Morality Means Survival, Not Self-Destruction

In response to my comment that there’ s no shame in hating the contemptible, an irate reader wrote in with the following quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says “Love your enemies,” he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. … The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

So let me get this straight. Loving your enemies is the way to protect yourself. Or, protecting yourself is wrong. By this standard, self-destruction is the greatest triumph of all. How can this be? If self-destruction is so noble, then why isn’t immediate suicide the proper course for all human beings at this time? And if it isn’t, then why is love of one’s enemies the standard of truth? To hold such a standard as the point of morality is to set morality at war with the principle of survival. Morality vs. survival — now there’s a war that none of us can ever win, for sure!

Jesus Christ is considered the example of this morality in practice. But Jesus Christ, according to the mythology and mysticism surrounding him, was literally a supernatural being, one who temporarily took human form. Whether you believe this myth or not, you cannot argue that the rest of us are supernatural beings. None of us have the advantage of rising from the dead if we let our enemies undermine, harm or destroy us. So why should we hold ourselves up to the standard of Jesus when Jesus wasn’t even one of us?

Morality should refer to a set of principles which foster human survival — not self-destruction. You’re free to subscribe to any code of morality you want. But if you subscribe to this one, you have no business complaining that you’re continually traumatized, injured, abused or harmed. You’re only getting what you ask for! If suffering is a virtue, then cherish the virtue you claim to uphold.

People who advocate Jesus’ philosophy — the one Martin Luther King supposedly practiced, and certainly preached — assume that hatred is tantamount to self-destruction. They also assume that hatred can only lead to war. That’s ridiculous. If you love life, you don’t want to be at war — not ever, if possible. But you’re not going to let anybody tread on you, either. In civil society, this means refusing to let people enter your life as toxic, destructive forces. In a more military context, this means refusing to let people bomb, shoot or otherwise physically harm you. To call a destroyer or a toxic person what he or she is does not mean to consume your life with hatred. It simply means evaluating and treating people according to what they actually are, and what they actually do — and responding, in action, based on what a rational and proportionate sense of justice requires.

By the standards of Jesus Christ, there never should have been an American Revolution. There never should have been an armed resistance to Hitler. We should all be living under the foolish tyranny of some British King, or some evil German sadist, rather than the relative freedom we came to enjoy, and still enjoy to this day. Granted, Christian believers will say no such thing. They will readily embrace the outcome of these two armed conflicts, but they will never support the morality of survival which made such conflicts possible. They nourish their contradictions with hypocrisy and evasion. And then we’re supposed to be intimidated or persuaded by a quote such as King’s.

Speaking of King, he was no advocate of turning the other cheek when it came to standing up to what he saw as irrationality around him. Granted, he favored a nonviolent approach in some cases, and this certainly makes sense in many cases. But enemies are not always civil; enemies are sometimes forceful. Walking arm in arm down the streets of New York City or Washington D.C. in protest of terrorism is not going to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb and using it, if it can. Nor would it have stopped Hitler or any other armed aggressor in the history of humanity to date. King’s approach may have been fine for standing up to ignorant racists. But what about racists who hate Western civilization and want to annihilate the U.S.? Are we supposed to stand still, looking to the heavens, and let them do it?

The pacifist types who populate the civil rights movement, and similar (mostly leftist) movements today, are usually the strongest advocates of class action lawsuits and Obama Justice Department actions to wrench retribution from perceived or actual wrongdoers whenever and wherever they can. How Christian, by the standards they advocate, is this? Why don’t these angry leftists turn the other cheek and let people walk all over them, if that’s the standard of morality the rest of us must practice?

In both theory and practice, survival is — and always should have been — the code for human beings to follow. I wish “moralists” would stop preaching against hatred when what they really seek to stamp out is self-preservation.