I picked up a book at the library the other day..didn’t end up being quite what I had expected.
I had thought it was going to be a book on the Salem witch trials, but it is ending up being far more than that. I thought that the Salem trials were the witch trials, but that turns out not to be totally true. Yes, they were witch trials…but looking at the broader history, they came at the tail end of a series of with trials worldwide. I had not realized that so many people–primarily women–had been killed through the years, accused of being witches.
I haven’t finished the book yet, but there are some interesting insights and suggestions…and it got me thinking.
How–and why–do we demonize people today?
So many of those who were accused of witchcraft in what we tend to consider “more barbaric” times were women who were not afraid to speak their minds..who had some significant power as healers…who owned property that others coveted…who were not under the “rulership” of male relatives…were old…
Would we do the same today? Probably not in the same way, but don’t we find ways to demonize people who aren’t like us?
All it takes is a look at the newspaper. The two big groups of people that jump out at me as being demonized (in different ways) are members of the LGBT community and illegal immigrants. They are “other” in some way–skin color…culture…sexual orientation…language…poverty… And so we find reasons to consider them “less than” the rest of us.
But that’s not what we’re called to do. If I am a follower of Christ, I am called to see all as my brothers and sisters. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to agree with everything they say or do…but it certainly challenges me not to demonize them!
There’s a story Jesus told that I think is appropriate here. The Jewish people were proud of their purity…and those who were “other”–the Samaritans–were seen as “less than”. Really almost demonized. Yet when someone asked Jesus what he should do in order to have eternal life, Jesus told this story:
Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”
“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
Who are the Samaritans…the witches…the outcasts for us?