…and then there were other people on the island. We called them the Others, and they started attacking us. —Hurley, Lost (2009)

The primary role of anthropology thus was a process of ‘inventing the human other’ in order to develop a theory of humankind. —Sundar Sarukkai, “The ‘Other’ in Anthropology and Philosophy” (1997)

The Children’s Story

The war is over, and they have won. This is the background for James Clavell’s short classic, The Children’s Story (1981). Clavell shows us a class of second graders in some generic school after the fall of the United States to an unnamed Marxist power. These second graders know that “they” have conquered “us,” and they are afraid. Their teacher, too, is afraid—afraid for her students, her children. Together teacher and children watch the classroom door, expecting at any moment one of Them to appear. But when the door finally opens, the children gasp.

They had expected an ogre or giant or beast or witch or monster—like the outer-space monster you think about when the lights are out and Momma and Daddy have kissed you good night and you’re frightened and you put your head under the cover….

What they see, in fact, is a beautiful young girl. Her clothes are neat and clean… her perfume is fresh… and her movements are graceful. She speaks perfect English without the hint of an accent. And she interacts with the children in a way that is both reassuring and intriguing. Within twenty minutes she has won their confidence and undermined the outward forms and traditions that represent their parents’ religious and political convictions. They story is powerful, and its implications for education are profound. But our concern here is with the idea of Them. For as the children understood well, we normally think of Them as monsters.

The Other as Them

hand in handAnthropology is supposed to be the science of humanity. But traditional anthropology is inherently biased. Growing up as it did in the West in the wake of the Enlightenment, it organized its assumptions and categories in terms of Cartesian rationality and Western technological progress. Modern Western man became the standard of true, fully evolved humanity. Other men or man-like beings were sorted out on a downward scale from that starting point. “Thus, there is a plethora of human others which appear in anthropology,” Sundar Sarukkai writes. Following Jacob Pandian, he lists the fossil other, the savage other, the black other, and the ethnographic other. In other words, traditional anthropology defines the truly human as that which is not pre-historic man, the savage, the black, or the man described in the ethnographic accounts of obscure non-Western cultures. What is implicit here, of course, is racism, the inherent superiority of the Western white man, and the right of the West to dominate less “human” peoples. Along these lines, Sarukkai writes:

Thus, the idea of the non-western people as the living fossil drew support from the historical and biological theories of the times. Consistently, the other stood for an inferior human….

The non-western people were seen to embody what the primeval west was before its “progress” and thus were seen as “living fossils.” The historical growth of these ideas show inherent ideas of domination.

Now that anthropology is no longer a Western monopoly, non-Western anthropologists are challenging the very foundations of the discipline. But even they are left with the nagging questions. How do we define the truly human? How should we judge between one culture and another? Should we? In avoiding the very idea of the Other, or Them, are we left with anything but cultural relativism? Does anthropology have anything left to offer but endless volumes of meaningless description?

The Little Girl and “Them”

In stark contrast to traditional anthropology—and to the second graders in A Children’s Story—stands the little Israelite maid who appears 2 Kings 5. This little girl—we don’t know her name or age—had been carried captive by the armies of Syria. The Syrians had pillaged her town and most likely murdered her family and friends. They certainly had taken her away from everything she knew: her nation, her language, her forms of worship, and her way of life.

This little girl ended up a servant in the household of Naaman, a Syrian general, one of “them.” Naaman was a leper. The little girl might easily have concluded that he was under the direct judgment of God; in her mind, many lepers were. She might have thought, “Serves him right!” But the little girl thought no such thing. Rather, she said to her mistress, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy.”

What an amazing girl! A stranger in a strange land, she maintained her faith in God and her love for those around her. She harbored no bitterness or hatred toward her captors. She wished Naaman well. She wanted him to be healed. And she was certain that Elisha the prophet could heal him, even though no prophet had ever healed a leper before. She was certain that Elisha would heal him, even though Naaman was a Gentile and one of “them.” She believed this even though “many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed” (Luke 4:27). This little girl believed that God is merciful to all who call upon Him (Rom. 10:12-13). For her, Naaman was not one of “them”; he was not an “other.” He was made in the image of God, a sinner like herself who needed the mercy of God.

Imago Dei

Scripture teaches that man is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28). He is a created and finite replica of the infinite and transcendent Creator. Man’s definition and reference point thus lie outside himself in Another. But that Other is “nigh” unto all those who call upon Him in truth (Ps. 145:18). Scripture teaches both the infinite ontological distance between the Creator and His creation and the real possibility of covenant fellowship between God and man. Yahweh is the “high and lofty One who inhabits eternity,” yet He dwells with the humble and contrite (Isa. 57:15). He is the self-revealing God, the Source of all light and truth.

For Scripture, then, man is most truly man when he knows and fears God (Ecc. 12:13). The best in humanity is that which conforms to the law of God. Want of conformity to that law is sin, corruption, and depravity. Such lawlessness alienates man from God, and man from man. And so the sinner finds enemies on every side.

