This “Cain Syndrome” happens at many different levels in many different ways throughout many different relationships and dynamics throughout life, but when it happens in a religious setting it is especially poisonous because the self righteous believe God is on their side and they will commit the most horrendous atrocities and believe themselves to be good people who are doing God’s work.
That’s why whenever one is tempted to go on the attack and criticize others for whatever reason we have to be careful.
Do you want to dole out excommunications? Tiptoe.
Do you want to name and blame others? It’s a minefield.
I’m preaching to myself here. When I feel inclined to let rip towards a perceived enemy I have to ask whether I am falling into the trap of Cain.
It is right to criticize creatively and constructively. It is okay to be a critic of the critics. It is right to challenge authority. But where does legitimate challenge end and the Cain Syndrome begin?
I think the borderline is when we see a person or a group as all wrong with no redeeming features. It is when we refuse to see the good even in those with whom we disagree.
It is when we demonize particular people rather than their wrong beliefs. It is when we name other people with labels of our own making and apply those labels to individuals. This blots out the complexity and uniqueness of them as a person and objectifies them. Once that is done we can happily stone them and do away with them as Cain did Abel.
Do I fall into this trap sometimes? I’m afraid I do and if I do I’m sorry.
To avoid the trap of Cain we criticize wrong ideas and erroneous actions. We identify policies and principles that have gone astray.
And once in a while a bit of satire keeps things in perspective and keeps us laughing…
The laughter, by the way, is a very serious point because the one way you can spot the Cain Syndrome is that the individual or group who is caught in this trap invariably have little or no sense of humor.
They are deadly serious. Deadly.
Most of all they take themselves very, very seriously indeed. They are never self critical. Never.
They rarely laugh. They do not exhibit true joy. They may laugh at others but they never laugh at themselves.