“This whole business of demonization, I’ve been deeply concerned about it because it does not locate the good in people. It gives up on people.”
That’s a quote from Civil Rights leader Ruby Sales, and while the whole interview is worth listening to, this is the part that got stuck in my head. Because let’s face it, we live in a machine that oils its gears through the demonisation of others. Muslims or Mexicans, gay people or refugees, liberals or Trump voters, we turn individuals into a faceless swarm, the enemy at the gates coming to take from us all we hold dear.
And so we react to that by demonising our enemies. We give up on them; we assume no dialogue is possible, we assume that they cannot change, we assume that they need to change. We do everything we can to see the bad in them and nothing to see the good.
And that’s dangerous, because if our enemies are ‘demons’ then they’re an almost supernatural threat and nothing can defeat them except a full-on exorcism. Drive those demons over the cliff and then we can live in utopia.
Except utopia isn’t utopia I’d we’re constantly scared of monsters under the bed, or if it needs to be patrolled by monsters in jackboots. And that’s a consequence of demonisation, constantly living in fear of people who are more like us than we dare to imagine. After all, you run away from demons, or you shoot them with silver bullets. Anything other than talk to them, anything other than try to understand them and, in doing so, understand ourselves.
There’s a reason Jesus said we should love our enemies – it forces us to see that they’re not monsters. There’s a reason Jesus taught us to be creative in the face of oppression – it forces others to understand that we’re not demons from hell ourselves. Rather, we’re all human, all image-bearers of God, and that’s how we should treat one another.
Because in doing so we’ll see the good in each other, we’ll hear a thousand different stories and in the hearing we’ll be less likely to abandon each other, to shoot each other, to give up on each other. And if our churches can be spaces where we share stories alongside our sermons, then maybe we’ll be less scared of the dark.
There are hucksters who say they hunt demons out there but we don’t have to buy what they’re selling.