Over the last decade, I think there has been a significant decrease in civil debate, both in public and private. Those with different views or from different social groups are disparaged or “demonised”. Sometimes this is blatant; other times it is more subtle.
Some groups seem to get their identity from who they “not” or what they are opposed to.
What is causing this contempt for the “other”?
I see several contributing factors.
This leads to people congregating in groups of “friends” who have similar views, values, and “identity” to their own. Highly specialised and like-minded groups (Calvinist Chelsea fans who also like cheese…) can congregate. They don’t have to engage seriously with alternative views. They are in a “content bubble”. Communication is impersonal and terse. People say things online that they would be much less likely to say face to face to another. Extremist and impulsive views that were once said personally to a small group of people can now unfiltered reach thousands and even millions. Specialised and extremist talk radio and cable TV hosts play a similar role.
In a wide range of countries some candidates and parties have been able to successfully exploit “identity” politics and fear of and contempt for the “other” to get elected. The last USA Presidential election is an example.
I feel my view is true and yours is wrong and so it does not matter what evidence there is for a different view.
I should stress that none of us is immune to these tendencies. We are all prone to pride, prejudice, and self-righteousness.
I also stress that on my random list above there are some views or people I strongly disagree with. Some I find extremely troubling and even dangerous.
Not all views are equally valid. But, that does not give me the right to “hate” them.
Why should everyone be concerned about this?
Democracy, peace, and community depend on reasonable and diverse debate.
Why should Christians be concerned?
Our identity comes solely from being a follower of Jesus and knowing we are loved by God.
It transcends nation, denomination, ethnicity, and any particular theological or political views. And, everyone is made in the image of God, regardless of their views or behaviour, and is loved by God. Thus, they are to be respected and valued as a person.
Humility and gentleness need to replace self-righteous anger.
Consider the way that Jesus interacted with tax collectors and prostitutes.
He also harshly confronted the Pharisees for their pride and self-righteousness.