Loving Your Enemies in Ender’s Game

Book Reviews, Culture — By on November 1, 2013 at 8:00 am

Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. How can we love them if we don’t understand them, if we don’t take the time to know them? In the novel Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Ender Wiggin unintentionally learns the best way to love one’s enemies, and he never forgets it. Though just a child deprived of a family’s love and friendship, Ender does what most adults can never do – he loves those that society tells him he’s supposed to hate.

Ender’s Game takes place in a distant future, when our world had been almost destroyed in two invasions by an alien race called the buggers. In the second invasion, the humans were able to force the buggers to retreat, though at great cost. They’ve had peace for about 70 years now but have been expecting another attack from the buggers. In preparation for this third invasion, the leaders of different countries created the International Fleet – an army that trains children to fight battles in zero gravity on a spaceship. All children on Earth are closely monitored to see if they are eligible for this Battle School. At age six, Ender, the youngest of three young geniuses, is chosen to leave his family and train to save his world, and the book details his life through training to the end of the war.

Ender always looks at life by thinking three steps ahead, even at age six. His brilliance flourishes in the Battle School, and he quickly advances, accomplishing many feats that children twice his age can’t do. This, of course, causes the other children to be jealous and Ender to feel isolated. The adults in command of the school keep Ender busy with training and mock battles, manipulating and controlling his life so that he has no close friends. They don’t want anything to distract him from his training, not even love, because he is their last hope to destroy the buggers. With the fate of the world on his little shoulders, Ender becomes the best commander the adults have ever seen – a quick thinker, a strategist, a hard worker, and, what they wanted most, a killer.

Ender, however, hates himself for this trait. He is terrified of becoming just like his brilliant but cruel older brother, Peter, who tormented him before Ender left for Battle School. He tries to be compassionate, but what he doesn’t realize is that this is exactly what sets him apart from Peter. Ender doesn’t want to hurt people. Several boys bully him at different points in the novel, but because Ender knows how the other boys think and what is motivating them, Ender defeats the bullies, strategically and systematically. Afterwards, though, he always feels guilty. Ender defeats his enemies because otherwise his enemies would have hurt or killed him; but at the moment that Ender defeats them, he loves them. He feels compassion for them. He understands how to love his enemies and doesn’t want to destroy them. He tells his sister, Valentine:

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…I destroy them” (page 238).

Ender’s greatest quality, the thing that makes him different from all the other children, is not his ability to wipe out his enemy completely but his ability to learn about and understand people, even his enemies. He’s the only one who takes the time to understand them, to know their past and the reasons for their actions. And it’s only when he understands his enemies that he loves them and wants to live at peace. There are two ways to destroy an enemy. One is to defeat through harm. The other way is by turning him into a friend. Ender does not want to destroy his enemies; he would rather befriend them and love them.

Not only does Ender love his human enemies, but he even learns to love the alien enemies, those who almost destroyed his world. Though not instructed to by any adults, Ender spends hours and hours trying to understand the buggers, how they think, why they attacked Earth, and how they live. When he does finally understand them, he doesn’t want to destroy them; he wants to live in peace with them. The adults want him to defeat the buggers and completely wipe them out, but Ender wants to forgive them and be friends. The one person who is able to defeat the buggers is the only human who loves the buggers. I don’t know what the movie version of Ender’s Game teaches, but if there’s one thing you learn from the book, though there is much to learn from it, I hope you learn how to better love those you’re “supposed” to hate.


