We live in a state of high alert. In that state, we seek someone to blame. But we in North America, live in a time of safety unlike any in human history. So, it might seem strange to ask, who is my enemy?
The Enemy in the Machine
Despite the experience of a global pandemic, the number of things that can do us harm or cause death has significantly decreased. Life expectancy continues to increase here and around the world.1
We have medical solutions that treat all but a few diseases. Now, the greatest causes of death are heart disease and cancer,2 and these non-communicable conditions are often the result of lifestyle decisions. Our cars are safer and although the miles traveled increase each year, the number of deaths per vehicle mile has dropped dramatically.3
Yet our sense of anxiety is increasing. Apart from accidents and Alzheimer’s disease, the greatest increase in causes of death has been suicide. According to a recent study, the causes of anxiety, particularly in younger adults but to some degree across the entire population, relate to “24/7 media” and “social medial.”4 Overall, we are safer, but our sense of fear continues to rise.
What is portrayed in the media has is connected to our sense of fear and anxiety. And the role social media plays is being scrutinized to an even greater degree. We seem determined to created enemies for ourselves even where we have none, and to make the fewer enemies we have increasingly larger than life.
Who Is My Enemy?
This creates a paradox for Christians. In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Yet, how many of us can definitively answer the question, “Who is my enemy?” The most common response would be someone either far away (Islamic terrorists) or some broad, impersonal group (politicians or activists on the other side). How am I to love them?
This becomes even more pointed when we consider the command to pray for those who persecute us. Again, few of us living in this nation can think of a time when we have been actively persecuted by another human being. But the sense of persecution among Christians in the west is rising steadily,5 and this has become a reason to fight back politically and socially.
So, how do I pray for “those people” who are persecuting me? Is it possible we are all victims of a system that’s making us enemies of each other?
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy ↩
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7377530/ ↩
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_vehicle_fatality_rate_in_U.S._by_year ↩
- Goodwin, Renee D et al. “Trends in anxiety among adults in the United States, 2008-2018: Rapid increases among young adults.” Journal of psychiatric research vol. 130 (2020): 441-446. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.08.014 ↩
- https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/apr/5/christians-facing-increased-persecution-america-po/ ↩