The Nameless Other

The Nameless Other July 21, 2010

Love one another – Jesus

When we deem someone as other, we create even more distance between us and that person. Sometimes, and quite unfairly, that person that is the other gets labeled as a sinner. The label itself engenders a picture of someone who is chronically addicted to a destructive way of life. When we create others we create outsiders. Some of the disciples of Jesus ran into people who were using his name but weren’t followers of Jesus and this confused them so much they went and told on these ‘other’ followers of Jesus.

Alterity is a philosophy of the other.

When we reject the other we deny that there is an us, only and us and them. In terms of philosophy, we as people are the subject and God is the Object. For new terminology to be introduced we must come to a place and realize that when we reject the other, we reject the Object.

There is this violent separation from ourselves as a whole when we push the other away. The violent separation starts from God and ends in us rejecting who we are meant to be. This radical estrangment can be found in someone who desires to define the behaviours of others rather than to get to know them.

This is the problem with trying to dictate who has sin or who doesn’t have sin. When we bring the idea of sin into a relationship, sin is there. Let me explain, when we spend our time trying to label an other as someone who isn’t just the outsider, but a sinner exaggerates the unnecessary distance between two people. the problem with the idea of sin is the idea of sin.

People aren’t sinners*, they’re people. Humans. Created beings.

When we label others we stand on our ‘chairs’ and look down on them. When we try and fit the other into a system, they lose their humanity. We become the fascist dictators of destiny. These are strong words, I know, but they must be said because Jesus didn’t seem to take kindly to those who went around using

Maybe we can come to a place where there is no other. Just one-another. maybe there doesn’t have to be an us and them, just an us. This isn’t a call for homogenous culturalism, but a radical re-alignment of our theology, worldview and relationships. If our theology informs us that there is an other, rather than a one-another, than we might need new theology.

Jesus says we must love ‘one-another’. Even in that phrase is the idea of oneness. Wholeness. Completeness. And unity. When we go out with our arsenal of labels ready to deploy on those we meet (whether consciously or subconsciously) we must remember the damage these labels do.

Philosopher Julia Kristeva speaks on the issue of how language in and of itself estranges us from the object we desire. Maybe what we can begin searching for is the language beyond Language. The language that doesn’t rely on structures to dictate how we should each other.

If we truly desire to know someone, know them as a nameless being who is connected to you. If we take the time to share a drink before even sharing names or stories, than at least we are acknowledging that that person has value without the need for a label. Try it. It won’t be easy. But I think it might be the start to a much needed shift in our society.

*Listen for the distinction.

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8 responses to “The Nameless Other”

  1. The author is saying the construct of sin is a problem because it treats sinners as others. He makes the assumption that one person thinks themself a non-sinner (or at least a not-as-bad sinner) while still calling others sinners – as a result, they push that person away, making them an “other”.

    The solution the author suggests of getting rid of the concept of sin is not only unBiblical, but unnecessary for the intended goal of not diminishing people by making them “others.”

    Jesus condemned the kind of self-righteousness that looks down on others in Luke 18:9-14. But notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Get rid of the idea of sin, people aren’t sinners, they’re people.” His point wasn’t to eliminate the idea of sin, but to help us to see just how sinful we ALL are.

    That means that the extent to which we think we aren’t sinful is the extent to which we actually are. That becomes very relevant in just a few seconds, but first…

    That means that the logic driving this article breaks down from the get-go. The author must assume from the beginning that the idea of sin is a bad one in order to come to the conclusion that the idea itself is what is creating “otherness.” Unfortunately, George failed to accurately understand and/or portray the Biblical concept of sin. If he had correctly understood/portrayed it, he would recognize that the creation of “others” cannot come from the Biblical concept of sin because according to the Bible, we are all sinners, equally in need of a Savior. In other words, George’s article does a complete 360 under a different (and ultimately false) premise to accomplish a goal that had already been accomplish.

    I say George’s premise is false because where he says “the problem is the idea of sin,” Jesus says, “the problem is that you don’t think yourself a sinner.”

    That makes this article quite ironic if only because Jesus could well be saying that very same thing to George right now. George Elerick is the proverbial pharisee, standing at a distance saying, “God, I thank you that you taught me that there is no such thing as sin. I’m so glad I’m not like all those conservatives.” And, nearby, is a conservative unable to even look at God saying, “God, have mercy on me because I am a sinner.”

    The story concludes with Jesus saying, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    He who has no sin has no humility.

  2. notice i put an asterisk by the distinction i make about sin. are you sure you ‘listened’ for it? because if you did, you wouldn’t be responding as you did. i wasn’t saying we all don’t have sin. all of us screw up. all of us. but do we spend our lives focusing on that, especially (in terms of the orthodox views of atonement) says christ died once and for all – and also said ‘it was finished’ – so within that construct, are we agreeing that christs death wasn’t good one for once and for all? if people want to think of themselves as worms while god calls them golden enough for his son to die for them, well then, so be it, but i would rather focus on the reality of what the cross stands for in that construct.