Patterns of Division and Disrespect

How May I Disrespect “THEM” – Let Me Count the Ways

Over my 76 years I have watched… and hopefully learned… that there is a pattern for perpetuating and using social/cultural/religious divisions in tragic ways. Here is a simplified overview of the ten most often practiced ways of encoruaging division in a family, denomination, nation or city:

1) Set up a ‘straw man’ (group or institution) from a disagreement, misunderstanding, mistakes, or with half-truths or complete lies about another who differs;

2) Lump everyone into two groups (those on the straw man’s side and those on your ‘righteous’ side);

3) Label those with whom you disagree as evil, heretics or fools. (This is the “process of dehumanization”);

4) Set up triangles by talking about (nor with) those with whom you disagree. Select others who share your position and persons you hope to convert to your position. Avoid talkling with those with whom you disagree. (This step is even more powerful in an age of social media, where algorithms do the selecting for you.)

5) Avoid learning, reading widely, hearing other points of view; and, be closed to paradox, nuance or the prospect that two things can be thought at the same time. Define all “terms” to best suit your arguments;

6) Use authorities to support your claims (Scriptures, The U.S. Constitution, ideology, perspectives of thought leaders or spokespersons) and ignore alternative interpretations.

7) Act as the Victim. Become the victim. Point to the ways “the other” is harming you and others.

8) Refuse any call for compromise and ignore any weakness in your own perspective and actions;

9) Nurse you grievance and turn it into one of the most important issues ever and a shield that denies any alternative point of view.

10) Rinse and repeat — ad nauseam.

I have seen this tragic pattern played out in broken marriages, families, nations, and religious denominations. There is money to be made by fueling division at each level and power to be (temporarily) gained. And there is community to be destroyed and loving respect for others to be lost. We see it today in Ukraine, in the U.S. Congress, and in religious denominations like the United Methodist Church.