So, I sent my yearly letter to the editor of the Echo this week, and it was changed more than I would have liked. Here's what I sent (NOT what appeared in the Echo Friday)
"Us vs. Them"-- This is a sentiment I hear far too often among Christians. Everything from Christians in the media declaring that Katrina is God's wrath on an evil city to Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the belief in a deep division in our world- that Us on the 'good' side need to hunker down and be ready to defend against anything that may offend Us- is prevalent in this evangelical subculture. "They" on the other side are evil and to be avoided at all costs, except when on a "gospel mission".
Although I hear this view in Christian publications, pulpits, and even implied in chapel periodically, it doesn't ring true with me. Whether "They" are popular culture, politics, or fellow students at a state school down the road, labeling "Them" as Evil has ramifications beyond who or what we may interact with. This state of mind puts Us, rather than Them, at a disadvantage. It closes our minds to the possibility of listening to Them, of ever relating to Them, and, ultimately, of loving Them.
An example of the difference between the two views can be seen in two closely related men: Billy Graham and his son Franklin. Franklin Graham was under fire in the media for publicly calling Islam a "wicked, violent religion" and, on Fox News recently, giving reason for the problems after the hurricane in New Orleans: "This happens when we take God out of our schools and God out of our society." Franklin exemplifies an "Us vs. Them" attitude. His father, on the other hand, is loved the world over for his openness and acceptance of people. This summer, Billy Graham had his last crusade, held in New York's Central Park. This event was not criticized by secular outlets but rather by fellow Christians, because Billy Graham invited Bill Clinton to the stage. To those critics, the Clintons are Them, and don't belong in the front of an Us event.
What if Billy is right and there is no "Them"? What if Them Sinners (pardon the poor English) we point our fingers at and hide from are no different than ourselves? What if Them Sinners are actually Us Sinners, and there is no distinction? "All have sinned...". When we realize we are no better than the perceived Them, our defenses come down. We are ready and able to listen to others with different opinions and beliefs, relate to others, and love others truly- not just seeing a person as a soul to be won, but as a peer, questioning and searching just as we are. We are able to see Them as Us, and that makes a world of difference.