Each January, the unwritten stories of the upcoming year offer promise of a fresh start and an expectation that accompanies the new and uncertain. As a public high school mathematics teacher and tennis coach for over twenty years, each new class or team had this same vibe – every student started with a perfect grade book, and every team could enjoy an undefeated season.1
January also brings three stark reminders of the horrors and atrocities brought about by the “othering” of a group of persons. Othering – “the process of perceiving or portraying someone or something as essentially alien or different”2 – is the foundation of discrimination and apartheid. The distancing from, and the diminishing of, groups of people provides a rationale and even recommends their unjust treatment.
The Bible demands a completely different approach. “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”3 Jesus taught, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Rather than divide His one creation into countless groups of two, He “create(d) in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.”4 Apart from God, man has created Jew versus Gentile; Left versus Right; Rural versus Urban; Male versus Female. Caucasian versus BIPOC5; Vaccinated versus Unvaccinated; White-collar versus Blue collar; Rich versus Poor; Neighbor versus Stranger; US VERSUS THEM. Jesus came to make the two into one, not the one into two!
I wonder what came to your mind, O Gracious Reader, when I suggested three stark examples of the divisive “Othering” commemorated each January. The following events should serve as reminders and warnings of what has happened throughout recent history.6
- In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the law establishing Martin Luther King Day. The law set the date as the third Monday in January, and this year is celebrated on January 17.7
- The United Nations in 2005 declared each January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the liberation of the prisoners in Auschwitz.
- January 22, 1984, saw the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day. This eleventh anniversary of the famous 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe V. Wade began an inconsistent history of presidential proclamations with pro-life groups and persons annually supporting the message of the National Sanctity of Human Life Day.
These issues go beyond the scope of this article. Sufficient for the author’s thesis is the following:
- “The Three-fifths Compromise was an agreement reached during the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention over the counting of slaves in determining a state’s total population. This count would determine the number of seats in the House of Representatives and how much each state would pay in taxes. The compromise counted three-fifths of each state’s slave population toward that state’s total population for the purpose of apportioning the House of Representatives.”8 This treatment of a person as being worth merely sixty (60%) percent surely contributed to the slavery and racism which continued and persists.
- Der Ewige Jude (“The Eternal Jew”) is the title of an antisemitic Nazi propaganda film disguised as a documentary. “One of the film’s most notorious sequences compares Jews to rats that carry contagion, flood the continent, and devour precious resources.”9 This is one of countless examples of the use of media and entertainment to shape public opinion throughout the decades and remind us that no tactic is new.10 Satan has distorted truth since the garden.11 Can you think of a group blamed today for carrying contagion, spread like rats across the countryside, and draining precious financial and medical resources?
- “These two words [birth control] sum up our whole philosophy... It means the release and cultivation of the better elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extinction, of defective stocks -- those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.” Difficult to print and more disturbing to read, these are the words uttered by Margaret Sanger. Planned Parenthood Federation of America “has its roots in Brooklyn, New York, where Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in 1916. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921, which changed its name to Planned Parenthood in 1942.12
The strategies and sentiments above are alive and well today, with the object of the othering being the unvaccinated and those opposed to a vaccination mandate. Howard Stern said earlier this year, “And I’m really of mind to say, ‘Look, if you didn’t get vaccinated and you got Covid, you don’t get into a hospital.’”13 “Fox News examined Merriam-Webster’s current definition of ‘anti-vaxxer’ compared to its definition from 2018, and found it omitted the word ‘laws’ in favor of ‘regulations.’”14 Redefinition, propaganda, misinformation, thought control, public shaming, peer pressure, accusation, and so many more are captured under the broad umbrella named othering.
We have one Creator – “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”15 We have one Condition – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”16 We have one Confession – “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”17 We have one Commission – “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”18 We are one Church – “That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”19
Creator. Condition. Confession. Commission. Church. What God has joined together let no man or board or policy or ruling tear asunder.
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