“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.