Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Abuse of Hate, 1943 / 2011

The Abuse of Hate, 1943 / 2011

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 02, 2011

It is not often – thank God – in recent years that Americans or Western Europeans have had direct, personal experience with warlike activity on the homefront. Europeans have faced such violent enemy action more recently than Americans, whose most recent experience of real war at home was on 9/11 in 2001. Although there have been many terrible events that claimed focused national attention – natural disasters, riots, assassinations – I think it likely that previous to 9/11 Americans would have to go all the way back to World War II to find an experience that consumed so many of us so intensely for so long.

In the midst of that war, the leaders of the Relief Society felt it useful to publish an article distinguishing between the necessity for vigilance and support of national ideals on the one hand, and the actual abuse of unjustifiable hatred on the other. While this article from March 1943 offers its strongest cautions against the stereotyping of innocent noncombatants, I think its cautions against the temptation to abandon our principles (“Shall we forsake our Christian and democratic ideals for fear there is something inherently weak in them?”) are especially pertinent today. Our Christian and Latter-day Saint principles grow out of a recognition of the eternal brotherhood of humankind, a knowledge that God is the loving and grieving Father of all, and an understanding that Jesus Christ willingly suffered for the evil done by even the most wicked of men. Shall we forsake our understanding of the awful eternal consequences to Osama bin Laden of his countless murders in an orgy of chest-butting and revelry?

It is a fearful thing to imagine Osama standing before his Maker. On another level, it is just as fearful to watch the joy and bloodlust displayed by so many at his demise.

The Abuse of Hate in Wartime

Mark K. Allen
Psychologist, Utah State Training School

Jesus, Teacher of peace, uttered thought provoking words when He said, “Love thine enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Now that war has become our principal occupation, we wonder how the doctrine of love and forgiveness might be interpreted today.

Our enemies have scoffed at our Christian ideals as the babble of weaklings. Their leaders believe that our greatest weakness is that we are Christian. Their greatest hope in defeat will be that we Christians will be generous at the peace table.

Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher of the nineteenth century, spoke derisively of humility, and his words have been flaunted at us repeatedly by modern dictators. Nietzsche argued that the Christian virtues of service to others, humility, kindness, and sympathy are incompatible with strength. Associated with scorn of gentle virtues is an overbearing militarism and lust for power. Our opponents believe only the strong and ruthless will survive. With this philosophy goes an utter lack of toleration of the rights of others. Thus Hitler teaches that “the nationalization of the great masses can never take place by way of half measures, by weak emphasis upon a so-called objective viewpoint, but by a ruthless and fanatically one-sided orientation as to the goal to be aimed at.”

We need search no further than our daily papers of the past few years, or numerous passages in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, to learn what these teachings have meant to the Jewish people or other non-German nations under their domination. General Haushofer once said that, “Not one of these smaller nations has a right to independent existence.”

We in America today are sharply challenged by this question of race prejudice. In other lands, the problem of racial intolerance is distinctly different from ours. Shall we forsake our Christian and democratic ideals for fear there is something inherently weak in them which might finally give the victory to our opponents? Or should we rally the strength that is latent in Christian principles to bring peace again to the world? The problem is not a remote one for us, but one that affects the daily adjustments of most of us.

In a democracy, we are committed to the doctrine that all people are created more or less equal, and America has become the great melting pot for all peoples of the world. Our opponents hope that the racial groups of which our nation is made up will hate each other; they work by every device for internal strife and disunity as part of their “divide and conquer” plan. The ideal of the brotherhood of man is a lofty one, and perhaps only approximately attainable by finite man; but it is an ideal without which there can be no strength born of unity in America.

The problem of how to treat enemy nationals in our midst is no easy one. “Fifth column” dangers have made us doubly suspicious. We should be cautious, but no good will come from blindly hating those of enemy nationality.

The role of hatred in war is an interesting one. Perhaps in actual physical combat it has a function. The emotions of hate and fear bring about certain bodily changes which make one fight better. Substances are poured into the blood which release stored up energy facilitating flight or strenuous combat. The blood rushes to the large muscles, the blood vessels in the skin constrict and the blood clots more easily reducing the loss of blood in case of injury. In severe hatred the intellectual processes are dulled to some extent and the individual becomes more fearless of death.

