I read an article in the Washington Post today about Pat Robertson (see here.) As you might imagine, he has some opinions about President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee (I, by the way, do not have an opinion about her so far.) It seems that his basic argument in favor of her confirmation is that she is a conservative Christian and that any Senator who opposes her confirmation should be run out of office…basically, she is one of “us” and that should be enough information to confirm if you are part of “us” as well. The author of the article says that Mr. Robertson appeals to “the us-vs.-them mentality that courses through the evangelical Christian movement.” He quotes another writer as saying that Robertson’s world view could be summarized as follows: “The rest of society mocks evangelical Christianity, doesn’t understand God’s plan, is un-Christian. . . . Public school systems are out to corrupt your children, that Christians are persecuted like Nazis.”
Now clearly, Mr. Robertson is a bit of an extreme example. Most Christians that I know do not feel that he is the best representative of their view of the world. However, I think the “us vs. them” mentality that has been attributed to him by this journalist is indeed found within some segments of the Christian community. There is a tone of moral superiority used by some Christians in talking about those “outside” of the traditional Christian community…those folks in the “them” category clearly do not share “our” value system, “our” high standards, “our” love for family, etc. etc. This tone sometimes sounds like self-righteous pity for “them”; sometimes it sounds more like mocking contempt of “them.” Either way, it voices a clear, distinct separation between “us” and “them.”
Obviously, there are some serious pride issues that need to be addressed in the “us vs. them” mentality (Romans 3:23.) But it gets even more complicated when the lines get blurred between who is “us” and who is “them.” This dilemna became apparent during the 2004 presidential campaign when the Republican party decided that it spoke for all of “us” as evangelical Christians. Some of “us” were offended when the Republicans went as far as insisting that evangelical churches turn over their church membership lists and their pulpits to “our” collective responsibility as Christians to get a Republican in the White House. Closer to home, some of “us” felt that it was not safe to voice our political views when we were around our Christian brothers and sisters… that questioning the war in Iraq, gun control policy, or the treatment of the poor made us somehow suspect in our Christian faith. So many faithful, thoughtful Christians remained silent as the war of words raged and the politics of fear further sought to separate “us” and “them.” Except now, we weren’t sure we were part of “us” anymore….but did that make us part of “them?”
It seems to me that the answer lies in the acknowledgement and the abolishment of the “us vs. them” mentality. Human beings are much more complicated and intelligent than this kind of black and white thinking and we should demand that our politicians quit playing to it. Believers in Jesus Christ come in different nationalities, genders, colors, income brackets AND political persuasions and our common goal must be to show the love of Jesus Christ to the rest of the world in all that we do and say. While we need to guard our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ and protect our children from influences that would be detrimental to them, we must ultimately give up this paranoid fear-based separation from the rest of the world that some would encourage. Recognizing that there are choices available in this world that we want to reject as Christians does not give us the right to adopt an attitude of moral superiority and disdain towards those who see the world differently. In fact, Jesus clearly commands us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” One might assume that the “neighbor” we are called to love and disciple might just be one of “them.” Seems it might be awfully hard to love them and develop a relationship with them from way up on our moral high horse.