Establishing Healthy Conscious Moral Norms

Violence often begins by making the “other” less-than, dehumanized, demoralized, or demonized in some way. The violence occurring in the United States, from the capital insurrection, Seattle, arrests of Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson (black men) at Starbucks, the ‘Muslim ban’, and other violence all occurred because an “other” was demonized in some way. You’re not white, you’re not Christian, you’re not a Democrat (or Republican), so you are less than human and I can harm you. One doesn’t have to spend much time on social media to read the plethora of demonizing comments, even among “friends.” You probably have overheard, or participated in, these discussions at a restaurant, the grocery store, or sporting event. These so-called friendly (interpersonal) debates are the seed ground for the decay of humanity and moral norms.

“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” — James Baldwin

“Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We must reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.” —Joseph R. Biden

“When we demonize our enemies, calling them names and identifying them with absolute evil, we deny that they have that of God within them that makes transformation possible. Instead, we play God.”  –Walter Wink

We can establish healthy conscious moral norms. On a personal level, what should I be doing and saying and thinking every day to defuse these tensions?

“I think the key is for us to all think about the word “demonization,” and do what we can to tone it down. That doesn’t mean that we all have to become centrists. My ideal is that we all have more constructive disagreement. So when you hear someone criticize a policy on the other side, that’s fine. But when you start hearing motive-mongering and demonization, stand up to it just as you would if it were something that was racist or sexist. If we avoid the demonization, disagreements can be positive.” —Jonathan Haidt

“The key to toning down demonization is to actually get to know some people on the other side and to build relationships with them. If your friend tells you something, you don’t demonize, you listen.” —Jonathan Haidt

“There is a lot that we can do to stop demonizing and come to at least respect our intellectual differences.”  —Jonathan Haidt

What are the areas that we all could work on to improve the situation:

For all of us to call each other on it when we demonize other groups. Begin to see this in each other and even challenge each other and say, “Hey, you’re demonizing.”

Stop attributing bad motives to the other side.

Develop a massive groundswell of public revulsion toward demonization.

Develop some norms that put some pressure on groups (i.e. Congress) to clean up its act.

“Demonizing the other can be rewarded politically because it can make you stronger in the contest within the group. Within the nation your side can beat the other side if you demonize, but it makes the nation weaker.” —Jonathan Haidt

Stand WITH the demonized.

“We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.” –Richard Rohr

“Jesus thus stood in solidarity with individuals who were excluded, deemed unworthy, or demonized. Why? Because the excluded from any group always reveal the unquestioned idolatries of that group!” –Richard Rohr

Develop and practice contemplative (non-dual) consciousness

“Contemplative prayer is no longer a luxury; it is an absolute necessity… We are trying to bring to bear a structure of perception, a system of consciousness, that allows us to empathize and relate to each other without fear, judgment, demonization, or division.” –Cynthia Bourgeault

“We need grace to change our thinking and seeing so that we can work for the good of all rather than demonizing the ‘other.'” –Richard Rohr

What can I do at the personal and interpersonal level to stop demonizing?

What can I say when I hear someone demonizing?

How do I respond to demonizing on social media?

How do I disagree without demonizing?

What spiritual practices help me stop demonizing?

How can I support my small groups in recognizing and responding to demonizing?

How can I stand with the demonized?

Other questions?

What symbols and rituals can we create to respond to and/or reduce demonizing?