On who is right
Evangelical Christians gravitate toward clear divisions, even stark polarities: saved-unsaved, heaven-hell, right-wrong, good-evil, God-Satan. Just keep things nice and simple. Either you’re for us or against us. Homosexuality, abortion and terrorists are bad – period. End of discussion. Justice shall prevail.
This is somewhat of a caricature of course, but indulge me for a moment, if you will.
In this world of black and white, notions like forgiveness and love of enemies tend to get lost. And next thing you know they’re dropping bombs on the other side of all those clear-cut lines of division. The killing of innocent people turns into “fighting the forces of evil” – fighting, always fighting, opposing, righteously resisting.
They love their enemies alright – that is, they love to have enemies. The more the better. Bring ‘em on. Discernment turns into demonization. Violence becomes a divine calling. Love of God and hatred of enemy become one.
And to seal the deal, they will walk the mansion-lined streets of gold while everyone else will literally burn for a literal eternity in a literal lake of sulphur-stenched fire. An absolutely impassible chasm will separate the two.
Okay, that was the fun part to write; now comes the other part, because we, in turn, demonize evangelicals for their demonizing ways. We hate them for their hatred. Or is our hatred okay because we are right and they are wrong?
The tendency to categorize and divide and simplify and do something other than love our enemies is in us all. We have the tendency to recount with self-satisfaction the scandals of a particular political party, to soothe our righteous egos by reading (or writing) nasty things about the Christian Right, to let ourselves feel good that we’re not stupid like them. (And I only had to look at the last three days of my own life for those examples.)
Rather than seeing the spark of eternity in each person, or loving those who might qualify as our enemies, we nurture negative feelings toward them. We create distance between us and them. It feels really, really good. We’re not like them.
We all live in an increasingly binary, polarized, dichotomized, polemicized, divided world; a world of east vs west, Christianity vs Islam, Republicans vs Democrats, good vs evil, freedom vs tyranny, us vs the terrorists. Language and images are used and misused to solidify the sides and entrench the divisions.
But maybe the goal is not to refute the Religious Right or the Bush Administration or whomever we most like to sneer at. Maybe the point isn’t to be more right than them. Maybe there is something more important than being right.
Maybe the goal is to love our enemies, to blur lines of division, to forgive with relentless abandon, to disallow ourselves feelings of superiority, to look within, to act in such a way that if the Donald Rumsfelds in our lives had complete transformations and wanted to associate with us, we would not have to apologize for any past actions or thoughts toward them.
Here at Geez, we are perhaps prone to make sport of the excess and blessed sentimentality of the Jesus-in-my-heart-and-I’m-on-my-way-to-heaven-‘cause-the-Bible-says-so Christians. So, for this issue, we are taking a deep breath, steeling our belief in tolerance and engaging our evangelical neighbors in sincere dialogue. Forgive us if we slip from time to time.
In it all, I suppose we are suggesting the possibility – though we still don’t totally have the stomach for it – that human redemption grows in a field of fearless, irrational inclusivity.
Will Braun is editor of Geez magazine, a gardener and cyclist.