Updated: Aug 5, 2022
Today, I want to share something that I've been thinking about. I haven't fully developed the idea, so bear with me.
Recently, I attended a four-day boot camp called "Tribal." Tribal is more than an educational experience or training, it’s a diverse group of critical thinkers coming together, under the guidance of an expert facilitator, to be "idea colliders" and to increase their effectiveness as agents of change.
These agents include leaders of non-profits, authors, entrepreneurs, consultants, strategic advisors, and professional speakers. Some of the attendees have lots of experience. Others were seeking to formulate a new path for their lives. They included a couple who run a wildly successful business consulting firm. Another participant was a national teacher of the year. One man worked as a mascot for a team in the National Basketball Association.
We learned how to become thought leaders in our respective or desired fields and workshopped several tools to help us stand out in the marketplace of ideas. Each day one or more attendees participated in "hot seats." The person in the hot seat would present a project they are working on and the facilitator and participants would then critique and analyze the project.
I had been working on this idea for a book: "Why there is so much division and polarization in our country (and the world, for that matter) and are there possible solutions?" I decided to present my book idea for one of the hot seats. So I had to develop a working title and a table of contents. I titled the book "They Ain't Us - Why We're Polarized and How Only a Revolution of Values Can Heal our Cultural, Economic, and Racial Divide."
Such a theme is not an easy topic. But during the hot seat, among other things, I honed in on one of the chapters I initially called "The New Devil" that, after going through my hot seat, I renamed "The Devil 2.0". The chapter's focus is that much of our division and polarization is rooted in religion in general, and Christianity in particular.
I've discovered that one characteristic that makes a movement powerful and enduring is that it has an enemy that its members can fight. Thus, humanity invented a "devil" for there to be an enemy for the tribe to fight. While many people do not believe in the devil concept (surprisingly, lots do), the need to conjure up an enemy to emotionally keep a movement cohesive is still quite effective and powerful.
I watched a documentary about James Whitfield, principal at a middle school in Grapevine, Texas. In 2020, Whitfield was deeply disturbed by the deaths of three African Americans, including George Floyd. The principal couldn't sleep and felt he needed to share his perspective and ways to prevent such events from happening in the future. So, Whitfield wrote a letter to the school community suggesting racial hatred was "alive and well," but people could work together to achieve conciliation for the nation.
Moreover, Whitfield wrote, "Education is the key to stomping out ignorance and hate, and it's a necessary conduit to get 'liberty and justice for all." The initial feedback to his letter was spectacularly positive overall.
But then, almost two months later, a former candidate for the school board for that district accused Principal Whitfield of teaching and promoting "critical race theory," and encouraging the disruption and destruction of the school district. Eventually, the board fired Whitfield. The termination occurred even though Mr. Whitfield was not a teacher, and that what he shared was not remotely related to critical race theory, an academic legal concept taught in some law schools and graduate programs.
Principal Whitfield, out of whole cloth, was turned into the enemy. He was now the Devil 2.0 - a secular Satan. While outside the confines of the religious world, the effect is the same - it created the illusory paradigm of "us vs. them" that enables one group of people to demonize another, and is a powerful way to divide people.
Many new devils have been conjured up in some people's minds and have led to the increased polarization and divisiveness that we see in our world today. The new enemies may be those of a different nationality, sexual orientation, religion, or political affiliation. These are just a few of the new devils created to justify one group's rationalization to make another group the "bad guys", and thus worth their disdain or worse.
So, what is the solution? Although worth pursuing, a change in laws or legislative actions will not be sufficient. Such actions will only address the surface issues. Something more profound and enduring is necessary - a revolution of values based on spiritual truths. But, this will require a book's worth of explanations.
More to come.
Peace and Blessings,