Saturday, February 23, 2019

Musings on Loving Your Enemy, Including the Enemy Within

 By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

Our world seems filled with fear, hate and hostility.  Politicians in democracies around the world know that and have capitalized on those negative emotions to mobilize voters.  Our real enemies aren’t overseas. They’re right here in the U.S. They are the enemy within--our neighbors who aren’t like us.  As Pogo once said, We have met the enemy, and it’s us.

We live in a globalized world of increasing racial and religious diversity, and that diversity threatens our comfort zones of familiarity.  Rather than seeking to reconcile with our neighbors based on common values, too often it’s us versus them.  We think of people of different races, religions and sexual preferences as threats to our social and political norms, if not our security.     
Jesus taught, Love your enemies; and his teachings are summarized in the greatest commandment to love our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves.  But identity politics have made some of our neighbors the enemy within.  Race, religion and sexual preference define identity politics that have polarized our partisan politics.  

We are a nation more divided than at any time since the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln cited a teaching of Jesus to illustrate the danger of a divided nation: If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. (Mark 3:25)  And Lincoln went on to say, “If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”  
Today the Christian religion is more a part of the problem than the solution.  White Christians elected our divider-in-chief, and the opposition party has failed to provide any political reconciliation.  In religion as in politics, it’s winner take all and losers be damned. Christianity is not alone. Islam also claims to be the one true faith and condemns all unbelievers to eternal damnation.

The greatest commandment is taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus, and has been recognized by Islamic scholars as a common word of faith.  God’s will is to reconcile and redeem humanity through the transforming power of His love when we share it with others; but that’s opposed by Satan’s will to divide and conquer through fear and hate.  

Our challenge is to defeat Satan’s divisive power with the reconciling power of God’s love.  We must learn to love others as we love ourselves, and in politics that requires balancing our individual and group wants with providing for the common good.  Reconciliation does not require resolving all our differences, only learning to live with our differences in peace.

To prevent the fabric of our democracy from unraveling we must find a way to reconcile the contentious identity politics that divide us.  A moral reformation is needed for our faith and politics; and since a majority of Americans claim to be Christians, that reformation should begin in the church.  But first, church doctrines must be conformed to the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus taught his disciples to follow him, not to worship him.  Exclusivist church doctrines that emphasize worshiping him and ignore his universal moral teachings have made the church its own worst enemy in a world of increasing religious diversity.  For the church to lead a moral reformation, it must reject its exclusivist doctrines and promote religious reconciliation based on following Jesus as the word of God rather than worshiping him as the alter ego of God.

For Christianity and democracy to be saved from their demise, they must counter their divisive enemies within with God’s reconciling love in order to foster the spiritual unity of Jews, Christians and Muslims in the universal family of God.  Religious reconciliation is God’s will, and it was taught by Jesus as a common word of faith in the greatest commandment.


Kathleen Parker has described Donald Trump as the nadir of identity politics who has appealed to the demons of our basest instincts.  She elaborated, “today, we have sunk to a level of tribalism that would seem to pre-date the modern era. Will we soon divide ourselves into fiefdoms led by warlords? Virtually speaking, we already have. By seeking like-ideological company around Internet news sites and political watering holes, we sate our need for identity affirmation, rarely questioning whether there might be another way. The next president of the United States will need to start a movement, not merely run a campaign. He or she will have to make a stand against our divisions and those who profit by them. And we citizens need to use our votes to conquer the dividers. It’s time to set aside our differences and reimagine our American identity — as one nation, indivisible.”  See

Nancy Mace has chastised “liberal women” in Washington who overplay identity politics as a cause of social and political divisiveness that is harmful to the progress of women.  In support of her assertions, Mace cited Abraham Lincoln’s observations on the enemy within. (The State, Feb. 17, 2019 at page 1C)

Robin R. Meyers has described how exclusivist church doctrines on worshiping Jesus as the alter ego of God conflict with following the teachings of Jesus as the word of God.  See Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus, Harper Collins, 2009).

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