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Faiths help people overcome enemy images and dividing walls

Enemy images are powerful means of manipulating people.  Think of those awful ________.  Fill in the blank.  Yes, it’s about filling in the blank to deal with the unknown and feared: real, imagined and hyped up threats.  Faith says, “Fear not.”  Faith knows our human frailties and insecurities, often born from within but projected outside, making us vulnerable to voices from corporate and political elites who manipulate our fears to make money.

Enemies—an ever-shifting array of nations, groups and people—justify our unquestioning gushing of billions into military forces and weapons, the gotta-have insurance policies in this scary world.  When we talk of cutting the federal budget, it’s always cutting it from the poorest and most vulnerable, rather than from those whose contract profits mean the military pays more for everyday supplies, appliances and furnishings than the rest of the society.  Only occasionally do media point out these over-expenditures, but then they go on to something else, leaving the overcharges pocketed by corporate interests with little “regulation.”

Anything to “fight” the enemy, even if it means most of the general population suffers.

Maybe “the enemy” is within:

Maybe the enemy is pollsters who pressure us to vote in the popular ways by their too frequent temperature taking of too few people. 

Maybe the enemy is pundits who assume that university presidents should be paid $1 million, based on the market to draw the “best qualified” person.  Maybe the most qualified person is one who would work for less so state funds can be spread to assure professors provide a quality education.

Maybe the enemy is pressure for laws that deny the civil rights, education and equal opportunity that make this country strong.

Maybe the enemy is members of the press who blindly follow what corporations and governments want, diverting our attention from real issues to trumped up, sideline issues that keep us divided and unwilling to work together on solutions.

When the sliding scale of our range of differences—smaller to bigger government, regulation to privatization, corporate to citizen control, public to charter schools, secure to open borders—are presented as poles, it gives the appearance that an uncivil civil war rages.  Any real enemy knows “divide and conquer.” 

Are the divisions fed from outside or within?  Is the way we frame our issues and discussion conducive to solutions?  How do our faiths help us sift through the mire?  Some fear that religions make divisions worse.

Muslims plan to build a reconciliation center near Sept. 11’s “ground zero.”

Christian, Jews and Muslims gather youth and adults to overcome political and media-fed enemy images, fears and walls in the Holy Land.

Most faiths teach adherents to love their neighbors, but cultural, political and economic influences incite wall-building, as if fences make good neighbors. 

We build walls on the border with Mexico, between Palestinians and Israelis, around prisons, and most of all in our hearts and minds.  If we are imprisoned by enemy images and fear, we are ripe to be influenced by propaganda of those in power.

Germany tore down its Berlin Wall, but walls in the hearts and minds are still breaking down.  South Africa ended the wall of apartheid that separated blacks and whites, but corruption maintains ghettoes that keep poor people poor.  Throughout the world, jagged-glass and barbed-wire topped walls surround homes to keep out the poor.  Walls are primarily economically motivated to keep wealth in the hands of a few.

Faith communities continue to foster opportunities to connect people to overcome walls of fear and enemy images.  Faiths bring people together through volunteer opportunities, accompaniment programs, refugee resettlement, youth activities, community building, global partnerships, interfaith dialogue and more—helping make strangers friends and opening channels of communication.  Loving neighbors and enemies is no easy task, but it’s our call.

Mary Stamp - Editor


Copyright © June 2010 - The Fig Tree