The intense media focus on politics this week with the presidential inauguration brought to mind something that is going on in our society. There is a dangerous trend in America today that is both unhealthy and ultimately self-defeating. I’m not sure when it first entered our culture as an accepted practice but it has become so commonplace that most Americans are completely unfazed by it. It is most obvious in the political realm but it doesn’t stop there. And that’s part of the danger – it can easily creep from the political to the personal.
I’m talking about the trend of demonizing anyone who disagrees with us. It’s no longer enough to disagree on issues, we have to depict the other side as out to destroy our culture – our religion – our freedoms – our constitution – our families – etc. etc.. And in the process we paint them in the most pejorative terms possible. Think about the last political advertisement you saw endorsed by the opposition. With literally thousands of photographs available to use, which one did they choose? Right. They chose the most unflattering picture they could find. That’s just one small example of demonizing the other side. We do it best with our words.
Political parties demonize the opposition. Special interest groups demonize those who champion a different position. We demonize the obnoxious neighbor; the athlete who was caught using performance enhancing drugs; the girl who chose an abortion over life; the Christian couple who gets a divorce; anyone who supports same-sex marriage. The only people we don’t demonize are those who sin the way we sin.
The saddest aspect of this is that Christians are no different from the culture in general. Listen to a group of Evangelical Christians talking about politics. It won’t be long before someone (often more than one) demonizes a liberal politician, if not by the words they use then by their tone (you can do it more than one way). In our minds those who support gay rights, abortion on demand, the welfare state, amnesty for illegals, the legalization of drugs, and/or euthanasia are evil – out to destroy everything we hold sacred. And we feel justified in portraying them in the most damning way possible.
In warning early Christians to watch out for people who had infiltrated the church for their own personal gain the Apostle Jude used the example of Michael the archangel disputing with Satan over the body of Moses (Jude vss 4f). Even as exalted a being as the archangel of God dared not bring against him (Satan) a reviling accusation (vs 9). The term reviling is the word from which we get the term blaspheme. Thayer in his Greek Lexicon defines it as speech injurious to another’s good name. Michael was not willing to demonize (no pun intended) the greatest demon of all! So where do we get the idea that we can demonize a mere mortal man?
Disagreement, even passionate disagreement, is one thing – and I would argue that it is healthy to our democracy. But demonizing the other side is not passionate disagreement – it is contrary to everything the Bible says and stands for. We would do well to listen to the words of the Apostle Paul: Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one (Colossians 4:6).
Stay in the Word