When my good Christian friend started fuming anger and frustration last week about illegal immigrants in California I struggled for a way to put out the fire. It was just as well that I couldn't think of anything to say because I was basically told that my opinion on this subject didn't matter because I was not from California as she and her family had been. She kept telling me I didn't know. I didn't know. On the other hand, I thought, it seemed unlikely that anyone else could really know all the hearts and minds, challenges and motivations of such a large group of people.
After wondering to myself how Jesus would respond to what she was saying it came to me. The problem was with one of her words. THEY. We all have "theys” in our lives. Republicans. Democrats. Immigrants. Pro-lifers. Pro-choicers. Welfare recipients. "The Man". Tea Partiers. Take your pick. You start with a large population with ONE THING in common and put them all in a box marked SAME. You have a bad experience with a few and then paint it with a wide brush over a whole lot of total strangers.
I am not denying the real life stories and examples. There are lots of people doing wrong and many are even hurting other people. HewhoisnotGod sure does love to wrap truth and lies into one big tasty sandwich though.
A few days ago two of my religious Facebook friends, total strangers to each other, posted the same video of an angry man bashing religion in the name of “Jesus”. Their posts were responded to with “likes” and statements of approval. To me, his rantings were all about a "they". Those religious people. The great thing about “they” is that even if the shoe fits, by definition it does not include “you” or “me”. Ask your fourth grade English teacher.
You know, each member of a group called "they” is an individual. For example, let's imagine one we will call Bob. Bob’s motivations for doing things we don't like might include sin, necessity, innocent lack of understanding, being a jerk, etc. Maybe Bob woke up this morning deliberately planning to screw the system and annoy people. Most people don't. And while I may not appreciate Bob’s actions in any case, I am called as a Christian to love Bob. Jesus did not suffer and die for a “them”. But he did for Bob. If you have a problem with Bob, go make it right. All this yelling and accusing can’t be good for anyone’s soul.