In recent weeks, I have been reading the new book by Jonathan Sacks called Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. It offers a sobering description of how often we are gripped by what he calls a “pathological dualism.”
Pathological dualism, Sacks argues, occurs when humanity itself is seen as either “unimpeachably good” or “irredeemably evil.” You are either one or the other, depending on which side of a particular “Us vs. Them” conflict you stand.
What makes pathological dualism so dangerous is its ability to do three things:
- It makes you dehumanize or demonize your enemies.
- It leads you to see yourself as a victim.
- It allows you to commit altruistic evil, killing in the name of the God of life, hating in the name of the God of love, and practicing cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.
As I become more aware of the places where this pathological dualism is at work in my life, I am challenged by a reminder Sacks offers near the end of his book:
Do not wage war on the children of darkness. Make sure instead that you and your children are sources of light.
What do you think it means to live as sources of light?