The Layman Proves Me Right With A Call to Arms

In my previous post, I talked about Terror Management Theory. In its own recent post, the Layman has made a “call to arms”, continuing in the genre of absurdly exaggerated conservative rhetoric about the 218th General Assembly.

This turn to warlike language is as predictable as it is disappointing and sad. I have no doubt that we are now going to begin seeing groups like the Layman escalate their language of conflict and metaphors of warfare. They are rallying their troops and cementing their commitment to their immortality project, which they believe is threatened by equal treatment for a minority. (This has of course been the case in the past as well.)

In Faces of the Enemy, we get a chilling look at what this escalation of language and imagery will look like. The key to fostering conflict is to dehumanize your opponent. This helps to soften the natural empathy that human beings feel for each other to varying degrees. It is probably impossible for a human being, psychologically, to inflict violence on another human being. The target of the violence has to be dehumanized first – at the very least, into the “enemy”, the faceless inhuman threat to all we hold dear. If, for example, the Layman saw its ‘opponents’ in the 218th GA as children of God and equals as human beings, they would not be able to say the things they’re saying.

But, if they don’t say those things, then they have to deal directly with their immortality project, which is a painful process as I’ve mentioned before. They have to accept the fact that well-intentioned, intelligent and faithful people can disagree – and for now, that is clearly well beyond them.

Of course, Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but I don’t think we’ll see groups like the Layman doing that anytime soon. I’m sure they’ll claim that the horrible things they’re saying, they’re saying out of love – how else could they justify them, while not devolving into Fred Phelps territory? I had an abusive family member who did the same thing, so I can’t say I’ll be listening when they do.

They are predictably going to exacerbate their feeling of threat, they’re going to rally the troops with more calls “to arms” and bellicose language, and they’re going to slowly escalate to the point where they can do…whatever it is they’ll decide to do. Schism, tantrum, whatever it turns out to be. I certainly don’t expect this to escalate very far, but its sad nonetheless on a lot of levels.

In the meantime, those of us who are the target of their sprays of venom and rancor should do what we can to remain calm and to be as loving as we can bring ourselves to be. As difficult as it will be, given the awful things they are saying and will say about us. We need to try to remember that, underneath all this yelling and the war metaphors directed at us, there are Christian sisters and brothers. We need to hope that they will remember their better selves before the end of all this, whatever it may be.

6 thoughts on “The Layman Proves Me Right With A Call to Arms

  1. I was just listening to a lecture by Terry Eagleton on Culture and Barbarism. His point about such reactions seems quite valid – that the reactionary stance taken by such groups is out of sheer anxiety and nothing more. Of course, if we analyze this reactive stance through the eyes of Kierkegaard, it takes on a totally different stance namely, the source of anxiety is a discordant grounding in that which is not Christ. Fascinating, and disturbing.What’s worse is that this is indicative of a trend that I have noted in responses to the GA. Those who are in the middle or are in favor of the GA’s votes are quite conciliatory which has been a pattern even before the GA. Those who are adamantly opposed use this militaristic language in order to fortify their respective identities.In my judgment, some are comfortable enough in their faith that they realize that the world and our relationship to God and God’s relationship to the world evolves over time, but God does not change and remains sovereign all the while. The kind of reaction that you note here is indicative of a kind of God that must be concordant with the limits of human thought and reason in order to shape and reinforce assumed identities by a given group or individual. This latter is aptly described as a certain death of God, ironically enough.

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  2. Dear Drew,I agree with you up to a point. However, you said,<>“What’s worse is that this is indicative of a trend that I have noted in responses to the GA. Those who are in the middle or are in favor of the GA’s votes are quite conciliatory which has been a pattern even before the GA. Those who are adamantly opposed use this militaristic language in order to fortify their respective identities.”<>I’ve been watching GA for years, and never once have I seen liberals (or moderates, for that matter) talk in militaristic language. Yes, they may not care for the majority vote, but they don’t rally “the troops”. Rather, they talk in terms of “working for God’s justice”.While both (all?) sides may claim they have God’s perspective in support of their cause, there is still a fundamental difference between militaristic language and justice language. I’ll take my chances with the “God’s justice” crowd, rather than “God’s army”, any day of the week….In Christ,Mark

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  3. Doug,“I’m looking for the God who is bigger than the things I already think are true, the scary one that gives me vertiginous views of limitless being.”I ran into Him once. Thanks for reminding me.“These guys should work for the Pentagon.”Don’t wish that on them. The Pentagon does not care for insubordination. They’d be busted to privates and doing latrine duty by now.

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