us vs. them

I’m tired y’all. And it’s probably not what you think. You see, I love politics. I even love talking about them and having a good old-fashioned debate. But I am thoroughly exhausted in our demonizing those who don’t agree with us. You will sometimes even hear people say, “I don’t want to get too political, but…” which is quickly followed by buzz-words or some other broad stereotyping of the “opposition”. I’ve even seen, as recently as this week, people of faith call into question another persons very salvation because of their political beliefs. Do we even see each other as human anymore? I think we need to go back to the beginning for a second…at least when it comes to politics.

Just so we are all on the same page, let’s look at what we mean when we talk about politics. The etymology of the word politic is, “‘pertaining to public life,’ from polites ‘citizen,’ from polis ‘city’.” In essence, the art of people coming together for the betterment of each other. In the United States we often speak of politics as the protection of basic freedoms, but at the end of the day, it is all about how we interact and react with each other as people. We therefore cannot help but be political. The problem is when we allow our partisan preference to affect our way of seeing tithed people in our daily interactions. There’s this story in the Bible I love to reference when we begin to talk about our tribal affiliations. Strangely enough it begins at a military conquest and kind of sets the stage for how wrong our Biblical forefathers got things. “When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up. He caught sight of a man standing in front of him with his sword drawn. Joshua went up and said to him, “Are you on our side or that of our enemies?” He said, “Neither! I’m the commander of the Lord’s heavenly force. Now I have arrived!” – Joshua 5:13-14 Neither. The emissary from heaven doesn’t take sides…now if that isn’t a commentary for us I don’t know what is.

So where does that leave us? Where does that leave them? And in those two questions is the heart of the issue. There is no us, there is no them, there is only we. And if we are going to move forward it will require a lot more empathy and a lot more nuance. And perhaps as we begin to model this in our day to day interactions we can begin to demand it from our leaders as well. And then who knows, we might actually start to feel human again. So we need to be political. We need to care for our neighbor. But for heaven’s sake, we need to realize that even those we disagree with are still our neighbor and not our enemy. And if you still have trouble viewing them outside of the lens of your enemy might I suggest that we listen to the words of Christ through the voice of Dr. King in regards to loving our enemy, “Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.”*

* Loving Your Enemies Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on 17 November 1957. MLKEC.

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