The TIME magazine article “What Makes us Moral” (see previous blog) spoke of “the notion of the ‘other,’” a “kind of brutal line between insiders and outsiders.” It cites Nazi Germany, Yugoslavia and Rwanda as examples. This us versus them mentality is seen as something that is manipulated in genocide and, as the article tells us, “has its most terrible expression in wars.”
Though I disagree with the biological reasoning of the article, I believe it is right on in this matter. We constantly categorize people and by doing so, justify hateful behavior.
I can think of dozens of terms used by nice law-abiding Christian Americans to somehow justify hatred for “the other.” Happily some of them have passed out of use. I’m tempted to write them out, but that might cause unnecessary pain to some. Most of us wouldn’t have to think too hard to come up with some: terms for those with whom our nation is at war; terms for those of other races – or national origins – or religions – or denominations. The latest is “illegal aliens.”
If we can only put people in a class group and tag them with a derogatory label we can justify mistreatment of them, even getting rid of them.
Yesterday I received an e-mail from a friend. It was a forwarded article entitled “What if 20 Million Illegal Aliens Vacated America?” by Frosty Woolridge. In the article we are told all the benefits, primarily economical, that we would have in America if we could somehow ship them all back where they came from. I was stunned when I received this, but not by the article itself. I’ve read and heard enough of this kind of thinking not to be shocked. But I was shocked by the fact that it was sent to me by a man who is in the ministry, who himself ministers across ethnic/racial lines.
I read the article over. I thought that perhaps this was a piece of satire, written with tongue in cheek to mock those whose views it expressed. It apparently wasn’t. I thought my friend would have a rebuttal at the end. He didn’t.
So I replied:
And it would help even more if we would gas 6 million Jews!!!
And slaughter 2 million Tutsis!!!
And ethnically cleanse Bosnians!!!
And put all the Indians on reservations!!!
And make Black people work for free!!!
I'm ashamed of you ________ for spreading this kind of hateful crap!!!
He probably took offense at the word crap.
The story of the so-called “Good Samaritan” in Luke 10:25-37 is not just a story of a nice guy who stopped to help another who was in need. It’s the story of a man who crossed that invisible barrier to aid someone “other” – someone of a different ethnicity and religion – someone with whose people the Samaritan’s people shared a mutual hatred. And in doing so he (literally) “became a neighbor.” I think Jesus expects the same of us.