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‘Us and them’ for the religious

People are apparently hardwired to look at the world in terms of us and them – the lovable in-group and the despicable out-group (My five-year-old daughter would call them “distinkable”). We naturally prefer and trust members of the in-group and are wary of and more likely to discriminate against the out-group.

The circles including and excluding members of your group could be drawn around family connections, political affiliations, gender, educational backgrounds, interest groups, age groups, and any number of other tribal definitions… but we are talking about religion today.

So for those with strong religious convictions, who should be considered one of us? Here are a few options to consider:

Ways to define your in-group Examples
All life on Earth Dogs, mosquitoes, trees (Proverbs 12:10)
All people on Earth North Koreans, French Canadians (Genesis 1:27)
People from Judeo-Christian cultures who may or may not believe American, Brazilians (Deuteronomy 14:2)
Believers A Christian who disagrees with you on an important topic (Romans 10:12)
Members of your church The family that goes to church infrequently and skips most activities (D&C 1:30)
Members who actively participate in your church The judgmental lady who sits behind you at church, your pastor (John 15:15)

The question “who is us and who is them” is central to how we view the world and how we interact with those around us. So really look at yourself and ask the following questions:

  • Who do you consider a member of your group?
  • What is your justification for excluding others?
  • Are people all the way in or all the way out of your group or do you let people in proportionate to how similar they are to you and how frequently you interact with them? Maybe you admit people into your group on a case-by-case basis after extensive vetting or perhaps membership was set in stone when you turned ten years old.

My favorite scriptural passage on us and them can be found here: In it, Jesus Christ responds to a question about who should we consider our neighbor. He advocates for including Samaritans in the in-group even though they are historical enemies of the Jews and differ from them in religion, culture and history.

Let me know in the comment section below how you define your own personal in-group.

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