The Sin of Dehumanization

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But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.  - Matthew 5:22

If there was one overarching sin that I find most offensive and evil, it is the sin of dehumanization.  And there is nothing like an election season to bring this out in spades!

Spending this week talking with students and colleagues while reading and watching everything I can get a hold of, I am horrified at how easily it is for people to roll dehumanizing rhetoric right off the tongue.  Being in a Blue State, most of this vitriol is directed firmly at Donald Trump and his supporters.  They are:

  • Racist
  • Bigots
  • Homophobes
  • Xenophobic 
  • Sexist 
  • Misogynist

That is quite a list.  And every word is a dehumanizing word that makes the person on the other end slightly "less than" you and therefor no longer worthy of dignity or respect.  I am watching sisters and brothers call out their fellow Christians and shaming them into submission by characterizing Trump and his supporters as the evil scapegoats found in wartime propaganda. 

From all that I have been reading, marginalizing and shaming a group of people in whom you disagree does not  make for civil discourse or win anybody to your side.  And human nature, being what it is, causes marginalized groups to band together and fight back.  (I do get how offensive it is to call Trump and his supporters as marginalized, but stick with me for a minute.)

For too long, we have allowed disagreements on policy to turn into good vs. evil.  And with all the people I have been taking to on both sides, it is strange that nobody seems to see their side as evil.

If your argument is rooted in fear mongering and centered on statements that are dehumanizing, then, as a Christian, you are doing it wrong.  

Identity politics has not served us well.  Are you Black, Latino, LGBTQ, Un Educated White?  Putting everyone into groups based on one slice of their life and using statistics to describe you and your concerns is about as dehumanizing as it gets.  Then throw around the war time propaganda and we are not longer engaging in conversation, let alone life, with the diverse group of people who we actually share space with in the real world.  

While you may have read the first part of this post as a defense of Donald Trump or of "White, Uneducated, Evangelicals."  It is not.  I am simply pointing out that the vast majority of news, late night comedy, and rhetoric, in my world has embraced dehumanizing language as the normal and natural way to describe Trump, Republicans, and Christians.  

As a "White Evangelical" who is continuing to watch our "brand" go down the gutter, we must not fall into the dehumanizing trap.  We must not allow the knee jerk reaction to defend the indefensible and prevent us from our true task of being the co-laborers with Jesus and seeking His Kingdom and His will. As my pastor friend of mine has said,  "Our allegiance is not to a donkey or to an elephant, but to the Lamb."

With that being said, we must take extra care to obey Jesus and to see, care for, and defend the weakest, poorest, and marginalized among us. This means that we speak truth to power. And in the case of our New president, we MUST condemn Trump's sexist language, his sloppy language regarding immigration, his fear mongering and authoritarian solutions and what I find to be the most offensive, is the wink he gave to the extreme white supremacist fringe found in the Republican

Being mad at people who are not like you or who do and say dumb and / or awful things is pretty easy. Rage feels awesome. To listens to and defend those who are not like you, well that takes a bit more effort. 

The reputation of the church is on the line. How much are you willing to give for the sake of those you disagree with, in order to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Even more, as leaders who "identify" as "White and Evangelical" we must be quiet, listen, pray, and think well. And before a word comes out of our mouth make sure it is seasoned with love and grace. Then go back and season it even more with love and grace.  

We must grow in humility, empathy, and generosity. For our calling would demand nothing less.  And this means modeling to our students and other humans around us that everyone is more than and "identity."  Everyone has a complex story. Everyone is made in the image of God, and therefore worthy of dignity and respect. And while everyone may be broken and is in the habit of breaking things, everyone is redeemable. 

Dehumanization is a sin that destroys people and breaks down relationship. The church has an opportunity to be the true eyes, ears, hands, feet, and heart of Jesus. We have the high honor of listening well and loving generously. It is simply a matter of deciding to.  

May God continue to give you wisdom and discernment as you walk through this season of ministry, especially as you walk through this with students. And may you fight for the dignity of any and everyone no matter race, religion, class, education, region, gender, orientation, or the vast number of other ways we decide to label and dehumanized each other.