For or Against

It is said that a healthy group bonds together for something, while an unhealthy group bonds against something.

Habits are also hard to break.

I am so used to connecting with people by establishing an us-them mentality. As a so-called “non-denominational” church, we constantly talked about the sins of “the denominations”. This was not apparent to me until I brought some friends to church. What I had not even heard all of a sudden became painfully obvious. We were establishing a connection by defining an out-group.   My friends saw it, and I was able to see it through them.

While there were healthy aspects to my religious groups which I still appreciate, there was often an element of coming together against the evil or ignorant outside. We bonded by defining someone else as enemy.

(By ‘we’, I in no way mean that everyone in my church did this, but there was a culture of us vs them in regards to several different groups.  While individuals in the church were not so prejudiced, it was not uncommon to hear derogatory things said against: Democrats, Liberals, socialists, homosexuals, mainline Christians, secular society, Planned Parenthood and so on.)

Its still a pattern. Since I’ve gotten to know people from the very groups I used to define, I realize my definitions were wrong. Homosexuals, bisexuals, or polyamorous people are not the lost, sinning desecrators of morality I imagined them to be. I see them as humans who often have a highly developed sense of morality.

I am afraid of doing to my fundamentalist Christian friends what we used to do to others.  I have to remind myself that there are Republicans and Conservatives who are also concerned with the way things are going in their parties and churches.  They can’t all be deluded or psychopathic 🙂


11 thoughts on “For or Against

  1. They can’t all be deluded or psychopathic – don’t count on it.
    One of the reasons I quite going to church was because of what appeared to be a strong swing to following the lead of the American Religious Right. Not all mind you but too many and since they were not being clamped down on, I gathered it was approved of. The local assembly I attended for many years had wonderful Elders who cared about people. Others (your local for one) were of the “I’m OK, screw you” variety. Maybe because it is in Alberta?
    Groups, communities, tribes, nations by their very nature include some and exclude others. That is by definition. Recognizing the others as humans too is the correct approach but sometimes takes some doing – especially if they are teh Religious Right..

  2. Some “isms” create and nurture a very ethnocentric mentality. Although I have left my former “ism” and thus I see it more clearly for what it is — and how damaging the us vs. them mentality can be — it’s very difficult to find common ground these days. The right wing rhetoric is extreme and thus inherently polarizing. Thus I find myself on the other side of the us vs. them fence.

    But you are right. We need to find ways to soften the rhetoric, find common ground, and remember that we’re all just people.

  3. ncsteph says:

    I like where you’re going with thoughts like these… we don’t want to swing so far away from what frustrates us that we “become” that which we despise. What pushes me away from both the “religious right” and the “reactionary revolutionist left” is the awareness that both extremes stem from fear (of the unknown/dissimilar), hate (of things beyond our control), judgment (over ideas & situations which we have no authority), and forming a negative identity (via acknowledgment of a common enemy – that which we are not)…

    If what I want is to “be love” to the people around me, I can’t fully accomplish my goal while still holding onto, or defining myself by, what I’m NOT. I have to seek after what is valuable in each person and love them regardless of whether I think they deserve to be loved. It is my job realize that what we have in common is our humanity, our failings, our shortcomings… and to love people in spite of those potential barriers.

    Not saying it’s easy. And not saying it’s something I’ve mastered! But I much prefer to make my decisions based on a foundation of love, acceptance & gratitude over hate, fear & judgment.

    My 2 cents. 🙂

    • Hi, NC. When did you find PNs blog? I like what you are saying. How to keep from becoming what we despise is a major challenge. I packed in religion because of the Religious Right, yet I can find myself hating them which is not a good thing.

      “If what I want is to “be love” to the people around me, I can’t fully accomplish my goal while still holding onto, or defining myself by, what I’m NOT. I have to seek after what is valuable in each person and love them regardless of whether I think they deserve to be loved. It is my job realize that what we have in common is our humanity, our failings, our shortcomings… and to love people in spite of those potential barriers”.

      I should tattoo that on my forehead. (There is more room on my butt however that would be disrespectful).

      • prairienymph says:

        @ NC- well said.

        @ BF – I told NC about my blog. There is a reason we of the girls dorm (and most of the boys dorm) all called her Dr. Steph and always asked her advice.

