, was the lesser of two evils. Mr. King is, of course, entitled to believe and practice whatever he so chooses. But to my devoted readers I offer this advice: Hate whomever you wish. Revel in it. Just don’t bop them on the head with a yardstick.

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