The Others are everywhere. They lurk around every corner, in every mall, and in every restaurant and school. They serve you at theaters, teach your kids, take your money at the bank, and pour your coffee. Can you feel it?
BY BOB FABEY
Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from Bob Fabey’s book NotMyJesus taken from the “Houston, We Have a Problem” chapter with permission. Fabey’s commentary is also part of TogetherLA’s series: How Would Jesus Vote?
Can you sense the cold tingling down your spine when you think there are people out there who aren’t like you? It’s real, my friends, and if you aren’t careful, they’ll get you!
They will change culture and laws, teach your kids the wrong things, infect society with their viruses, and kill the dreams of millions. They will challenge your worldview and communicate ideas you don’t like. They will vote for people you won’t vote for and push agendas you don’t agree with. Simply put, they are out to ruin you.
This is how people felt about the Jews in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, and it’s what helped turn a previously respected group of people into objects. Once people are objects, it doesn’t take much for you to begin treating them as such. Ask the Rwandese what that produces. They will tell you what genocide looks like.
When people are The Other, they are “less than.” They are no longer someone’s child, mom, or dad. They are nothing. They have no feelings that count, no thoughts of value, no redeeming qualities or anything that could contribute to anyone. When that is the case, you can treat them any way you like. You can place them on rail cars like cattle—to begin with. And you know where this mentality leads.
The truth is, we do this all the time. Maybe not literally, but in our minds. Every action begins as a seed in the mind, so those kinds of thoughts need to be challenged. Each human being has dignity. Every person on the planet deserves equal treatment, even when they disagree with you and even when they make you angry.
Think about what happens when you find out your friend, co-worker, or family member voted for Trump for President. Maybe you voted for Trump, and you’ve experienced people condemning you because of it. You may have ten thousand things in common with someone, but if they vote for the wrong candidate, they are out!
Maybe you vote for abortion because you believe it is the woman’s choice and you have experienced people calling you names. Perhaps you are gay, or you have gay friends, and the issues surrounding gay marriage produce conflict and Othering.
Honestly, you can pick any topic and there will be someone who disagrees and who will be happy to let you know you suck because you disagree with them. Men vs. women, dogs vs. cats, Ford vs. Chevy, Mac vs. PC—disagreement occurs all the time. These disputes are producing something in us as a society that didn’t exist just a few decades ago.
Forty or 50 years back, a disagreement didn’t mean you hated someone; it meant you disagreed. Now, disagreement implies that you are full of hate, stupid, and not worthy of the skin you are outfitted with. The prevailing ethos is that if you disagree with someone, you hate them.
This hate, real or perceived, drives an incredible wedge between people when name-calling, culture-bashing, and Othering is the norm. It is normal to belittle. It is normal to attack. It is normal to make fun of those who don’t agree with you. This isn’t to our credit, and once we do these things long enough and with enough ferocity, we are only steps away from cattle cars.
Bob Fabey (www.bobfabey.com), author of NotMyJesus, is an Anglican priest with over 20 years of ministry experience with a variety of organizations. He holds a Master’s Degree in Divinity and a B.A. in History from the University of Montana. Although Montana will always be his home, he resides in the greater Phoenix area. He loves to travel and hang out with his wife and kids, practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and drink coffee.