Those who are not outsiders...Once again, the world has been shocked and saddened by a mass killing–this time in New Zealand at a mosque by a man apparently filled with hate toward immigrants.

Hate toward those unlike himself. Hate of those who are different. The “others.”

Meanwhile, in the United States, incidents of rudeness, anger, and vitriol increase–between Democrats and Republicans, between liberals and conservatives, between races, between religious groups.

Between “us” and “them.”

Why can’t we all just get along?

Identifying with Others

As research for my next novel, I’ve been reading about deafness and what it’s like to be hearing impaired. Even within this population, there has existed a division between those who believe in using sign language and those who believe sign language sets them apart and calls attention to their disability. The latter group relies on speechreading and teaching the deaf child to talk. With either approach, the person who is deaf is isolated from the world of sound. There will always be noises he or she cannot hear–sirens, laughter, birdsongs, music.

Understanding the challenges of this–or any–disability is not easy for someone like me. I don’t know what it’s like to be that particular “other. “Deafness separates people from people,” said Beryl Lieff Benderly in Dancing without Music: Deafness in America.

Therein lies the problem with society. “Those who are not outsiders find it frightening to think of themselves as outsiders. They cannot imagine how life is possible under other circumstances.” We separate ourselves from those who are different from us, and then consider them as the “others.”

“Refusal to put ourself in his place,” Benderly said, “and grant him the same feelings, dignity and ability to experience. To deny his truth is as true as my own” causes divisions and animosity.

Who is Our Neighbor?

Through the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus taught His followers to show mercy, even to people who are different or whose beliefs contradict our own.  The Law said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27, ESV). Jesus used the story to show that loving our neighbor means treating everyone with mercy and dignity.

As followers of Jesus, we cannot deny who He is. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV), he declared.

But those who do not believe will not care about hearing His Truth unless we acknowledge their own feelings and experiences are true to them. By trying to identify with the “others,” by loving them as Jesus did, we can begin to silence the hate.