"Enemy Twins" - Individuals and Groups

James Alison has a little book that is one of my favorites entitled Faith Beyond Resentment in which he shares a bit of his story through the lens of Rene Girard (readers of this blog may recall I am a bit of a Girard fan).

In the second chapter of this book, Alison writes about how we are trapped in a pattern of creating distance between ourselves and others.  There are two parts and the first part goes like this:

The "we" deems any "I" that is a threat to the "we". The "I is turned into 
"one of them" and is seen as an enemy.  

What he is getting at is that in a group there are things that make the collection of people a "group".  For instance, religion is something that makes a group of people a "we".  When a "we" encounter someone who defines themselves in a way that is even slightly different to the "we" that person becomes an "I".  When there is an "I" in the middle of a "we" that means there is a threat to the status quo, the "we" deem the "I" as dangerous/rebel/heretic/conservative/liberal or some other label that makes the "I" seem like "one of them".  So in religion when you hear someone talk about creationism, depending on what group you are in (that is what "we" you identify with) you may identify that creationist as part of your group (part of your "we") you will identify that creationist as "one of them" (an "I").

Part two is just the inverse of part one:

The "I" deems the "we" as a dangerous group that destroys individuals.  
The "we" is turned into a "they".  

What he is getting at here is that when a person is seen as an individual that is counter and dangerous to the group, the individual will then deem the group to be counter and dangerous to individuals.  

This two part way of seeing the world traps us in a pattern of behavior that leads to people being scapegoated from groups and at the same time leads to scapegoats claiming a position of a "sacred victim" in order to rally people to their cause and create a new group that is counter to the original group that deemed the individual as a danger.  

Enemy Twins?
Both the group and the individual are blaming the other for the tension in the world.  Alison calls this way of working in the world "enemy twins".  They are twins in that they are the same cycle.  They are enemies in that one is dealing with group dynamics and one is dealing with individual dynamics.

Why this is important is because Christianity teaches a way of living life so that these "enemy twins" are no longer dominate in our world and in our lives.  There is a way of living and being in the world that overturns these twins and offers up a new life.

This way of living life is critical to the message of Jesus.  It is something that changed the world and continues to change lives.  However, for a number of reasons, many of us Christians are unaware of this way of Life that Jesus teaches about and relegate the teachings of Jesus to be about "getting to heaven" seasoned with a few moral teachings.

If we begin to grasp the depth of Jesus' teachings we begin to see that the "Way" Jesus talks about is by living the way that is beyond the enemy twin.  To be born again (or born from above) is to begin to see that the way of the enemy twin is not the way to salvation and wholeness.  To be a Christian is to be willing to embrace a life that is no longer willing to participate in scapegoating and blaming AND is no longer willing to take up the position of a victim in order to blame another group.

The Way of Jesus is a different posture in life, and that Way indeed leads to life and life abundant.

Future posts will address this alternate way of Jesus that we ought to rediscover as Christians in order to rediscover a Jesus that revolutionized the world.