Saturday, December 3, 2016

Who do you love to hate?

Republicans or Democrats, Atheists or Christians, young earth creationists or evolutionary biologists, Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton, Calvinists or Arminians, Muslims or Hindus, supporters or opponents of same-sex marriage, liberals or conservatives, Sydney Anglicans or the Uniting Church, Greens or One Nation, complementarians or egalitarians, Stockbrokers or social workers, pro-life or pro-choice, blacks or whites, capitalists or socialists, …?

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.

Social media. 
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.

1 comment:

  1. "What is causing this contempt for the other?"

    With respect to the political side of this, I see a relation to systems where there is only one other. I.e. 2 party systems.
    While having multiple parties does not make things perfect, and animosity will exist, it does force one to think more nuanced as there are clearly more/different people that do not agree with you.
    Also in congress it would be harder to have a majority and thus be able to impose your will on others - one has to convince the others to agree with you and vice versa to get things done.

    In a more general approach: I think part of the problem is (as you allude to in your last section) that we (humans) tend to identify the value of a person with the value of what they think.
    This is also behind the word "demonized" - which essentially means "dehumanized and made evil". I.e. ideas make it justifiable to conclude they are not human. (!)

    While indeed our ideas for a large part define us, this gets one to beyond the question of the intrinsic value of life.

    There are interesting sides to that debate, especially when comparing the Christian view with the non-Christian view. (life: human, fauna, flora,... Environmental care. Death penalty. Hitler. etc)

    I like the way you directly apply your principles to a hot (and pressing) issue in current society.