Need Opinions/Help with the "Us vs Them" Mentality

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
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NewLight
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Need Opinions/Help with the "Us vs Them" Mentality

Post by NewLight » 25 Jan 2016, 06:05

I'm not sure why this bothers me so much and why I feel it my “duty” to disagree when it comes up in a class (or HPG as it may be yesterday), but it absolutely drives me crazy when there is a lesson or comments made about how wicked the world is getting with an emphasis on the misguided idea of “we the chosen Mormons” versus “any and everyone who is not Mormon”.

How do you guys deal with it when it comes up? Yesterday in HP group, the lesson was on that talk from the October General Conference entitled “It's Never Too Early and It's Not Too Late”. A chunk of the first part of the class was spent on how wicked the world was. The teacher even commented that the Andy Griffith show promoted non-traditional families! Really?! This was followed by how important it is to do all the church stuff we should be doing with our families.

When I couldn't take much more, I piped up that I see very valuable and important events that happen within society to teach our families. I'm reading “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” right now and said how important of a lesson that the history of the Native Americans has for us today. I also mentioned the importance of remembering what Martin Luther King day means since it passed so recently. I conceded that video games are more graphic and perhaps disturbing, but just as people get addicted to them today and fail to act productively, they did the same thing when I was younger. It's only that the game was “Space Invaders” :-)

How do you comment in situations like this? I strongly dislike the mentality of “everything's h*** unless you are part of the church”. There are so many things that we have in society today that make it much better than decades or centuries past. Thoughts? I don't want to be a jerk when people bring up that mentality, but I do wish they would think a little more about what they are saying and have a little more understanding, and perhaps admiration for ethical, caring people outside of the Church and what a help they can be to their own families.

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DarkJedi
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Re: Need Opinions/Help with the "Us vs Them" Mentality

Post by DarkJedi » 25 Jan 2016, 06:34

I'm looking forward to responses because I have the same issue. I am fortunate to have a couple like minded individuals in my HPG, but I do struggle on an almost weekly basis with what you describe. I don't want to be "that guy" who is always heckling the teacher or stymieing the discussion yet I also don't want to let it go that despite how evil the world is we still need to love our neighbors and we're not the only ones that have truth. Where's the line?
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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On Own Now
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Re: Need Opinions/Help with the "Us vs Them" Mentality

Post by On Own Now » 25 Jan 2016, 06:50

It is an unfortunate aspect of the Church... and of nearly all revolutionary religions. Early Christianity was the same way.

Here's what I wouldn't be afraid to bring up in a Church meeting because I think it diffuses and replaces the thoughts with something more powerful: IMO, the gospel is something to run toward, not a list of things to run away from. The invitation to "come unto me" is far more powerful than "thou shalt not".
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

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nibbler
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Re: Need Opinions/Help with the "Us vs Them" Mentality

Post by nibbler » 25 Jan 2016, 07:17

I see it as a part of what we do to validate the decisions we make to ourselves.

You mentioned video games. Big mistake, now I'm going to run with it. ;) Atari vs. Intellivision vs. ColecoVision. Nintendo vs. Sega. Microsoft vs. Sony. Back in the day when most games were exclusive to one console choosing a system was much more significant. Systems weren't cheap, an Atari 2600 was something like $750 in today's money, that's a significant buy-in. With that much investment the consumer becomes a mini-stakeholder. If the console doesn't do well you run the risk of the system failing and losing the investment in the console. It's also a bad sign when the competitors get all the good exclusive games. Bad mouthing the competitor's console does a few things. Internally you are justifying the costly buy-in, reassuring yourself that the decision you made was the correct one. You may also be attempting to seek validation from others, if other people made the same choice that I made then it must have been the correct choice. You may also be attempting to paint the competition in the worst possible light in an effort to affect other people's decision making. The more support your console gets the better its chances of survival.

This post isn't about video games BTW. I was going for a window into the psyche of us vs. them. It's everywhere you look. It's encoded in our DNA.

What do I do when I hear it in church?
1) Most instances I just ignore it. Sometimes you find the world you are looking for and if you're looking for the world to be wicked then that's exactly what you'll find.
2) I made it a personal rule to leave the room if things get out of hand. My rule was to leave any time someone starts to badmouth other religions, like calling out specific religions by name. Over the years I've only had to leave the room a half dozen or so times. Maybe this is one of those scenarios where the "spirit becomes offended and leaves" but then the criticism is that the spirit should have stuck around to help someone in the very moment it was needed the most. It's not a hard and fast rule, it can change should I learn some tact.
NewLight wrote:The teacher even commented that the Andy Griffith show promoted non-traditional families!
:D A widower courtin' Ellie Walker, Mary Simpson, Peggy McMillan, and Helen Crump. I also hear that they never married the dog and the cat! They were living in sin. :oops:
If one dream dies, dream another dream. If you get knocked down, get back up and go again.
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LookingHard
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Re: Need Opinions/Help with the "Us vs Them" Mentality

Post by LookingHard » 25 Jan 2016, 07:42

I have started to try and do the following.

First I try to diffuse the confrontation by starting out, "I don't feel I know THE truth and it is all a bit confusing" and then go on to talk about how the very early Christians though Christ was returning and the world was coming to an end in their lifetimes. Early members of the church have several times felt (and even been "revealed") that they or their children would see Christ returning. But when I look across a broad swath of items, there are many areas where the world is improving. You only have to go back about 3 or 4 generations and there was a valid concern even in the US about girls getting kidnapped taken away as slaves. There are less people dying from wars than before. Medicine is all but miraculous when compared to my grandparents generation. I also mention that I have started trying to focus on the good and only look at the "bad" to see where I can make a difference. I then mention microloans, doctors without boarders, habitat for humanity, etc.

http://mormonmatters.org/2012/01/17/70- ... ing-worse/
http://bycommonconsent.com/2014/10/15/t ... -is-empty/

I could swear that Natasha Helfer-Parker just did a blogpost about this with some good statistics. I just can't seem to find it.