        It is hard to love people without defining them and to find balance without reacting. One thing I’ve noticed is that small l- liberals (like NC) are much less judgmental. Authoritarian groups on the other hand really are more judgmental, fearful, and violent. (See Bob Altemyers’ ebook The Authoritarians) But both groups tend to think the other group is more like their own. As a result, I’ve heard so many conservatives call liberals “close-minded” and some liberals give too much credibility to far right extremism. I don’t want to be authoritarian on either side, but don’t think the sides are the same.

        All this to say that I suspect the “reactionary revolutionist left” not to be as big, hateful or fearful as I was told they were by the “religious right”. While I know there are small l liberals in fundamentalist Christianity and authoritarians in leftist groups, part of my confusion is that I’ve know the former, but have yet to meet the latter. (Maybe it is because I live in Canadian Texas and not in San Fran?)

        I still working at being angry for what I was told, how I and others were treated, and still seeing the humanity in those that perpetuate religious abuse.

  4. ncsteph says:

    I’m interested in that ebook – will check it out when I’m not losing my mind in 18th-Century thought… gimme a couple years! I am also interested in researching the term small “l” liberal more to see if that is where I might see myself fitting. Right now, I refuse to be restricted into any particular group… except Jesus & Jason Mraz, which, for the record is an incredibly STRANGE mix of associates in most minds! But I like where I am for now… constantly learning, constantly reminded of how great the need for love is in the world, and constantly growing to meet that need in the little things… but still human enough to know that I’m making mistakes in the learning/growing process.

    I worry that labels will limit me; that by accepting a definition that someone else gives me, I am limiting what I might be capable of achieving, if I just let go of expectations and TRY… I’m learning that change & flexibility just might be my best ally. (but I also value your opinion, Prairie, so please keep sharing these labels with me… I like to know how others see me, even if it’s just to know whether or not I agree, haha)

    @BF: to be fair, Prairie told me about her blog months before I actually was able to sit down and read it, & then I wanted to start at the beginning & follow her train of thought, so it took me a while to catch up… but I’m here now!

    @Prairie: I hope my “advice” is acceptable… this is your space, so please just tell me to stop talking any time! I won’t be offended, promise. 🙂

    • prairienymph says:

      Steph, sorry for the labeling. My understanding of small l liberal comes mostly from Bob A’s book and Ted Talks like from Jonathon Haidt about the different values of cons and libs. Following Jonathon Haidt’s research, valuing love and justice above tradition and order makes one more liberal and less conservative. Liberals are willing to sacrifice forms of order to protect the weak and vulnerable; conservatives are more willing to sacrifice the weak and vulnerable to preserve the traditional order. I see you as more liberal. Go to to see more.

      I value what you have to say. Thank-you for sharing.

  5. ncsteph says:

    one more thing, then I’ll leave you alone!

    @BF: thank you for your kind words about my 2 cents… it means a lot to feel “heard”… and even more to know that something I’ve said helps others… my only tattoo is a reminder to myself to “be love”, but it’s on my arm… not my forehead or my butt… just seemed more practical and less painful. hah. 😉

  6. If you want to learn about small l liberals, challenge some of their religions – anthropogenic climate change, GMOs, alternate energy sources, animal rights, vegetarianism, natural/organic foods, union excesses. You will find them every bit as full of hate and misinformation and as authoritarian as the right. Preoccupation with these topics take away from political challenges in the areas of social justice and democratic freedom and splinter the left. They also serve to alienate moderate people in the same way that the religious rights attempts to inflict their morality on the rest of us

    • prairienymph says:

      I hardly think that evidence-based peer-reviewed scientific research is anything like religious fanaticism. This view of climate change may be the thing you have most in common with a certain relative of mine you like to argue with on facebook.
      Also, in those topics that you’ve chosen I’ve met people of the religious right advocating them as often as politically left-identified people. The only person I know who refuses to vaccinate her children is a devout fundamentalist Christian and I work at a health food store so you’d think my sample bias would be skewed in the other direction.
      I have questioned people who are vegans and I’ve found them very open, non-judgmental and compassionate. No vegan I’ve ever met has made me feel bad or less-than for my love of meat. Many religious people are like that too. Religious does not equal conservative. Politically liberal does not mean small ‘l’ liberal.
      Read Bob Altemyer’s ebook, watch the youtube clip. There are right-wing and left-wing Authoritarians. That is what you are describing.

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