Cultural Permission to Kill in One Easy Step
Posted by yiothesia8
About a week ago, I was listening to a podcast from one of my favorite teachers. In addition to being entertaining, his personal story is quite interesting and his teachings are easily absorbed — I look forward to every new podcast. On this particular day, his podcast was entitled “Babies are Dying to Get Out.” Since he’d never really touched much on “morally” focused, politically charged subjects, I wasn’t really expecting a talk on abortion. But I got one — and it changed the way I think about what I think about. I’m want to discuss the argument made in that podcast that really touched me, but it’s going to require you to pay attention to what I’m saying instead of attributing to me something that is based on your own stereotypes. It’s a blog, nobody is watching, there’s no need to get defensive. Deal? I thought so.
Now, before everyone gets fired up, I’d like to disclose some things about me and the abortion issue. I’ve never had an abortion and I’ve never done an abortion procedure. I’ve never witnessed an abortion, advised someone to get an abortion or tried to talk someone out of an abortion. I’ve seen Juno (the movie, not the city). Abortion, for better or worse, isn’t an issue that fires me up. I mostly don’t think about it at all, and like most politically charged issues, I’m easily annoyed by the rhetoric that focuses on manipulation rather than understanding. So, what I’m trying to say is this: I’m not trying to any type of argument for or against abortion in this blog. I’m trying to get to a larger point that a particular abortion argument brought to life for me.
For my purposes, I’m going to jump straight to the middle of his story (if you to listen to the whole podcast, email me and I’ll send you a link). After being confronted by a man on the issue of abortion while 30,000 feet in the air, the podcaster made this point to his seat mate: whenever we want to justify killing anything, we first dehumanize it. In this case, it was a conversation between a pastor and a self-described “Jewish liberal atheist” (maybe this reveals ignorance on my part, but I don’t fully understand that description– is Jewish being used only to describe ethnicity/culture and not faith?). The pastor, in making his point said, “you, of all people, should understand this process. How did Hitler nearly wipe out an entire people? He convinced Germans that Jews were sub-human.” And, in fact, I’d say Hitler marketed that concept so powerfully that you still hear people — without willful malice — describe his program as “extermination” — a word generally only used when referring to vermin or bugs or something along those lines. The point that the pastor went on to make is that in justifying abortion, the first step is to dehumanize an unborn child so that someone isn’t just making a decision about life v. death of a person, but that they’re making a decision about their own lifestyle.
While his argument was different than the rhetoric I’m used to hearing, it actually shook my thinking more-than-the-abortion-argument way. I started thinking about how, antebellum Americans, attempted to justify slavery (slaveholder argument was that blacks were sub-human savages that endangered our innocent, white families AND/OR blacks lacked human work ethic, so we’re doing them a favor by providing them shelter, food and a job). Same thing occurred to Native Americans (dangerous savages with silly spiritual beliefs, drunks and bows/arrows) to justify taking the land they lived on. Dehumanization is the underlying support of any genocide/genotheft (I think I just made that word up — but I like it!) program. And, at that point in my thought process, the magnitude of this dehumanization concept hit me squarely between the eyes.
When we judge our neighbor, aren’t we basically doing the same thing? We’ve established some standard as to what it is to be a suitable human in our minds, then we attack people that don’t meet OUR standard. We can choose to disregard them because they’ve failed to be human. Of course, our standards don’t apply to ourselves because we’re excused from the standard due to our special circumstances. Right? Sure, maybe we’re not lining people up to be shot due to their outdated perms, but as a society, we do treat people differently when they fail to meet the “standards” set by the people who are like us.
When people in society talk about tolerance and diversity, they usually do it in a way that throws stones at the people who don’t share their version of tolerance and diversity. What strikes me, though, is that Christians should be at the forefront of any movement regarding tolerance and diversity, and they should be doing it stone-free. EVERY man and woman on this earth was created in the image of God, our Father in Heaven (Genesis 1:26-28). Jesus is the image of an invisible God (Colossians 1:15) living in perfect relationship with God (John 17). Jesus found himself in a situation where society was bullying (and about to stone to death) a “sub-human” woman who was caught in an adulterous relationship. Jesus’ statement was simple, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8). Christians are called to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).
Not only are my brothers and sisters in Christ not leading the charge in the anti-bullying surge as far as I can tell, I’ve seen mostly apathy. Ultimately, there is no Biblical authority that I’m aware of that allows a Christian to dehumanize any individual, regardless of their choices. When we dehumanize, we tell a lie: that someone, or some group of someones, isn’t created in God’s image and we incorrectly represent Jesus. And when we lie, we’re never more like Satan.
My challenge to you, Christian or not, is to consider your views of mankind. Are you better than your neighbor? Does that give you the grounds to treat them differently? To curse them? And what about the person that’s “better” than you and thinks you’re the different, sub-human one because your choices don’t line up with their standards?
I’ll state right here, right now, that I may be opening the door to things I’ve never even thought about. I may be completely rebuked on this subject – this area isn’t my forte. I do know, however, that you won’t find me in line to cast stones. It is my Father’s job to judge. But in a world that continues to attack each other on just about everything, isn’t it our obligation to understand how we view our neighbor? I believe that we’re ALL made in my Father’s image; that we’re His children – even if some have chosen not to live under His roof. What do you believe?