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~ They are Us ~

Most of us are guilty of personifying groups. Among the myriad of groups that evoke an emotional or moral response in many of us include prostitutes, communists, homosexuals, alcoholics, insurgents, convicts and others that may come to your mind.

All of us belong to one or more groups and we know the names of those groups do not define us. Communists and insurgents are, like Christians, also fathers and laborers. Prostitutes and convicts are also mothers. Like us, they were once cute, innocent, playful and loving children.

The names of the groups inculcates in our minds how their members are primarily (often only) defined by the group name, that they are nothing else. That makes it easy for preachers, editorialists and secular prophets to vilify them as an evil cancer that threatens family values and the fabric of our national way of life.

To an extent I wish I could avoid, I am guilty also of commenting on groups. It is convenient. Besides, I have not found a way around it, though I am trying.

If I have not achieved it in my writings, with apologies to the groups I may confront or vilify, I am doing a personal practice that helps me see through the eyes of Christ. The practice sometimes takes this form: I may be sitting in a restaurant, wandering through the aisles of a supermarket or riding on a train somewhere. Smiling, compassionate looking people are easy on the eyes and spirit. It is natural and easy to think well of them. Then there are the annoying people, those with scowls on their faces, who look miserable and even threatening. We are not inclined to strike up a conversation much feel inclined to invite them to our homes for dinner.

What advances my spirituality to is to watch them and ponder Christ’s infinite love for them. I think, “If that person was the only one on earth, the Christ would have gone through the same passion and death for him (or her) as He did for me. He loves them as much as me, perhaps more.”

I can and do marvel at Christ’s love for humanity. However, “humanity” is another group name. We can somewhat understand His pervasive love for “humanity.” But the person I am watching could be a homosexual, a communist, a convict or a rapist. If I knew, it would govern my decision of how to interact with him or her, or to not interact at all, avoiding association with disgust. Then I catch myself in an un-Christlike moment. So I retreat back into musing on how much Christ loves that individual.

In the face of that love, I feel ashamed of my own penchant toward judgment, criticism and dissociation. Retreating into the refuge of seeing this person as a part of a group to be challenged and confronted, even condemned, is easy. But face-to-face, one on one, that person transcends his or her group’s identity and attributes.

Genocides are possible only against groups. That makes it easy to target Jews, homosexuals, Christians, insurgents, atheists, abortionists, japs, gooks, welfare leeches, rednecks and brutal freedom fighters. Notice how we used to call the Japanese people “japs” during the last world war, how we used to call Vietnamese people “gooks” during the Vietnam conflict, and how we call homosexuals “faggots” today. It is much easier to set fire to the poor villages of “gooks” than to the homes of Vietnamese fathers, mothers and children. It is much easier to drop two atomic bombs on “japs” than to kill and wound 200,000 mothers, fathers and children who were working and in school in two cities that had no military importance.

When I sit with one of these “untouchables”, face-to-face, I am interacting with someone for whom Christ suffered in His infinite love. Christ’s passion is about individuals, not groups.

Using hyperbolic expressions, Jesus told us to pluck out our eyes if they cause us to sin. I can do that metaphorically and ask Him to replace my eyes with His own. Suddenly, everyone looks different, and, at the same time, looks like me. For I am the least of His brothers which means I am in no position to feel more morally or spiritually superior to anyone, whether he or she is a jap, gook, faggot, insurgent, addict, convict, prostitute, welfare leech or communist.

In the eyes of God, we are among them in our sins. In the eyes of Christ, we are all equally meritorious of His sacrifice. I do love looking through the eyes of Christ! His sight bathes me with humility, gratitude, inner peace and restorative love. His eyes enable me to pray for my foes, forgive my transgressors, return good for evil and to never regret doing so, for I am the least of them all.

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
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Spiritual Resource Services  © November 19, 2004

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