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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Why it’s Kind to Demonize

By demonize I don’t mean to find someone a devil. I mean rather that we see the devil as the ultimate source of the person’s actions or beliefs. Why is this approach the kind thing to do rather than to place the blame entirely on the person? For example, I could say something like the following to someone I strongly disagree with regarding an issue: 

“You are dead wrong here. You are totally blind as to the underlying issues. This is because you simply don’t have the equipment to see the truth. Your father and mother passed along to you damaged Neanderthal genes. You cannot and will never see the truth because of your innate deficiencies. In a real sense I cannot respect you as a full human being.”

Now compare this to the following: 

“You are dead wrong here. You are totally blind to the underlying issues. There is a real sense in which you are not to blame because the Great Adversary Satan has deceived you. You have all the necessary facilities to see the truth. I will always have deepest regard for you as a human being with full intellectual competencies and look forward to the day that the devil is defeated and your vision clears.”

In this light, if I were the person being confronted, I would much prefer the respect of the one over the disrespect of the other treating me, as he does, as his innate inferior. I came to this realization today when a neighbor and friend came by for a visit. Negille is a Jehovah Witness who has graciously instructed me (sometimes with his wife Veronica) on the views and faith of the Jehovah Witness. Today I told him that all of us have a lot to learn from Jehovah Witnesses for they are often the recipients of great opprobrium, yet continue to serve with politeness and grace never, so far as I know, getting into bitter arguments during their witnessing. I am just the opposite when I find disagreement with others. Frequently the conversation degenerates from discussion, to debate, to outright bitter charge and countercharge as loaded bombs are thrown back and forth. I never find this with the Jehovah Witnesses (though I disagree with them on some matters—for example nonparticipation in politics), and I asked Negille why this is so. He said it was because he never sees an individual as an adversary or enemy, rather the enemy is the Great Adversary, Satan himself. Thus, he has no reason to disrespect or hate anyone—even those vociferously unkind to him.

It is in this light that I strongly recommend we take up the Jehovah Witness view of public discourse when profound differences persist.

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