The other has been a philosophical idea with a rich history. The idea is how do individuals relate with the other, whether the other is defined by different genders, cultures, class, religion, age, or any of the multitude of ways we humans divide ourselves. Millions of gallons of ink have been spilled on the scholarly battlefields on this concept, as it seems to be a primary condition of being human.
For the followers of Jesus, we are commanded to deal with the other with love, hence the image of the cross: “for all are one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28). Loving our enemies can only lead to the cross, which in turn leads to Easter. This is our hope and our strength in Christ.
While there has been much talk about the other, there has been less conversation about the use of they. By this, I mean the way the word creates a narrative, and then how it divides the world through this narrative. The narrative is easy and has been with humans from our earliest days. The story goes like this: the problem with the world is they, and if we got rid of them all would be good. They are the problem. This narrative creates an us opposed to the them. It gives humans a way of shaping the world that is both simple to understand and a call to arms. It gives individuals an us to be part of and a them to oppose. The they narrative is seductive.
Look at classic Marxism and communism through the above narrative. They are the moneyed classes. If get rid of them, then we would have the workers’ paradise. They will be overcome through violent revolution. The undercurrent is that they can only be violently removed. Unfortunately for humanity, violence and the forcible removal of them has been all to common. The blood of Jesus flows through our long history.
Listening to Glenn Beck and his use of they, we can see the narrative at work. His they consists of vague concepts which he can fill as needed with progressives, liberals, or RINOs (republicans in name only). They are the problem. Whoever they are.
The temptation when labeled as the they is then to label the other side as the true they as opposed to the us. They then become those who listen to Fox News and vote for those people as opposed to our us. They, whoever they are, need to be removed like a cancer. But is not the narrative of they the temptation to be led into darkness? You need only look at the comment sections of blogs dealing with Mr. Beck’s social justice comments. The us vs. them narrative holds the comment section in bondage. Each hopes to prove the other as the they. But then what?
As a Christian, I know the problem. The problem is me and my sin. My heart is full of darkness that needs to be redeemed by the love of Jesus. I am part of the them as I am part of the us. Jesus becomes a bridge to which we can walk to meet Glenn Beck. Can we love one another? Can I love Glenn Beck? Can he love me? Not without risking the cross.
“Were you there when they crucified our Lord?” the hymn asks. We all know the answer in our own hearts: yes. On this week, Jesus entered Jerusalem. He is labeled the problem and killed. Then he will come back to us to give hope and salvation. It through his cross that we approach life.
First posted on Sojourners