Who is the enemy? Who is the opposition? Who is on my team and who is against me?
They are questions that are not necessarily essential for survival, but are so deeply bred into our culture that no one grows up without asking one or more of them at some point in their life. My argument is that it is unnecessary and dangerous to let them into our lives.
Example 1: Cold War
During the Cold War the United States government convinced an entire nation, based on freedom and independence, that it would be a good idea to encroach on and invade multiple independent countries.
The people of the United States readily accepted this approach, despite it being completely opposed to their morals, because the “Us” and “Them” had been clearly defined.
The United States government ran one of the most successful propaganda campaigns against Communists, Socialists, and Russians. The campaign was so successful that the citizens of the United States accepted and perpetuated it themselves; leaving the effects of it still felt today.
The only way U.S. citizens could rationalize what was being done (attacking and intervening in completely independent countries’ affairs) was to convince themselves that they were doing it for a “greater good,” namely, protecting these independent countries from the “Soviet Influence.”
Example 2: Party Politics
While, yes, there are some major differences between the two major political parties (Republican and Democratic), they are far more similar in many ways than anyone within the parties are willing to admit.
The two parties have conspired (sometimes consciously, sometimes not) to create a culture in which people are forced to align themselves with one or the other despite major personal contrasts with both.
A clearly defined “Us” and “Them” rhetoric from both sides has completely alienated third-parties from even entering the discussion (a truly shameful thing for a melting-pot nation such as we are).
In both examples the “Us” and “Them” are clearly defined and repeatedly reinforced. This helps to distract from the obvious problems. In the Cold War those problems would be our compromising of morals and outright attack on independent governments. In partisan politics the problems are accepting a system of governance that doesn’t match our personal beliefs and has grown to reduce the diversification of beliefs, which limit our perception of problems and ultimately hinder our ability to solve said problems.
In the New Testament Paul writes that our enemies are not flesh and blood, but the powers and principalities of darkness. Which leads me to believe that we must be especially skeptical when someone presents another human being as the “enemy” based on differences of opinion.
Our enemies are not, never have been, and never will be each other, even if we believe differently than one another; and anyone that makes such a claim must have an ulterior motive.
During the Cold War the government needed support to enter countries with exploitable resources, Democrats and Republicans have successfully beaten the political landscape into a 50/50 chance of winning positions, and even our churches are more well known for who they are against than who they are for!
As people (and especially to my Christian brothers and sisters) we should be above the “Us” and “Them” rhetoric. Not only should we be known for the courage to stand up for what we believe, but also the humility to collaborate with those different than us.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” -African Proverb