It has become the most liked tweet of all time. Reacting to the attack in Charlottesville, Virginia and the subsequent racial tensions around the country, former President Barak Obama posted on Twitter:
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…”
President Obama was quoting Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” and his point is that hatred and racism are learned behaviors.
They often are.
When children see and hear prejudice from their parents or grandparents – from their society or culture – they often accept it and make it their own. Much of the vitriol and violence in our world today has been passed down from generation to generation – from father to son.
That being said, I feel I must respectfully disagree with President Obama. Statements like his reflect a mistaken philosophy prevalent in our world today, namely, that people are inherently good and only act badly because of their upbringing or negative influences in their lives.
Our children are inundated by that philosophy on television, in the movies and even at school. In the 2013 Disney movie “Frozen,” the trolls sang to our children, “People make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed, but throw a little love their way and you’ll bring out their best!”
In other words, people do bad things because of the bad influences or problems in their lives. Deep down people are good. Sin is simply a learned behavior.
The problem is, you don’t have to teach a child to sin. You don’t have to teach a person to be selfish. You don’t have to teach people to hate. We do it quite naturally on our own.
King David admitted in Psalm 51, “Surely I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” From the moment of conception we are stained with selfishness. We are sinful down to our very genes. Your infant daughter can figure out on her own how to get angry without ever having seen you get angry.
We don’t need to be taught how to sin. We do, however, need to be taught how to truly love. To understand love we need to simply see Jesus who loved us, the unlovable. In fact, he loved us so much, he sacrificed everything, including his life for us. He suffered the punishment of all our selfishness, anger and hate on the cross.
Seeing his love and forgiveness shows us what true love is. His love and forgiveness are our motivation and strength to love everyone – even those who are different than us – even those who seem to be unlovable.
The recent attack in Charlottesville, Virginia is a reminder that hatred and prejudice are alive and well in our world today. Much of the racism and tension in our country has been learned and passed from generation to generation. We need to do everything we can to stop that cycle.
But the roots of that hatred and prejudice go much deeper. They are ensconced in the heart of every human being on this planet.
The only cure for that is Jesus.