“Us vs. Them”: Kevin H
I have come to the conclusion over the past few years that the “us vs. them” mentality is one of, if not the most unhealthy and detrimental demeanor that has been adopted by much of the current day American conservative church.
Certainly not nearly all churches or all Christians have taken on such manner, some even actively speak against attitudes like this. However, I believe the embrace of the “us vs. them” mindset has been seriously substantial among churches and Christians, ultimately resulting in widespread and dishonorable harm to many others and great harm to the witness and stature of the Christian faith in this country.
Taking on and acting on an “us vs. them” mentality is not something that has suddenly taken the conservative American church by storm, rather it has been conditioned within the church for a long time now. It is also not unique to the conservative American church as of course many other Christian groups or religious groups, or groups of any kind for that matter, display like-minded attitudes and behavior. Moreover, this is nothing unique to our day as I am sure historians could point to example after example of people and groups who embodied such a frame of mind over time.
My concern, however, resides first with my “family”, as I have explained many times before and as I believe Scripture instructs us to do so, and also because I believe the “us vs. them” posture has grown particularly bad in our group. Thus I get quite troubled by the harm I see committed by my fellow conservative evangelical Christians that I believe in many ways is derived from an “us vs. them” mentality.
I am sure many of us have heard it oftentimes as to how the “world” is out to get us Christians. It has been drilled into us over and over, heck, even the Bible gives us many warnings about the world. In the most general sense, the “world” or “them” is representative of the collection of all non-believers who do not have God’s principles and commands in mind. However, it appears as the specificity of “them” has grown in expanse and detail in our culture. One of, if not the greatest cause for this I believe has been the embrace of conservative politics. “Us” has come to mean not just Christians, but more specifically Christians who are both theologically and politically conservative. Furthermore, although it is rarely spoken out loud, the “us” also includes, consciously or subconsciously, being white and/or the white conservative, traditional culture. “Them”, therefore, is comprised of any and all people or groups outside of the “us” category.
Thence, when we are pressured or criticized or even persecuted for abiding by and standing for traditional sexual morals, or the life of the unborn, or for the deity of Jesus Christ, it is the “world” or “them” who is out to get us. However, the “us vs. them” temperament has expanded well beyond than just these types of things.
Rather, it becomes the Democrats or liberals or progressives and their wicked agendas who are “them”, and against “us” conservative Republicans who are for family values.
It is those who want to take away our freedoms and rights through things like mask mandates and gun restrictions who are “them”, and against “us” who stand for the freedoms and rights we say have been granted to us by God.
It is those who claim systemic racism and we say are probably CRT proponents, too, (even though we don’t even really understand what CRT actually is) who are “them”, and against “us” who believe we just need to be colorblind and let the “Gospel” solve everything.
It is those who want to somehow use the cries of sexual abuse and misconduct to advance their feminist and worldly agendas who are “them”, and against “us” who just want to preach and advance the Gospel.
It is those in the church who dare sympathize with the “woke” or even incorporate some of their concerns and values who then become “them”, themselves, and thus are against “us” who are maintaining doctrinal purity.
It is those in the church who are “Calvinist” or “Arminian”, or “pro-Israel” or “anti-Israel”, or “liturgical” or “contemporary” who are “them”, and against “us” who are Bible-believing and take the Word of God seriously.
The list can go on and on and in the end; there are a whole lot of “thems” who are against “us”.
As we accede to these “us vs. them” attitudes and create all kinds of divisive categories therein, we end up causing much harm to the Kingdom of God. We miss out on much opportunity to love and minister to the lost, hurt, and needy, some who are even our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, because they are part of “them”. Thus, they are of the enemy and can’t be trusted and we can not listen to or consider their hurts and concerns, nor validate their ideas or opinions. All the more, we dare not ever compromise on anything with them because we’ve convinced ourselves we’d be compromising on truth, and we certainly can not do that.
What we can do, however, is take on and protect people of questionable, if not outright rotten character, if they stand with “us” against “them”. We will excuse their “rough edges” and “mean Tweets” as long as they fight with “us” and for “us” against “them”. Maybe we’ll even start practicing some of their postures and characteristics if we think they are advantageous in defeating “them”.
