Christianity has many different doctrines (some universal throughout the denominations, some strictly limited to a specific denomination or a specific group of denominations) that not only encourage suffering “in this world” but consider it the highest blessing to which a sinful person can aspire.
But Christianity isn’t alone in that concept. Many other religions make someone who is “different” into an object for veneration. Conversely, there tends to also be the mirror image available as well, turning those who are “different” into an object for demonization. Demonization has many forms. It can be the simple propaganda tactic of dehumanization, turning the person(s) who are “different” into faceless stereotypes somehow deserving of the atrocities that are inflicted on them.
For example, we are doing this in our political and religious venues right now. You name any of the knee-jerk stereotypes, and you can find propaganda vilifying that group. Muslims, refugees, Latinos, non-Christians, atheists, African-Americans (particularly male ones), feminists, fat people, thin people, those who are LGBTQ, police officers (especially those who define the police as “jack-booted thugs”) or any other favorite group to hate.
Sadly, because of this human behavior, those of us who are marginalized or made into stereotypes or who just don’t match the mainstream seem to need to feel special because we are so often dehumanized. In a culture where we are vilified simply for the crime of being alive, we need, simply in order to survive the constant self-image/self-esteem destruction that is heaped upon us, to make a virtue out of that necessity.
In a just world, we wouldn’t have to suffer for those differences. In a just world, we could interact based simply on our characters and our actions. In a just world, we would not have to create this myth that those who are “other” are somehow inferior to us, or that whatever is mainstream is superior to any other way of interacting with the world.
What we need to remember is that these are “learned behaviors.” We don’t come out of the womb hating anything. We learn this behavior from our parents, our siblings, our schools and our culture. ANY behavior that is learned can be unlearned. Is it difficult to unlearn anything? Of course, IT IS!
Living in bitterness and hate only leads us to strive to find someone we can feel good about dehumanizing. That bitterness blinds us to the idea that most human beings are no different than ourselves. That all they want in this world is to be loved. That we’re all simply searching for security in ourselves.