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Re: Need Opinions/Help with the "Us vs Them" Mentality

Post by wayfarer » 25 Jan 2016, 15:39

The problem with "Us vs Them" in the church may be our greatest sin. Instead of embracing the love of god, we put ourselves in the place of god and judge others. When we do this, we sever ourselves from the love of god.

As mormons, our baptismal covenant is best expressed in Mosiah 18: to lift each others' burdens, to mourn with those who mourn, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and to be a witness of God in all times and in all places we may be. If "God is Love", then witnessing to god is to love one another, unconditionally, and without regard to their "worthiness".

I'm reading a book by Greg Boyd, "Repenting of Religion: turning from judgment to the Love of God". In this he equates our judgment of others as "religious sin":
Greg Boyd wrote:irst it is important to notice that religious sin is the only sin Jesus publicly confronted. The religious variety of the forbidden fruit [judging] is the most addictive and deceptive variety. Instead of acknowledging that the knowledge of good an evil is prohibited, religious idolatry embraces the knowledge of good and evil as divinely sanctioned and mandated. It gives the illusion of being on God’s side even while it destroys life and hardens people in direct opposition to God.

Religious sin is the most destructive kind of sickness, for it masquerades as it feeds off the illusion of health. Far from being open to a cure, this kind of sickness thrives on the illusion that it is the epitome of health. By its very nature, it resist soft correction. Indeed, because it gets life from the rightness of it’s beliefs and behavior rather than from love, the religious version of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil tends to construe all compassion, accommodation, and unconditional acceptance as compromise. People afflicted with religious sin thus tend to disdain compassionate love, even if it is extended toward them. Hence, Jesus’ approach to leaders who fed off this illusion could not be to gently offer them a cure. Rather, for their sake and the sake of those who blindly followed them, he had to publicly expose their sickness.

What does this mean for the church? We have seen that the church is called to be the corporate body of Christ that unconditionally loves and embraces all people, regardless of their sin, and invites them into its own celebration of the cessation of the ban [on judging]. The only exception to this otherwise unconditional embrace is the sin Jesus confronted in the religious leadership of his day… Religious sin [judging] is unique in that it is the only sin that can keep a community from fulfilling the commission to unconditionally love and embrace everyone. As we have said, it is a sin that by its very nature resists the cure of God’s unconditional love and embrace.
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Re: Need Opinions/Help with the "Us vs Them" Mentality

Post by Curt Sunshine » 25 Jan 2016, 18:02

Our Ward Conference Priesthood lesson was about unity, and I said that the purpose of the Atonement, by definition, is unity in differences. I said that one of the greatest sins of this generation is the polarization of people based on differences and that we need to do everything we can to avoid war rhetoric that divides and pits us against other people, since it keeps us from understanding and living the Gospel Jesus taught.

I speak up against divisive language every chance Inget, and I try to ground my words in the Sermon on the Mount and 1 Corinthians 13 - as well as our Articles of Faith. Few people will argue against those references.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

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NewLight
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Re: Need Opinions/Help with the "Us vs Them" Mentality

Post by NewLight » 26 Jan 2016, 05:55

Thanks for the feedback everyone. Loved the blog from the women who received all kinds of help in her struggles. I see this in the world today too.

I agree that “us vs them” is a huge problem in our church as wayfarer has stated. It focuses on separating instead of supporting. In HPG group I really struggle sometimes to find the right comment to get people to expand and not accept this form of the status quo. Much of the time my comment comes out as “dudes, we all need to love everyone and be there for each other”. I guess I got to start somewhere :-S

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Re: Need Opinions/Help with the "Us vs Them" Mentality

Post by Orson » 26 Jan 2016, 10:28

Thanks for the book reference Wayfarer, he brings out some fantastic points. One part also jumped out at me as an example of the paradoxical reality of life, and how our unique perspectives and definitions can make communication difficult.

I have changed two words in the Greg Boyd quote below to demonstrate how it first hit me:
wayfarer wrote: I'm reading a book by Greg Boyd, "Repenting of Religion: turning from judgment to the Love of God". In this he equates our judgment of others as "religious sin":
Greg Boyd wrote:... religious idolatry embraces the knowledge of love and hate as divinely sanctioned and mandated. It gives the illusion of being on God’s side even while it destroys life and hardens people in direct opposition to God.
My immediate question was: "how does the knowledge of love put people in direct opposition to God?"

The problem is when I read "good" or "righteousness" I instinctively see it as "Love" or synonymous with "charity" or "the love of God." Obviously Greg Boyd had another concept in mind, one that involved details, commandments, or some tangent from love that can lose the original point.

My point is only to build awareness of how others often see things differently than ourselves. When we are discussing the finer details there is a good chance we mis-communicate more often than not.
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I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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Re: Need Opinions/Help with the "Us vs Them" Mentality

Post by Roy » 26 Jan 2016, 12:29

NewLight wrote: Much of the time my comment comes out as “dudes, we all need to love everyone and be there for each other”.
"Be excellent to each other" Bill

and

"Party on Dudes!" Ted

:thumbup:
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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