avoid demonizing “the enemy”

July 24, 2006

While on vacation, I read, or perhams I should say skimmed, Better Together. This is a follow up to the more well-known Bowling Alone. It is filled with stories of communities of people who are creating the social capital that Bowling Alone says is diminishing in our culture.

I didn’t really enjoy the book much, though some of the stories were a bit intriguing. As a pastor, it was interesting to read a chapter on Saddleback from a nonreligious perspective. There was one quote in the summary chapter at the end of the book that made the whole thing worth my time:

We are struck, however, that many of our success stories involve organizations that work hard to avoid demonizing “the enemy,” even in tense and conflict-ridden situations.

Creating an enemy and rallying against that enemy is a common battle cry in our culture of fear, but something about it strikes me as unhealthy and dangerous. I especially think there is an important message in this for the church. When we define ourselves by what we are against, both those inside and outside our community might wonder what we are actually for. That’s not to say there aren’t things we should not agree with, or that there isn’t an enemy, but the church should be known by what it is for.

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