Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Us and Them

I've been attending Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Bloomington. Although I'm an Episcopalian, the Episcopal churches here don't have evening services, and I work Sunday mornings. The big Art Deco-Gothic church is within walking distance and has a Saturday afternoon vigil mass. I started going during Lent, but have kept going in large part because of the Father Doug Hennessy. If he were Pope, I'd convert. I was reminded of one of Fr. Doug's sermons when I received a forwarded e-mail from a cousin by marriage. It showed pictures of a demonstration in London by a group of Muslim extremists. The demonstrators carried signs reading "Behead Those Who Insult Islam," "Europe, You Will Pay, 9/11 is on its Way," and the like. Underneath the pictures was the following:

"Why would anyone think that we should be at war with such nice, peaceful Moslems?! Americans need to Know - You need to forward this one to everyone in your address book!"

On Saturday, September 9, Fr. Doug talked about 9/11. The people who crashed the planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, he said, were people who viewed the world as Us and Them. Sadly, he continued, we responded by seeing people in terms of Us vs. Them. But that is not the Christian way to see humanity. Christ told us even to love our enemies.

The e-mail which portrays all Muslims as terrorists is totally at odds with Christianity. Even George W. Bush distinguished between the terrorists of 9/11 and the vast majority of Muslims.

Seeing people as Us and Them leads to seeing Them an less than human, and often to expanding the category of Them to an entire group. It's a simple solution to a complex problem. And as H.L. Mencken said, "For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong."

1 comment:

Peter said...

A tall order. It took a number of years for me to jettison some of my "us vs. them" thinking. I had to realize that I am just as bad as "them"; in fact, that "they" are better than I am in many ways.

But I find myself thinking in terms of people who have permitted such a realization ("us") and people who haven't (them).

Well, maybe it's not so hopeless. We all have the capacity to see that the "enemy" have two eyes, two ears, family, jobs, some hopes, lots of foibles. Like us, the "enemy" is made in God's image. Perhaps we do all have what Seward and Lincoln describe as "the better angels" of our nature.