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  • Atef Rushdi

    To believe that any religion is the only true religion and at the same time believe in the existence of a God is a contradiction; some may call me a deist. But in support of my introductory sentence, I like to make the following statements:
    * While one may punish his kids for misbehaving, only a lunatic would go as far as burning them, regardless of their crime. So if you believe that God is compassionate and merciful and that he loves his creation at least as much as we love our children, then it is foolish to believe that God would be so mean that he would send any one to an eternal inferno, regardless of what he does in his life time.
    * God is not vindictive, God is compassionate God.
    * According to most great religions the one who is bent on sending people to hell for eternity is the devil, not God; so to believe that God is going to be incapable of saving humanity from the devil, is blasphemous, or you might as well worship the devil. But then I believe that we are the angles and the devils.
    * If you believe that God predetermines the destiny of each of us then why would he create us, permit us to do evil and then burn us for doing it? That simply does not make any sense. To believe otherwise is to believe in a wicked thing that is not a God and not worthy of being worshipped.
    * You offer your kids incentives to behave well and you deny them some privileges when they misbehave; don’t you think that God knows better, has more to offer and more to withhold?
    * To believe that infidels or evil people are doomed to hell for eternity is to underestimate Gods compassion and to question his wisdom in creating them.
    * I believe in the after-life and in reincarnation and I do not see them contradictory. Perhaps
    Reincarnation is one way for God to improve the lot of those he short changed in their first life cycle and heaven is to reward or shame others.
    * Heaven may have endless levels of comfort and may offer privileges commensurate with our deeds in life; therefore God does not need hell to punish us. The mere shame of being in the lower levels of Heaven, even for a short time, can be traumatic.
    * God gave us the mind to think and to make our decisions based on our convictions. Ultimately each is responsible for his deeds, it is therefore necessary to free our selves from those who teach that a religion or an opposing theory is an “absolute truth” No one owns the truth, neither do I. Respecting all regardless of their belief is the best way to gain the respect of all.
    * God does not need an angle, a son, a profit, a pope, a priest, an ayatollah, an imam, a rabbi or any other middle man between him and his subjects; God is capable of speaking to his subjects directly and in so many ways. However educating our children should be our number one priority.
    * Nearly all people raised in a certain faith die in the same faith; but does that make their faith the absolute truth? off course not, say those whose faith is different, and your faith is no different. Just remember that man’s greatest inventions and achievements came out of people who thought outside the box.
    * Many wars have been waged in the name of religion and God.
    * Believing in God helps to spread morality but it is not the only motivation to morality.
    * Believers in faiths other than yours and atheists maybe more moral than those in your faith.
    * A trait of God is in every one of us, whether one believes in a God or not, I call that Conscience.
    * We all make mistakes, other than babies I do not believe that any human is free of sin, profits included, and neither am I. The greater the responsibility one assumes the more the possibility of achieving great things and the greater the blunders and sins one may make.
    * Despite the fact that nearly half of all of humanity are females, not a single profit was a woman; this only proves that religion is man made; had any religion been truly the word of God, some profits would have been women, otherwise God is sexist .

    * There are many reasons people defend and maintain their faith:
    A) The majority of people truly believe in their religion and they will guard it at any cost.
    B) It is the faith of their people and that of their ancestors, which gives them a sense of pride.
    C) It is natural for any people to guard and defend that which is theirs, their language, culture, history, tribe, party, nationality, race, country and most of all religion
    D) When you challenge ones faith you question the essence of his existence, the purpose of his being and you shake his pride.
    E) The overwhelming majority of people need faith in a higher power for an alliance that offers them the sense of security, peace, justice, equality, and solace; most religions offer much of that. If our forefathers had no religions, we would invent our own religions.
    F) Peer pressure multiplied by millions overwhelm any objection to religion; in most societies to confront religion is to be tagged Godless, not trust worthy, one who has no morals, a devil who may do any evil; at best one will be castigated as an untouchable outcast. In Europe challenging the church teachings was punishable by death for much of the last millennia. That is still the case in some Islamic countries today.

    Religions started thousands of years ago with stories about monsters, mythical creatures and
    here say and evolved to fill humanity’s need for spirituality. So I am not here to attack religions but rather to shake off much of the hearsay and myths still propagated by ALL religions, myths compiled since the beginning of time. The fact that holy scriptures and religions have evolved over the millennia, religions represent the collective teachings and wisdom of some of the smartest and most benevolent men ever born, and to whom I have great respect.

    Religions also represent much of the essence of the God that I believe in. A loving, merciful and forgiving God, a God who in his own wisdom created us free and different so that we may get to know and help each other and not to steal, enslave, occupy, kill, or terrorize each other.

    I believe in a God who needs non but loves all, a God who knows how to motivate, punish and reward. I do not believe in a God who is so wicked, vindictive and mean, a God who will send his creation into fire for eternity, regardless of how brutal some human’s may be.