Not only do we miss out on opportunities to minister to and help the hurting and those in need, but we even go to the extent of actively harming them. When the latest high-profile racial event happens, we heap more hurt and shame on the hurting as we choose to reject listening to their experiences, we reject the possibility of systems that do them any harm, and we reject any measures that might provide them some protection and peace of mind. All because if we did any of these things, we might be giving into “them” who are socialist and marxist and trying to make us feel guilty and distract us from the mission of the Gospel.
When the latest high profile mass shooting occurs, we heap more hurt and exasperation on the scared and hurting as we clutch on to our rights and refuse to acknowledge that anything can be done about it except the “Gospel”, actively denying the reality that nobody else in the world has nearly the problems we do. All because to “give” on anything would be violating our own sacred rights and giving into “them” who want to take them away.
When sex abuse and corruption is running rampant through the church, we heap more hurt and shame on the hurting as we excuse it as few bad apples, and claim the feminists and the woke are appropriating and exaggerating the “supposedly” abused people and the issue as a whole. We can’t give into “them” because they are just trying to hurt the church and stop the Gospel from going forth.
When a worldwide pandemic occurs, we heap more hurt and abuse on the sick, hurting, and vulnerable as we refuse to take precautions, even with the immunocompromised around us, and speak of those who are sick and dying as collateral damage in our stand for our highest virtue of freedom. We can not wear masks or get vaccines or social distance because to do so would be to give into “them” (government, scientists, Big Medical) who are trying to control us.
Again the list can go on and on. In the end, however, we can see that practicing such an “us vs. them” posture has caused us to greatly fail in loving our neighbor as ourselves. Not only that, but much harm has been brought upon the name of Christ as His followers carry out such actions and attitudes that are anything but Christ-like.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23
Maybe at some point we will realize that in many ways there is no “them”, only one big collective “us”….. an “us” where each and every one is in equally desperate need of the grace and forgiveness of God. Maybe such a realization can be the cure to our “us vs. them” persona.
I guess now that I think about it, I am not sure where we went off the rails into the cesspool of rage and anger at anyone who espouses what we don’t approve of. Sure, I can say “well, it’s because of the fall that we are all angy” but then we are basically dealing with the same comment of “thoughts and prayers” or “we need the Gospel, not this or that..”. So I won’t go there.
Here is where I will start. When I came to Christ back in 1988, I was grounded and rooted in the importance of being Christlike, having godliness, being of good character, sharing the Gospel, etc. So when I met fellow believers who were single and similar in age, I was dumbfounded when I heard them gossiping, slandering others, etc. I was new to the faith and couldn’t understand how we can say we love God one moment and then curse our neighbor the next.
I still feel that way to this day. And just so it is clear, I am guilty of doing these things myself. I feel there is disconnect in my life and in how we treat others. What ever happened to basic decency and good character?
I know that is alot of rhetorical questioning and idealism. I would like for us to be better, but I have to do my part and not look at a fellow believer with disgust and contempt when I find out they voted for the other guy…
We’re always going to struggle with sin and not always treat other people the way we should. Our reactions to other people doing things that we dislike are not always going to be proper, even when it goes beyond mere difference of opinion and they’re doing things that truly are morally wrong. None of us are always going to get it right.
Where the church has gotten itself into trouble is that it has become so common to improperly react to dislike or differences with another that it has become almost second nature to see all these “offenses” of others as “them” being against “us”. It has gotten to the point that people many times probably don’t even realize what they’re doing as they presume themselves to be the good guys and “them” to be the bad guys. It brings about a hardness of heart that is unable to see or understand complexity of issues and circumstances nore feel empathy or compassion for “them”.
And thanks for commenting. I was beginning to think I had driven everyone away with this one. 🙂
Thanks Kevin, and absolutely agree. It seems like it’s gotten worse the last 20-odd years, this us vs. them mentality. And today’s information flow (social media, televised media, etc) only seems to drive us further into corners. I am sure we all know people who sit and watch some political news hour show or get all their information from Facebook/twitter, etc.