However, short of actual combat, violent hatred may waste energy and actually interfere with efficiency. Most of us civilians can be of more assistance by directing our energies into concrete tasks to help win the war. Hatred is contagious and may interfere with the work of others. Enemy nationals among us may be good citizens and just as anxious for us to win the war as we are. a lack of tolerance on our part may interfere with their doing their bit and may even turn them into enemy agents.

One reason we cannot recommend hatred without qualification as a weapon of war is that it is so ungovernable, so difficult to direct. Emotional reactions are much less specific than most responses to stimulation. A person who is angry has a “chip on his shoulder” and may be gruff with everyone. When we experience a prejudice or hatred, our stream of thought is given a certain “set” or direction which makes it impossible for us to be objective or to see all sides of a question. This tendency to respond to “reduced cues” or only part of the situation is found in almost all kinds of behavior, although especially in emotional behavior. Thus, we read this sentence by seeing only the outlines of the words. Test this by covering with another piece of paper the lower half of the line of print you are now reading. notice how well you can still follow the meaning. When we hear certain footsteps approach, we know that children are home from school, and these sounds are not often mistaken for the mail man at the door.

Emotional responses are frequently made to reduced symbols or fragments of previous experiences. A bit of ribbon, an old letter, a pair of little shoes bring back a whole train of pleasant experiences. On a more complex scale, we make many of our judgments about people and many of our important decisions and formulations of opinion on the basis of how we feel about only certain aspects of the situation. Thus, we may have been cheated by a tall blond salesman and thereafter we react negatively to all tall blond people.

Racial prejudices partake of this same sort of process. We are likely to think of all foreigners as being more or less alike. Very often we are likely to think of all of a given nationality as falling into a rather definite mold both as to physical appearance and mental characteristics. Negroes are mostly black, the Japanese yellow in complexion; but experiments have demonstrated how difficult it is for most of us to even identify persons of various nationalities by their appearance alone. Our caricatures of the comic sections and cartoons are attempts to use the “outlines” of people by which we are most likely to identify them. Caricatures in turn define outstanding characteristics for us, sometimes giving us a false impression of the definiteness of the characteristics. Thus, the college professor is made to appear a dry, prosy person with spectacles and a stiff neck. The Japanese are made to look heinous beasts, the Germans like very stern, heartless militarists – all with much more striking characteristics than, in reality, are ordinarily seen.

The moral and mental characteristics of individuals and races are likely to be judged by a more or less abbreviated outline or picture in our minds of what they are.

These preconceived patterns into which we place people or traits of character are known in social psychology as stereotypes. They are very common to all of us. A well-known error of reasoning known as the “whole-part fallacy” is quite similar to stereotypes. According to reports of a few years ago, the Russian people had a stereotyped opinion of us which saw us as a nation of “money-grabbing capitalists,” “playboys,” gangsters, bootleggers, or divorcees. Investigation revealed that they formed this opinion of us largely through knowing us only through our moving pictures circulated in Russia in which these types of persons were played up too much – the fallacy of judging the whole by the part again. newspaper headlines about crime and divorce also help to promote this kind of error, simply because headlines are usually about the unusual, not the commonplace, happenings.

Stereotypes are the warp and woof of race prejudice and hatred. When we fully acquaint ourselves with any nationality, we are less likely to continue in our prejudices. Wars would be considerably less likely if we knew more about each other and could really understand one another’s point of view in world affairs. Familiarity with others does not always mean friendliness, but friendliness is not possible without some familiarity. Stereotypes are the molds into which we force individuals – they are not total, nor pictures based on a thorough knowledge of other people.

War intensifies and solidifies stereotypes; it makes them more emotional in tone, less impartial and intellectual. Atrocity propaganda is aimed at making the enemy appear inhumane and brutal. Unfortunately, the by-product of necessary war propaganda is that such vivid stereotypes are built up that we see all enemy nationals in terms of these stereotypes. Our emotional reactions to the enemy define the stereotypes, and the stereotypes in turn determine our conduct toward enemy nationals among us. Little do we stop to think that these people may, and often do, have very little sympathy with the aims of the enemy. Certainly, in a democracy, these people should be judged to some extent on their own merits, and not entirely in terms of what the enemy of similar nationality has done or is doing to us.

If we were to view the available evidence dispassionately, we would see that the differences between individuals of a given nationality are probably greater on the average than are the differences between one nationality and another. There are all kinds of people in every nation, good, bad, and indifferent. We need not judge the whole by the pad part we may have known.