    Most of us have been to hell and back many times over in our life times without ever stepping into a fire. Whether it was the grief over the death of a child or the frustration of the inability to have a child, the deprivation of poverty, the famine of hunger, the pain of an illness, the agony of loneliness, the shame of something, the terror of wars, or a nerve wrecking anxiety, all are features of hell. But we must also be thankful for the many traits of heaven God blessed us with in our life times, the blessings of sight, the first date, the warmth of being loved and the love of being needed, the exultation of wining, the joy of giving, the fun-time with our kids or grand kids, petting your pet, having a steak or simply sipping on a cup of coffee, these are all features of heaven.

    I believe there will be punishment for bad deeds and rewards for those who spend their lives in the service of the less fortunate, but God has so much at his disposal NO hell will be needed non the less fire; In heaven the denial of certain privileges or to merely burden one with earthly problems can be a severe punishment. If you truly believe in the Glory of God, then a simple lack of attention on his part to those who will be in the lower levels of heaven will be painful. I believe God is too generous to offer anything less than heaven. You can waste your life believing in a devil whose hell is waiting for you, but I prefer to utilize my time in the service of humanity with the hope that I will end in the upper levels of heaven, closer to God.

    I am not against prayer, to the contrary, prayer makes us more social, more humble, more charitable and reminds us of the blessings of God, to which we should be forever thankful. As a matter of fact certain prayers or meditations are excellent exercises for the body and mind. I also believe that that the best prayer is one in which we than God by word and more importantly by deed, such as helping the elderly, orphans and the poor.

    Now, I like to give some reasons as to why I believe in the existence of a supreme being, a creator, a God. My belief is not based on any holy book but it is the product of my learning and thinking.

    1) No engineer will ever invent anything that is capable of knowing how it or its inventor came to being.
    2) No engineering team can invent anything from absolutely nothing. Therefore this universe could not have come from nothing. Using the same logic some will say then God could not have come from nothing either, therefore God does not exist. To that I refer them to number one above. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me. No one can offer tangible proof of the existence of God to atheists who ignore the trillions of material proofs surrounding them.
    3) The fact that we still have no answer to the question “Who came first the chicken or the egg?” prove the existence of God to me. The universe is full of questions, facts and evidence all of which point to a God.
    4) Since believers claim there is a God, they bear the burden of proof by showing tangible or material evidence. Only such proofs are accepted by scientists, say atheist. But can atheists or scientists give us tangible or material proof of life, that which exists in all living things, the life that departs when one dies. While no one can see or touch the miracle of life ( call it spirit, sole, conscience) atheists and scientist can NOT deny its existence. This proves the fallacy of the assumption that if you can not touch something then it does not exist. Life is a spirit of God, he giveth it and he takes it, without changing the tangible that embodies it when life first departs.
    5) The more advanced science becomes the more complex and expansive the universe proves to be, which points to a God that is far ahead of us and getting farther by the second.

    I truly believe that the spirit of God exists in plants, in the wind, in the oceans, in gravity and in everything else; however atheists will argue that all of the magnificent engineering is a proof that God does not exist. So, I really don’t care if you believe in God and I do not think that God cares either. I also don’t think that it makes much of a difference either way. But, for the interest of your grand children and mine and for the interest of humanity at large lets just agree to at least respect all and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

    Our founding fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence, more than two hundred and thirty years ago ” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights and that among these are, Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” Also the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guards freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and right to petition. The 2nd Muslim Khalifa Omar Ibin Al-Khatab said of slavery, more than fourteen hundred years ago “what gives you the right to enslave people when their mothers delivered them Free? Nearly all holy scriptures speak of peoples rights to justice, freedom and equality.

    Since God needs none of us, he will not judge us based on our religion or even whether we believed in him or not, for he cares less. I believe God will judge us based on how well we served humanity and preserved his creation. Like all believers I too love to end up in heaven; but since I do not claim to own the absolute truth either, in the worst case scenario if there is no after-life, no reincarnation, no heaven or even if there is no God, the forever optimistic person that I am, I’ll simply be glad I won’t be a BBQ forever; that much I know, HELL NO.