Love Thine Enemy

It is exceedingly rare that the scientist and the believer can stand on the same platform and present the same message to the world in the form of a law of universal application.  What is scientific, you may ask, about an injunction to love our enemies?  I hope to explain that point.

Lives of great men all remind us
  We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us
  Footprints on the sands of time.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - A Psalm of Life

Where science meets belief

Many people do not realise that the rule 'love thine enemy' is a more general phrasing of injunctions dating back to the days of Moses.

Matthew 5:43-44
43  Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

The idea of 'doing good to them that hate you' did not originate with Jesus of Nazareth.  Amongst various rules of civilized behavior in the Bible we find a most pertinent passage in Exodus.

Exodus 23:4-5
4  If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him.

5  If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.
But what has all of this to do with science?

Economic activity is a sub-set of human social behavior.  The lessons of history show that when people exchange goods and services they tend to thrive together.  Trade between groups can only be carried on indefinitely in a climate of an abiding and just peace.

A war which is ended by the subjugation and / or humiliation of an enemy is most definitely not going to bring about a just and abiding peace.  The defeat of Germany after the First World War provides a classic example.  An economy shattered by the actions of the victors provided the breeding ground for the rise of an extreme form of nationalism, a nationalism that led to war.  The earlier lesson was learned and the victors of the Second World War helped Germany and Japan to rebuild.

A just and abiding peace requires all parties to make a genuine and concerted effort to forgive and forget past enmities.  It does not take any great amount of statesmanship to understand this simple rule - but it does take a great statesman to put it into words that pluck at heartstrings:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Abraham Lincoln - Second Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1865.

Anglo-American relations

As far as I am aware there is no formal documented 'special relationship' between the U.S.A. and the U.K.  There is, however, such a true and trusting friendship that an Englishman such as myself can make mention of Yankees, Rebels and Tea tax without having need to first make an appointment with a good dentist.  Given what happened in 1814, the fact of such strong friendship is somewhat surprising.  In August 1814, British forces set fire to many buildings in Washington, D.C., most notably the Capitol.

Quite apart from the burning of Washington, the bombardment of Fort McHenry is also burned into the pages of US history.  It was at Fort McHenry that the Star Spangled Banner could still be seen by the dawn's early light.  American pride in an invasion repulsed might so easily have led to an abiding hatred of the British - but no!  It took only a few years to restore normal diplomatic relations, and just three decades later there was a sincere friendship, as demonstrated by American involvement in the search for the lost Franklin Expedition.

The search for Franklin's Expedition

The Franklin_Expedition comprised the two ships Erebus and Terror.  Its task was to continue the ongoing search for a North West Passage through the Arctic.  The expedition was reprovisioned in Davis Strait by the Barretto Junior.   The three years worth of provisions already on board was topped up with more provisions in every available space and on deck.  The two ships were last seen by a whaler in Melville bay on July 26 1845.  Ever since that date mystery continues to surround the fate of the expedition.

Various searches were mounted for the missing Franklin Expedition.  America's involvement in the search demonstrates the wonderful way in which humanitarian considerations can sweep aside old enmities.  Americans should be rightly proud of their nation's efforts to discover the fate of the two ships.  The more so since Terror was one of the ships involved in the bombardment of Fort McHenry, one of the ships responsible for the 'bombs bursting in air' immortalised by Francis Scott Key.

The Exodus connection

There are not many donkeys or oxen to be found in modern industrial societies.  Instead, we use vessels and vehicles as our 'beasts of burden'.  One of the British ships involved in the search for the Erebus and Terror was the Resolute.  She became trapped in the ice and was abandoned.  She was later found drifting by an American whaler, was repaired by Americans and then returned to Britain as a goodwill gift.  When  Resolute was finally withdrawn from service, some Members of Parliament were concerned not to cause offence to Americans thereby.  Accordingly, some of her timbers were used to make a commemorative desk which was presented by Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes as a goodwill gift.

If only all nations could bury old enmities so deeply!

The Resolute Desk.


Humanity will always face an uncertain future - nature gives no guarantees.  The question is - shall we fight each other over past mistakes and misunderstandings, or shall we learn the lessons of history and help each other to build better safeguards against an uncertain future?

A kind word can deflect the sharpest sword.

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in
each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Driftwood (1857)

In conclusion I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to the U.S. armed forces for a sacrifice without which I might have been born in an enslaved country.

John 15:13
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.