Mr. Podhoretz, put down the logic and step away from it slowly before you hurt yourself:
Rod [Dreher] writes: “Could you do that? Could you stand over the body of a dead child and tell the young not to hate her killer? I could not. Please God, make me into the sort of man who could.”
I am a modestly observant Jew, not a Christian, but I can certainly see the beauty and the moral seriousness that would follow from attempting to hew as closely as possible to Christ’s example of unconditional love and forgiveness. All the same, this story disturbs me deeply — because there can be no question that anger can be as righteous as forgiveness. I’m not sure I would want to be someone who succeeded in rising above hatred of those who murder children. Does this mean that those who harbor hatred of child killers have somehow achieved a higher level of Godliness than those who succeed in banishing such hatred from their hearts? That seems to be a necessary corollary of the idea that it is heroic to “instruct the young not to hate,” and that seems very wrong to me.
Podhoretz the Younger has an intelligent father, but he appears to be determined to illustrate the principle of regression to the mean.
The fact that anger can be, at times, as righteous as forgiveness does not mean that it always is. In fact, Jesus Christ said that it was necessary to forgive a brother 70 times 7 times, he provided no similar imperative for anger. Furthermore, it is clear that Christian hate is to be directed at the sin, not the sinner who commits it.
Building on this false equality, Podhoretz then uses a weasel word, “seems”, on which to construct his ridiculous question. “Does this mean that those who harbor hatred of child killers have somehow achieved a higher level of Godliness than those who succeed in banishing such hatred from their hearts?”
No, you dunderingly incompetent would-be sophist, it doesn’t.
I used to be a big fan of National Review, but it’s become increasingly painful to watch some of these writers flail about as they attempt to live up to their billing as political philosophers and public intellectuals.
That being said, Podhoretz does make one valid point. It is a hard, hard thing to even conceive of forgiving such a monstrous crime against one’s loved ones. One would do well to pray that one never has the opportunity to do so.
As for me, I must confess that while I understand the need to avoid giving in to hatred of the sinner, (since it is corrosive to the hater), I don’t agree with the notion of forgiving those who have not repented of their wrongdoings. God does not forgive those who do not repent of their sins, and I see no imperative to go Him one better by providing proactive forgiveness. Those 490 acts of forgiveness logically imply 490 previous acts of repentance, as forgiving the unrepentant smacks of cheap and promiscuous grace.