When “The Enemy” is Not our Enemy

crusadesOne of the things that drives me nuts about the progressive/liberal movement is how we don’t give credit when it’s due. Often, we overlook or dismiss positive steps taken by those we have conflicting viewpoints with and continue to point out their obvious flaws.

I’m not a religious person, but I did spend the first 16 years of my life dealing with the Catholic Church on a weekly basis, so for the sake of this article, we’ll use them as an example. Again, this is not an endorsement of them, so don’t take it as such.

You know, it’s easy to harp on the Catholic Church for all of the things it does horribly wrong (and believe me, there’s a lot), but it takes more intellectual maturity to praise them when they do something that makes them a little closer to joining the rest of us in the 21st century. It’s fun to mock those who are opposed to our ideas–it’s human nature to want to see see them as being stupid, corrupt or evil. After all, that’s how we justify a lot of our actions and the beliefs those actions are based on. It’s also a fairly lucrative business for bloggers, TV personalities and comedians because it fills that same need.

I’m not going to say that this is always a bad thing. People and organizations should be criticized when they’re obviously wrong, but they should receive some positive acknowledgement when they get it right, even if (like the proverbial clock) they’re only right twice a day. As progressives, we should not be excluding folks we could work with on common goals just because we don’t agree with them on other issues.

Again, should the Catholic Church or other religious groups be our allies on some issues?  Sure, they’ve been involved with some of the worst abuses in human history and some continue to oppose common sense things like condoms, but they also do some good. Guess who has one of the best social justice programs in the United States? It’s Catholic Charities. Guess who speaks out against war and the death penalty consistently? The Catholic Church does, and we should stand alongside those who we don’t share the same views with when we find our common interests do intersect.

I’m not saying this means we should start giving them 10% of our income or show up every Sunday morning. This doesn’t suggest that we should stop criticizing their Dark Ages positions on things like women’s health or LGBT rights, but we should not shy away from working with the people who could be our ally on important issues.

Here’s another example–Could we have won WWII without the help of Communist Russia? Perhaps, but it would have taken longer and cost us more in both money and human lives. Communism vs. capitalism was one of the greatest struggles of the 20th century. Yet, when we faced a common enemy, we put our differences on the back burner and worked together, then went back to fighting each others ideas once that was over.

If we don’t do this, we aren’t going to keep moving forward and we’ll remain stuck in the trench warfare of left vs. right until something changes. Why not push for that change now?

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  • Phil

    In theory I would agree with you, we should praise good no matter where we find it, however several things can effect that, including how oftentimes IF you do reach across and praise your opponent then they take it as a total victory and justification for further false assumptions of their correctness and your support of it. I indeed support the idea that THE PEOPLE need to quit letting those who are stealing our futures divide us with emotionally charged hot button topics and we need to be reaching out to find our commonalities instead of holing up in forts of our differences. All too often both sides see the same problems, and in some cases even the same solutions but since they refuse to hear the other side they never realize it. I can think of several “pro choice/pro life” moments when the people involved got past the rhetoric long enough to hear each other and actually made progress towards solutions that both sides could heartedly accept, but it’s rare. We need to quit letting our attention be drawn to issues that are intended to keep us divided and start looking to issues where we can start the process of working together.

  • Great piece! When the new Pope was selected, there were more internet memes about pedophilia than about the fact he is a Jesuit, and if you know anything about Liberation Theology, you know what that means.

  • Patricia

    I like this piece. I think it is human nature to care and hold a focused passion. I don’t spend my time and energy belittling organized religions or any groups or anyone for that matter. I spend my time doing my passion and if a group steps into help I look at thier motive, deside if the baggage effects the helping of my work and deside yes or no from that perspective. I don’t find name calling helpful. I hold to my passion and my work and people and organizations align nicely as I stay in integrity with what I have been called to do in this life time.

  • Trevor

    Most people do not know that Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services are two of the three main organizations that are tasked with resettling the majority of the refugees in the United States. The IRC is the third.

  • jabberwocky

    I agree we need to come together but Obama never wants to compromise on anything. Give me Hillary please.