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.