On the “Other”

Other _ view or treat (a person or group of people) as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself.

The action of othering is not unknown to progressive Christians. We see it every day in the way minorities are treated, the way LGBT people are routinely dehumanized and the poor are blamed for being poor. What’s harder to see is how we other people every day ourselves.

On a far too regular basis, I see social media posts concerning conservative Christians that are smug, condescending and superior. Take the picture at the beginning of this post, for instance. In calling the term “right-wing Christian” an oxymoron, it says right-wing Christians aren’t really Christians at all. If you want to hit someone where it hurts, attacking their faith is pretty good way to go. Or, you can take the route of the Facebook post that inspired this piece. That one featured a picture of a pigeon saying “Love thy neighbor as thy self…, except the homos. They don’t count”, which was headed with “LOL the right-wing Christians think like this”. Yeah, and all African-Americans are thieves, all Hispanics are here illegally and all Muslims are terrorists. For all our celebrated tolerance, progressives can be pretty damned intolerant.

The problem with all this is that it treats our brothers and sisters in Christ as somehow less than us. All too often, it seems progressive Christianity views conservatives as ignorant, benighted souls in need of the enlightenment that only we can provide. But, that’s not really true, as there are many intelligent, educated conservative thinkers and they have good things to say. When it comes to personal responsibility and taking up one’s cross, we could learn a lot from these folks.

I can hear you now, saying “Wait a minute, Jesus never hesitated to call out the right-wingers of his day (the Pharisees). Why shouldn’t we do the same?” You’re right, Jesus did read the Riot Act to the religious conservatives of his day on many occasions and so should we. But, even when he was kicking over tables and chasing people out of the Temple, his rebukes weren’t smug and condescending. Filled with righteous anger? Sure; but there wasn’t a hint of superiority. And, if ever there was someone with a right to feel superior…

Let’s go back to the tolerance issue I touched on earlier. One of the biggest problems progressives have with conservatives is their intolerance of those who approach things differently than they do. Conservatives answer that by saying progressives are hypocrites because we seem to tolerate everyone but them. The thing is, both sides are right. We all need to drop this “us vs. them” thinking and learn to love everyone for they truly are: children of God. All of us claim to follow Jesus and all of us are doing a sucky job at it. And, that’s something that needs to change in the worst way.