Getting to Know ‘the Other’ Doesn’t Work
There is a very common solution regarding people who harbor prejudice or resentment against those of another race, class, religion, or ethnicity. The solution hinges on the idea that we suspect others if we don’t really know them. If we could view them less as an “other” and more as a neighbor, as part and parcel of our common life together—then we’d all be able to get along with one another.
The only problem is that it doesn’t work. This is shown in some detail in Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz by Omer Bartov. A book review on Smithsonian.com begins,
There’s a common misconception about genocide that’s bothered Omer Bartov for a long time. “We tend to talk about genocide as something that calls for dehumanization,” says the Brown University professor of European history. “We think of it as a process where you have to detach yourself from the victims, to distance yourself from them as much as you can, and to create a system of detachment.” The reality of mass murder, he says, is far more intimate. …
“You can take a society in which people had lived together for centuries, and that very proximity, that very relationship between neighbors can have a dynamic of violence and self-justification,” Bartov says.
On a lighter note, it reminds me of a line in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The line comes after one of the characters describes the Babel fish, which when placed in the ear could translate any language in the universe for the listener: “Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything.”
This brings to mind another pungent line. Ruth Graham was asked if she ever considered divorcing Billy. “I’ve never considered divorce,” she replied. “Murder, yes. But not divorce.”
Such are the humorous ways of dispelling our sometimes-naïve bromides about solving conflict. Intimacy is not the answer; sometimes it’s the problem. It’s just hard, really hard, figuring out how to get people to stop killing each other. I’m tempted offer the out-of-fashion answer, naïve in its simplicity and improbable in its execution this side of history: the transformation of the human heart by Jesus Christ.
The Exact Right Way to Parent
This review of a number of books tries to discern the above in its humorous and discerning analysis of contemporary baby manuals: “The Diabolical Genius of the Baby Advice Industry.” One example gives away the tone and the outline of this week’s long read:
A tone of overbearingly cheery confidence characterizes almost all such books, which makes sense; half the hope in purchasing any one of them is that you might absorb some of the author’s breezy self-assurance. Yet for all this certitude, it rapidly became clear that the modern terrain of infant advice was starkly divided into two opposed camps, each in a permanent state of indignation at the very existence of the other.
On one side were the gurus I came to think of as the Baby Trainers, who urged us to get our newborn on to a strict schedule as soon as possible, both because the absence of such structure would leave him existentially insecure, but also so he could be seamlessly integrated into the rhythms of the household, allowing everyone to get some sleep and enabling both parents swiftly to return to work. This is the busy, timetabled world in which we live, the Baby Trainers seemed to be saying; the challenge was to make life with an infant workable within it.
On the other side were the Natural Parents, for whom all schedules—and, often enough, the very notion of mothers having jobs to return to—were further proof that modernity had corrupted the purity of parenthood, which could be recovered only by emulating the earthy practices of indigenous tribes in the developing world and/or prehistoric humans, these two groups being, according to this camp, for all practical purposes the same.
The author, Oliver Burkeman, an expert on self-help books, self-mocks his forays into baby manuals as he tries to negotiate parenting a baby himself.
Yes, there are some. No, there are many. And novelist Henry Chappell thinks there are to be more, for conservative reasons.
Behind the Moody News
The historic Moody Bible Institute has been undergoing a bit of a crisis. This sort of thing happens to every institution from time to time. At such times, it’s good to remember an institution’s origins and founder and to recall its original purpose and vision, like this short introduction to one of the most effective evangelists of his age: Dwight L. Moody. One of my favorite lines of his goes like this:
A critic didn’t care much for Moody’s preaching style; he thought his evangelistic manner was thoughtless and insensitive. Moody responded, “I don’t much like it either.” He then asked his critic, “How do you do it?” When the man said he didn’t do it at all, Moody replied, “I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”
Grace and peace,
Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today