Responding to Self-isms

A more accurate term…

I am opposed to racism just like most other well-indoctrinated members of American Society. I have been trained that “racism” is a problem and that good people oppose it. I’m not only an American, but I’m a follower of Jesus Christ who taught me to love other people as myself and to go even beyond that measure of love when it comes to people who are in the family of believers.
Jesus taught me that I don’t have the right to evaluate people based on the categories from which they come or in which they live but based solely on two criteria: If they are people, they are made in the image of God and I am supposed to love and respect them; and if they are believers, they are my eternal family and I am supposed to submit myself and even sacrifice myself for them.
Race, gender, economics and all other demographics are meaningless outside these two considerations.
Therefore, the good Christian thing to do is to be anti-racism, anti-anti-semitism, anti-genderism, anti-elitism, etc.
Still, there is something deeper and more troubling in the human heart that we fail to recognize when we speak of the need to oppose these dangerous “isms.”
There’s an “ism” that all of us have at the core of our being. It was planted there at the first moment of human sin, and it gets strengthened every day of our lives.
It’s an “ism” that underlies all others, and it is at the core of all humans both racist and anti-racist.
This “ism” is “self-ism.”

Understanding Self-ism

Racism is the belief that one’s own race is to be preferred for some reason over and against another race. In its most mild form, racism asks for me to be treated differently and preferentially compared to someone else simply because of race differences. In its most extreme form, racism declares that my race is the only one that should hold power or even exist.
What about anti-semitism? Well, in its most mild form, anti-semitism asks for me to be treated differently and preferentially compared to someone else simply because I am not Jewish and the other person is. In its most extreme form, anti-semitism declares that non-Jews are the only ones that should hold power or even exist.
Notice the similarity? You might notice the similarity of the consequences, but I want you to see the similarity of the causes… in both cases, the real cause is “self-ism.”
Self-ism is the belief that whatever I embrace about me is to be preferred for some reason over and against things that are embraced by others. In its most mild form, self-ism asks for me to be treated differently and preferentially compared to someone else simply because that person doesn’t share one of my embraced characteristics. In its most extreme form, self-ism declares that the things I embrace about myself should be the defining characteristics regarding who should be in power or even be allowed to live.
The white-nationalist thinks he is promoting the cause of white people, but really, he has come to embrace something about himself (pale skin and European heritage) and is promoting the cause of himself by using the strategy of fighting with people like himself for the elevation of all people like himself.
The anti-racist thinks he is promoting the cause of love and equality, but really, he has come to embrace something about himself (a sense of social enlightenment, a sense of compassion, or his own skin color and heritage) and is promoting the cause of himself by using the strategy of fighting with people like himself for the elevation of all people like himself.
DISCLAIMER ONE: I’m not saying that everyone is completely motivated by selfish aims. I’m sure there are people out there who are doing what they are doing because they feel truly altruistic about it.
DISCLAIMER TWO: Of these two perspectives, racism will never be compatible with the teaching of Jesus.
BUT STILL: Our challenge is to not fall for the smoke screen of someone else’s “ism” while ignoring our own propensity to promote ourselves and other people like us. We must recognize that a major motivation inside of each of us is to aggressively support our own aims by tossing grenades from inside the safety of a group that is like us. Whether we stand on the right or wrong side of any specific issue, we are all guilty of supporting ourselves by supporting people like us!

Self-ism is Wrong

So sure, I could speak out against racism or genderism or anti-semitism or a host of other societal issues, but if I do, it will aways be as a person who lives in the camp of other people who oppose racism or genderism or whatever. It will be as a person who lives among those who feel threatened by the people in the other camp. It will be as a person who is concerned of the consequences of letting those other voices be heard. It will be as a person who lives among people who wish to exterminate the virus of these other ideas. It will be as a person living among people who would be happy if all the racists, genderists, and anti-semites were simply removed from power or if necessary removed from existence.
Can you see how this works?
Of course, we have seen it recently in Charlottesville. One group decided to remove a statue of a Confederate general during the Civil War, another group decided to protest, another group decided to counter-protest, and a member of the first group took it to a violent extreme.
But I watched some video taken from some of these protests, and I was shocked. The racists were saying things like, “We want to be able to speak openly about these things that concern us.” The counter-protesters were saying things like, “Go commit suicide you Nazi ————!” Then, an idiot racist drove his car into the crowd, killing one woman and injuring many other people.
I don’t support racism or violence. I do support freedom of speech. But I can’t stand on either side of what went down in Charlottesville!
Because, at heart, both sides are saying, “I want you to accept my point of view or die.”
Because, at heart, both sides are saying, “The things I embrace about myself should be the defining characteristics regarding who should be in power or even be allowed to live.”
Both sides, along with all the rest of us, are guilty of self-ism.

Defeating Self-ism

And so, I call you to join me in doing the hardest thing any human being has ever done.
Love other people.
I don’t mean love all the people who think like you.
I don’t mean love all the people who look like you.
I don’t mean love all the people who believe like you.
I mean love other people.
Should we attack the racist, beat the racist, yell at the racist, ostracize the racist, or even kill the racist?
Well, should we attack the abortionist, beat the abortionist, yell at the abortionist, ostracize the abortionist, or even kill the abortionist?
Or, should we attack the Muslim, beat the Muslim, yell at the Muslim, ostracize the Muslim, or even kill the Muslim?
No! No! No!
And it doesn’t matter what word you put in that slot. Even if the word is “enemy,” the answer is still No.

(43) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (44) But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (46) If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? (47) And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (48) Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. — Matthew 5:43-48 NIV

Yep. There it is.
If people agree with you, love them.
If people disagree with you, love them.
If people oppose racism, love them.
If people support something you hate, love them.
If people believe something you don’t, love them.
If people march for something you don’t like, love them.
If people vote for someone you oppose, love them.
If people attack you, love them.
If people are attacked by people in your circle, you love them.
If people around you are wrapped up in any form of self-ism, you love them.
And if you get any opportunity at all, use your own love as the entry point for talking about the love of Jesus.
Let us devote ourselves to the total eradication of self-ism in ourselves and to the full embracing of Jesus-ism… or perhaps we could just call it following Jesus.

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