(Originally posted on my blog August 2005)
I was talking with a friend the other day about how, we tend to demonize people, and groups to position ourselves and reinforce what we believe, or want others to. We use straw men in arguments and polarisations and misrepresentations.
For example, if I am a Liberal Democrat I say 'Tory's are always....' fill in the blanks. If I am a republican I talk about all democrats as 'those liberals'. If I am into the emerging church I can talk about the 'modern church is all...', or 'evangelicals are...', whilst people critiquing the Emerging Church movement will say 'Those people don't believe in truth'. You fill in the blanks.
When people are imprisoned, they are often given numbers instead of names, as the beginning of the process to dehumanize them. And we engage in the same, when we talk about people and groups in these depersonalising ways. Once we talk about people as less than human, it's easier to do and say things that are hurtful with no conscience. Just like in the TV series 'The Prisoner' people read/hear these demonisations and say 'I am not a number'.
A phrase I heard that sums this process up is 'comparing our best with their worst'. Why do we do it, and what it is in within us that needs to do it. And how many times have I done it? Sigh, God please forgive me.
So we take a stereotype of something at it's worst and compare it with our best. We declare the modern church as bankrupt, and our church form we favor as the universal norm, we find the things about church we dislike and say everyone hates them, and in doing so resort to dehumanizing the groups we refer to. Then we take these 'worst' things and talk about the things that are our 'best'.
Lets stop, and be more humble, and generous and subtly nuanced.