Demonization: “The portrayal of something or someone as wicked or threatening.”
The big cheese religious officials from Jerusalem tried to demonize Jesus in Mark 3. They said Jesus was “possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” (Mark 3:22) He wasn’t the last to be demonized. In fact, the demonization of one’s opponents seems to be an ever-increasing phenomenon in 2020.
Maybe the lesson from Jesus interaction with the religious leaders is: “if you find yourself or your beliefs being demonized by someone, consider yourself in good company.” Maybe the more needed lesson is: “Don’t be like the messed up religious leaders from Jerusalem and demonize anyone who doesn’t fit into your mold.”
Everyone agrees that 2020 will go down as the “Year from H-E-Double hockey stick,” but that does not mean that everyone who doesn’t think like you is from the devil. Demonization happens from all sides of the current debates. You’ve seen it (or said it):
• All Biden supporters want to kill babies and get rid of religion.
• All Trump supporters are racists and are OK with having affairs and paying off porn stars.
• All BLM people are spewing hate.
• All anti-BLM organization are spewing hate.
• All police supporters are heavy handed militants
• All defund the police supporters are anarchists
• Sending our kids to school in a pandemic? Are you crazy?
• Keeping our kids at home with impossible learning environments, without the needed free meals and no social interaction? Are you crazy?
• All mask wearers are sheep being led astray by far-left extremists.
• All non-mask wearers don’t care about anyone but themselves.
• The media (pick the channel on the right or left that you don’t like) tells whatever lie necessary to produce more money from advertisers.
The demonization list could go on and on. The Chinese calendar doesn’t list 2020 as the “Year of the Demon,” but it sure feels that way. (FYI… It is the Year of the Rat… which does seem mildly fitting).
Demonization in the public arena affects all of our thought processes to some degree. One can’t escape the pull to take a side and sling mud (or worse) with whom one disagrees. Could it be that the real danger is when my demonization of the people around me is what most directly affects my life (personal pronouns intentionally emboldened). Like the religious leaders from Jerusalem, am I too quick to demonize those who I don’t understand or who disagree with me?
When scrolling Facebook or encountering an accuser in person, why is my first thought…
• The person who has a different political opinion than mine clearly does not read the Bible (and my preferred news website) enough
• The person who approaches societal ills from another perspective than mine simply can’t see what’s happening in the world.
• The person who whispers their perceived truths (read: rumors) is being used (either knowingly or unknowingly) by the devil.
• The person that supports various causes other than the ones I support doesn’t discern, understand or prioritize the right things.
• The person who has spoken ill of me is bitter (at best) and carnal and hell-bound (at worse).
• The person who has falsely accused me is a narcissist, self-absorbed and needs to take a good long look in the mirror.
Too often my default position is to want to receive the benefit of the doubt, but too infrequently do I give the benefit of the doubt to others? Automatically, my positions are right and the other must be wrong. In my mind, I’m much kinder and gentler than others. But am I?
The pandemic has led us to think the worst of some people. But I want to remember Paul’s instruction to Timothy and act accordingly, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.“ (1 Timothy 1:15). Notice the Apostle Paul, didn’t write “I was the worst.” Past tense. “When I was killing Christians, I was the worst.” No, he wrote, “I am the worst.” In other words, it’s praying: “It’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of your mercy and grace. Let me see people as You see them and to love people (all people) as You love!”
I don’t want my first thought to demonize and dismiss people as if they were no value to God or me. I don’t want to judge everyone who thinks different from me as evil. I want to pray for my “enemies.” I want my first thought to be one of hope and transformation, recognizing that in many cases the one who most often needs to be transformed is me.
Lord, hear my prayer