Selective Depravity

Because of sin, it is natural for each man to think of himself and those like him as sane, moral, normal—in fact, human. Those outside his group—the “others,” the “outsiders,” “they”—are, from his perspective, deranged, depraved, and deviant. They are even inhuman. This perception or categorization strikes at the heart of Christian ethics. Here’s why: Those who embrace this heresy can safely say amen to God’s demand for love and yet find no one worthy of that love because only me and my little group are truly human. It was just this sort of attitude in a Pharisaical lawyer that prompted Christ to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

In an extreme form such an attitude generates what Rushdoony has called the heresy of “selective depravity.” We, the insiders, locate or absolutize evil in some ethnic, cultural, or religious group that we’re not in.

Depravity is limited to a class or group. Instead of seeing the problem as sin, and sin as pandemic to all men in Adam, selective depravity sees sin as limited to a segment of humanity. Instead of fighting against sin, it calls upon us to fight against a particular group of men. This means a radically different plan of salvation than that which is set forth in Scripture. Instead of Jesus Christ as the Savior of all men… it sees one segment of humanity, the “good guys,” as the world’s hope. The problem then is to exorcise the “bad guys.” (937)

At its worst, the doctrine of selective depravity leads to Pharisaism, murder, and genocide.

Conclusion

It’s easy for the natural man to fear and hate “the other,” simply because “the other” is well, other than himself. It’s natural for the sinner to see “the others” as murdering monsters who need to be exterminated from the universe. Modern anthropologists may suspect smell an ovious rat here and sense a need for some sort of ethical band-aid as they really have no moral reference point to appeal. They have they have only the dust and ashes of cultural relativism, in terms of which all attitudes and actions must ultimately be acceptable.

Scripture, on the other hand, gives us an absolute standard in the law of God and true spiritual power for obedience in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Man can be saved from his self-centeredness, hatred, and fear. He can become a covenant keeper in Jesus Christ. Through the power of the Spirit, he can truly learn to love his neighbor, even his enemy, as he loves himself.

For Further Reading:

James Clavell, The Children’s Story (New York: Delacorte Press/Eleanor Friede, 1981).

Greg Uttinger, “If You Only Had a Few Years…,” The Chalcedon Report

Rousas J. Rushdoony, “Doctrine of Selective Depravity” in The Roots of Reconstruction, 936-942 (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991).

Sundar Sarukkai, “The ‘Other’ in Anthropology and Philosophy,” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 32, No. 24 (Jun. 14-20, 1997), 1406-1409.

6 Comments

  • Avatar
    collinsm Posted April 22, 2013 9:43 am

    Hmmmm,,, more “Weak Kneed” Chritianity…. I have been to war, and killed a few “others.” Strangely enough, I havent hated a single one of them. Nor have I used my telescopic sights and satellite imagery to determine what “color” he was, or even if he was a he or a she,,, gay/straight, liberal/conservative. It is critically incumbent that Christians begin to understand that they ARE in a WAR!!! The tactics are different this time, but it is WAR nonetheless. I have also met “Good Islamics” whom I liked personally.
    I guess the biggest difference I see here is this: The “Christian Professor” of anthropology, has the luxury of contemplating the world at large, and the “realities” and “racism” behind the wars ONLY because he doesnt participate in them,,,,, I havent had that luxury on the battlefield, where the vast majority of you “Good Chrisitans” will find yourself.
    David was a warrior, many proffets were warriors, they didnt fight the yoke God placed on them. It is not predetermined or ordained for Chrisitans to kneel, look skyward, and smile as they are beheaded! It is not against the law, nor against God’s law to FIGHT. It says in Timothy to ” provide for your family,,, or you are worse than a nonbeliever” that includes their very lives in my humble opinion.
    Rest assured that the dreaded “Others” do not suffer from the weak-kneed introspection above, they are clear, and concise in their intent to attack and kill us, out of hatred,,, it has nothing to do with our “race” The average Islamic that I met was exceedingly uneducated and couldnt even read their own language. The idea that they go through such mental analysis is ridiculous. They are told by an Imam, that they are to kill and die if necessary an they do not question it.
    You “Good Christians” better ‘find’ it in yourself to fight this advance,,,, in your govt and on the battlefield that is your own soil now,,, or you most assuredly will be killed.
    These people are not “Giants” they can be beaten and they need to be. This is not from your average Islamic,,, follow the money,,,, and it goes to the Saudi royal family,,,, they just use the poor saps who cannot read the Quoran for themselves as cannon fodder.
    Christians,,, you are NOT ordained to give up and die……
    The Col

    • Avatar
      Roy Posted July 13, 2013 11:15 am

      Actually Col, it’s not ONLY Christians…. it’s ALL whites – Pagans, Wiccans, Healers, Alternates….