For the sake of perpetuating the Christian democratic ideal of the brotherhood of man, we should be excused for taking some justifiable risks in being tolerant toward other nationalities among us. We should be cautious, of course, but we should guard against destroying unwittingly the very ideals we are fighting for. The challenge to make democracy function is a serious one, since our enemies abuse all of our democratic freedoms in an effort to destroy us, or to make us destroy those freedoms ourselves.

What shall we conclude, then, about hatred in war? Is it evil, should we love our enemies and do only good to them? Perhaps the best answer is for us to learn who our true enemies are, and do everything possible in righteousness to render them powerless, for two important reasons: (1) because if we do not disarm them, they will destroy us, our children, and other innocent people; and (2) because the ideal of the brotherhood of man demands that we unite to preserve the rights of all peoples to live in peace and good will. Our procedure will be actuated by a cool intelligence, it will lead to positive contributions to the war effort; but it will not be diverted into personal crusades against possibly innocent enemy nationals among us. We will be cautious, not hateful toward enemy nationals among us; and when there are reasonable grounds for suspecting enemies among us, we will report to proper governmental authorities, otherwise we shall keep our counsel.

As a concrete formula, then, for civilian guidance in the emotion-clouded atmosphere of racial prejudice, we propose the following: –

1. Learn to analyze the bases of our prejudices, and beware of “stereotypes.”

2. Remember the wide range of individual differences in all nationalities. Try to judge people on their individual merits, not by their racial labels.

3. Don’t emulate the racial philosophy of dictators, its delusions of a master race, the wickedness of its fanatical oppression of minority groups.

4. Remember our responsibility to make the Christian ideal of the brotherhood of man work and survive this great struggle of conflicting ideologies.

5. In upholding democratic ideals, let us not be blind to enemy abuses of democratic principles to bring about our destruction or to force us to destroy our principles.

6. Be cautious, not hateful. Don’t burn up your energy in aimless hatred. Don’t take up personal crusades against enemy nationals, but report to governmental authorities individuals you have reasonable grounds to think should be investigated.

Mark K. Allen, “The Abuse of Hate in Wartime, Relief Society Magazine, March 1943, 191-94.



  1. Matthew 5:44 has been running through my head all day. Thanks, Ardis, for posting this. It’s very interesting to consider Allen’s words and his context with the circumstances of today.

    Comment by Ardis — May 2, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

  2. Crazy the way these things can be reused. Good find, Ardis, thank you.

    Comment by BHodges — May 2, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

  3. The Nephites essentially forgave their enemies who put down their weapons and made a covenant of peace. But at the same time they also executed those captured enemy combatants (and even the “Kingmen” among their own people) who refused to make a covenant of peace.

    The converted (to the gospel) Lamanites also had no problem with militarily wiping out those Gadianton robbers who would not forsake their murderous ways.

    As I see it, the problems in Nephite celebrations over their enemies (specifically King Noah’s initial victories, and the early temporary victories during Mormon’s lifetime) were the gloating and the boasting of their own strength, and not giving credit to the Lord.

    Comment by Bookslinger — May 2, 2011 @ 7:21 pm

  4. Quite profound Ardis! Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Debbie Marsh — May 2, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

  5. This is a powerful essay.I hope our Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters, and all other good people, can set an example to the world of relief and gratitude that Bin Laden is dead, but not riotous jubilation.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — May 2, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

  6. Thanks, Ardis. We need some calm in this uncharitable jubiliation.

    Comment by manaen — May 2, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

  7. thank you for this timely reprint. I think this could have been a particularly difficult topic given the presence of Japanese internment camps just down the road.

    Comment by charlene — May 3, 2011 @ 11:13 am

  8. Thank you, Ardis. These thoughts are not only timely, but timeless – and most welcome at this wearisome time.

    Comment by Tristan — May 3, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

  9. A local evangelical pointed out the following scripture in relation to rejoicing over the death of an enemy: Ezekiel 33:11,

    Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

    Comment by Bookslinger — May 3, 2011 @ 9:14 pm

  10. We can’t have endless war without endless hate.

    I guess George Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate” wasn’t all that much a fantasy. The Emmanuel Goldsteins of the world need to be hated on, you know.

    Comment by Mark N. — May 3, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

  11. A fine piece….

    In contrast, this week a man with hate in his heart, who engaged in great evil and was capable of much more has been rightly killed. Sadly evil men often lead others.

    Comment by John Tippets — May 7, 2011 @ 10:35 am

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