I recall a scene in the movie “A League of Their Own” where a radio commenter was going off on how women’s baseball is basically bringing down the collapse of an orderly and moral society, and just can’t help but to see parallels to our day’s news shows where any little thing the commenter doesn’t like is cast as a prelude to the collapse or our civilization.
And…I do like your post today Kevin…well said!
This is a good and much-needed post, and if I am to be honest I have to confess it causes me some measure of self-examination……
“Maybe at some point we will realize that in many ways there is no “them”, only one big collective “us”….”. Why is that so hard to see sometimes? Oh, wait…. That takes a little humility, doesn’t it?
My current learning curve has to do with the homeless population that I deal with on a daily basis. Listening to their stories, I am reminded again and again how easily I could have ended up in that situation myself. The “collective us” you mentioned puts this into proper perspective.
Thank you, Kevin.
Kevin, I think you nailed the attitude right on. There should be no ” Us vs. Them” attitude but I have to push back on your conclusion. There is a big difference between recognizing we are in desperate need of grace and forgiveness and those who don’t even believe in sin and celebrate it. So my take is we can find connection with everyone else because we our in desperate need of grace but there is also a disconnection with those who celebrate their sin or refuse to even acknowledge it. So perhaps we should change our attitude to an “Us for Them”. We are not against anyone but salvation comes to the humble and those who confess their sin. We get the privilege to share the good news but it starts with bad news first that we all our sinners. We can bring light into our neighborhoods and love the lost in many many ways but we certainly can not join in participating in sin. If the world views that lack of embrace of sin as intolerance towards those in the world I’m not sure the Christian is always to blame and I’m not sure how much we can change that. We should certainly pray and love the best we can but the world often times wants us to join them.
There is obviously a significant difference between those who recognize their sin and need for forgiveness and receive it from God and those who reject such a reality. The significant difference comes in what we receive and inherit from God, not in anything that we have done or can do.
However, if we look at the difference between us and others when it comes to our own behavior and righteousness, we see the difference is miniscule when considering the gap between us and God. If this is where we focus – in the fact that we are all sinners who are totally and equally in need of God to save us from such a condition – that, I believe, would go far in curing our “us vs. them” attitudes.
what you apparently don’t see, this very blog (and its owner) are the biggest us vs. them advocates I have experienced on the web! It seems you hate even the church when we are mandated to love His church. You will say, ‘but the Christians aren’t acting like it,’ but that is an us vs. them. Look in, not out. That’s where the answers are found for us.
If this blog is the biggest proponent of “us vs. them” temperament you have experienced on the web, then either your experience must be extremely limited or else you have just chosen to live life with blinders on. Yes, we all are guilty of exhibiting such attitudes at times, but this site makes far more efforts to show understanding of others and recognize the complexity of issues and avoid language that makes everything black and white, “us vs. them”, than does many other sites and groups that deal with hard issues.
You say that I seem to hate the church. Can you please point out any statement of the church I have ever made that is hateful? I think you’d be hard pressed to ever find one. Rather, I love the church, of which I am a part, and that is why I am saddened and disturbed by much of the behavior coming from it. If I didn’t love it and hope for its best, I wouldn’t nearly care about its behavior as I do.
Thanks for your encouragement.
I’m a strident Marxist, Leninist, Communist at the core level of the pamphlet that defined it. However, for the first time, I see you understand what is defacing and destroying Christianity in America as we speak.
A 78 year old Communist said to me once, “Jesus was a Communist”’ and there is merit to that when compared to the simple precepts of my political social economic persuasion. I don’t claim this as dogmatic, but to simply point out that Jesus and Christianity in American culture are a universe apart.
You know already that I agree with zero of your politics, but you get it…
It was a very busy weekend and I was hardly online so I’m just getting back to you now. Sorry for the delay.
I’ve been criticizing many of the manners in which Christians behave and entangle themselves in politics for quite many years now. It has been problematic throughout the history of our country, and sadly the last several years have been a particularly bad period. While I don’t agree that Jesus and Christianity in American culture are a universe apart, I fully concede that there are many things that Christians do in our culture that look nothing at all like Jesus, all the while claiming it is for or from Him. In many ways, the perspectives and attitudes Christians have taken on in this country have poisoned them.