      Thanx
      Roy

  • Avatar
    Andrei Basarov Posted April 30, 2013 4:17 pm

    You are typical traitor Christians. You had rather submit to black racism and cultural control than to stand up for your rights as a human being. In fact, you bastards make a life out of submission, submission to blacks,submission to moslems and submission to communists. Many of you are active participants in sodomy and pederasty, you hypocritical phonies!You are not worth anything but I would insist that whoever wins Civil War II use you in chain gangs and in penal battalions. You are people with no soul and agents of the devil. Your weakness brought obama to power because you want a black leader and your weakness contaminates everything you touch. You are the worst type of homosexual, perverted african-worshippers. You also cloak your need to submit in missions where billions of dollars have been poured into Africa and Haiti for the pasty 300 years,l but you reinforce failure. Instead of helping the poor smart white kids who cry every night for the future they will never have, you are in africa wasting time and money doing labor for minority parasites who not only make an industry of being parasites, but will demolish what you’ve built to give work to the next wave of psychotic “Christians” next year. You are not real Chritians you are the dregs of humanity who have taken over American Christianity. Damn you to hell that where I want to send you, en masse’! Signed: A Christian

    • Avatar
      Roy Posted July 13, 2013 11:12 am

      ….and as typical to anything else, another “If you don’t follow my lead or listen to me” idiot who has all the answers from a cushy flat in the middle of Peaceville.

      We have two words for people like you… chickenshit and shitstirrer….

      Oh, yes…. have a nice day too….

  • Avatar
    collinsm Posted May 1, 2013 7:34 am

    Whew!! Adrei,,,, that was one hell of a story,,,,, tell me more about you experiences. I can feel the pain and “heat” though your keyboard…. what is your story? Not all blacks are bad, I have met many who are good men and women, but I agree with your sentiments somewhat,,, that the liberal side of America actually “Hates” blacks and is doing terrible things to them,,, and have since the civil war. Some military firends of mine, (black) have been great men, and I cared a great deal about them, as friends, but they were also men an women of honor, not bums on the public dole, which is a seductive trap.
    You should read a book by ‘Pascal Bruckner’ called “the Tears of the White man; Compassion as contempt’ It describes the disease of Liberalism, and its effects on the black population. I have a Dr’s degree, and frankly this was a ver “hard” read,,, Pascal is very very intelligent and I had o keep a dictionary nearby to read,,, but it is very revealing and interesting.
    Dont allow hate of blacks to grip you. In my life I grew up in the “Racist South” and frankly,,, I think it was a lie,,, sure there were some inequities as there always are between groups of people, but it was not as savage and racist as the media and movies would like you to think. Lastly,,, I am a recently retired Colonel of the USAF, and though I think it is dangerous to be moved by rumors of conspiracies, I think the govt is using blacks and attempting to pit us against each other,,, they are baiting us,,,, you must not bite! For instance,,,, I have been robbed only twice in my life, both were White,,,,one was related to me.
    Black people just want to get by,,, just like whites,,, orientals,.,,, spanish,,, etc… at least the good people do. There are always bad apples, and they get the press,

    I agree that our christian practice,,, is decidedly weak, but if we go off fully cocked,,, then are we not guilty f Jihad as well? We pay for our sins to Jesus, no one else,,,,, dont waste your eternity, on the garbage that happens in this world. Talk with me a while.
    The Col

  • Avatar
    Deedee Posted June 18, 2014 12:34 pm

    God made all peoples, of all colors and all creeds, yet not all of them are influenced by Him in their beliefs, and the workings of their minds. Expecting others to think as you do, because of where you were born, or live, can actually deceive you of their objectives, attitude, or intentions.
    Also lumping all together into one category is an easy way as to not to have to deal with them on an individual basis, and it allows misconceptions, hate and anger to grow. All dogs CAN bite, but WILL all dogs bite? Push them into a corner and you may get the answer sooner than you expected. The same is with people, not all of one creed, race, or nationality follow some unseen, written rule, but push them to their limits, and you can expect a reaction, thus then you will say “See?! I told you all _____ are the same!” Their reaction isn’t due to their race, creed, or nationality, but due to the fact they are human, and we all have the same expectations of society, though granted, some are more prone to act out than others when pushed, or cornered.
    More people are prone to follow than lead, including Christians who sit too open minded in their pews willing to believe anything that is spoon fed to them via a pastor/priest who is afraid of his own sins. He tries to diminish his own guilt by ‘softening’ God’s judgments, leading his flock astray, teaching false doctrine, placing his fears of hell and eternal damnation above the good of those he is preaching to. Lead the sheep to the edge and they will follow you into the abyss. Not all will, but most.
    Yet, Mr. Basarov would have you believe all of us are damned to Hell, and he himself will send us there because we do not hold his ideas as truths. I find it ‘representative’ of ‘those’ like him, that even though he was personally asked to talk about this, he never returned to say a word. What was you ‘mission’ in your statements? Breed division among race, religion, and political lines? Widen the rift already there? Perhaps he felt ‘compelled’ to say the things he did, and never respond? Care to comment Mr. Basarov? I know it has been over a year since your comment, but maybe you will feel the need to make things clear, after all this time.
    God bless.

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