Nonviolence: A Response #3

In-groups do harm (violence) through identifiable tactics.  This week and next, I will briefly identity some of them.

The first tactic is distortion.  Out-groups are caricatured and stereotyped in ways that treat them as categories–as problems to be solved rather than people to be known. Universalization (“All _______are _______”) is frequently employed, so that individuals in the out-group are immediately suspect.  Inuendo and flat-out misinformation are used to paint the unreal picture.

A second tactic is danger.  The out-group is a threat to goodness, truth, etc.  Danger creates fear, and who in their right mind would not want to eliminate danger from the community.  But it is not right-minded fear, it is fear generated by fear mongering.  It perpetuates danger by a lopsided means: calling out the worst in the out-group while extolling exagerated virtues of the in-group (bad guy/good guy)–and again, who wouldn’t want to be one of the good guys?  Danger makes the choice appear obvious.

Distortion and danger are accompanied by a third tactic: distance.  Ongoing relationships, much less friendships with out-group people, are not cultivated or encouraged, because the in-group people know that would reframe the picture and raise questions about the distortation/danger narrative.  Instead, the in-group portrays itself as the source for “all you need to know” about the out-group. They say in effect–get close to “us” and stay away from “them.”

Distance is also kept from those in the in-group who risk interacting with the out-group, and as a result, begin to see things differently.  These colleagues are now ostracized and deemed going down a “slippery slope.”  Distortion and danger are now applied to those willing to raise new questions or offer new evidence.  The in-group can no longer afford to associate with them.  E. Stanley Jones experienced this when he associated with out-groups in India.  Some fellow Christians ceased to have fellowship with him.

Distance essentially brings to a halt communication between the in-group, former but now suspect in-group people, and out-group members.  In-group members only talk to other approved in-group members.  E. Stanley Jones found this dynamic in place when he arrived in India, and that is why his Round Table alternative was viewed as a threat by the white civic and religious in-groups (which largely overlapped), but which was a method that gave hope to out-groups.  He writes about this in his books, ‘Christ of the Indian Road’ and ‘Christ at the Round Table.’

There are other major tactics used by the in-group.  We will look at a couple more next week.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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