We-uns and you-uns. Us and them. Republicans and democrats. My neighborhood, school or church and your neighborhood, school or church. Christian or Muslim or athiest or Jewish. American citizen or immigrant. Male or female. Haves and have-nots. Baptist or Episcopal. Liberal or conservative. Straight or gay. Black or white.
Whatever group is identified lets us know where we belong and where we do not. We have successfully developed a world seeped in separation. You are either part of ‘us’ or you are one of ‘them’. When you get right down to it, we either don’t really like ‘them’, or, even worse, they are simply invisible to us. It is easier and gentler on our egos to cling to those whom we know, the groups where we understand the rules or those who accept us with all of our foibles and warts. Oh, it gets worse. Our human nature causes us to inappropriately elevate our group above the others making us and ours special and right. The others are simply naive, wrong, stupid, silly or naive. We have come to a point where we neglect to respect the fact that life experiences lead us to different places and understandings, ultimately internalizing the bogus opinion that we cannot possibly learn from or learn to love others who are ‘not like us’.
We-uns and you-uns. The underlying implication is that if you aren’t part of us, you are one of them and they aren’t worthy of our time.
You disagree with me? Think about it. We are caught up in recent worldwide bombings. Our media tends to focus on how many Americans are killed. It’s as if those are the only lives that matter. Tell that to the Pakistani families who are engulfed in sorrow or the Belgium survivors who are preparing to bury a loved one. Us and them…
Polarizations constantly challenge us. Who do we socialize with? What parts of town do we visit? Where do we spend our time? How well do we understand the perspectives of others that are not familiar to us? How much time do we spend talking through problems with the very real understanding that our view point is not the only viable alternative. Do we cling to our degrees and positions so mightily that we forget someone outside of our group could have insights that will make a difference? Whom do we listen to? Whom do we shun?
The very real problem is when we surround ourselves with similarly thinking others, we can become locked into a uniform perspective that tends be narrow and prejudicial. We begin to think that all people who are part of another group think, act, talk, dress and eat the same. They like the same things, make the same mistakes and listen to the same music. We forget that the ‘others’ are like us with unique skills, insights and ways of looking at life. Instead, we pigeon hole them into categories based on something other than what we actually know about them as a person, most likely because we never took the time to actually know them as a person.
We recently celebrated Easter. Families dressed up in pastel dresses and seersucker suits, enjoyed brunches, planned egg hunts, and slowed down enough to celebrate this Christian holy day. Some even took time out of their holiday events to spend time in worship. It’s as if we have forgotten who and what we are dedicating this day to. Is it the life, death and resurrection of Jesus? And…knowing that how we live our lives is the greatest thing we can do to honor him? Or is it a chance to kiss winter good-bye with thoughts of bunnies, flowers and spring clothes?
Jesus was the great equalizer. He didn’t care if you were a Samaritan, a woman, a tax collector, a child, a Roman soldier or an invalid. He didn’t cling to his merry band of 12 and make jokes about those who weren’t part of his ‘in’ crowd. Instead, he spoke with whomever he came in contact with…not shunning, not judging…rather listening and accepting.
He didn’t know the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’.
I am cynical. I listen to ‘good Christians’ bash those whom they have decided are not worthy. Jesus never did this. I see educated people slam others for their ideas, stating that ‘the other’ doesn’t know what they are talking about. Jesus didn’t do this. Our media pounces on differences, inciting people to pick sides and hate those who are part of the opposition. Nope…not Jesus. We can verbalize what he taught, pontificate on how he lived his life and theologize the depth of his love and compassion. Yet, when we observe the actions of those around us… and, if we are honest, of ourselves…it’s easy to question who or what we actually memorialize on Easter.
I wonder how many more Easters we will need to celebrate before we realize that it’s not about we-uns and you-uns. The real message asks us to ponder who we think we are in God’s world and how we will show love and respect for all who occupy it.