We have a very real, and powerful, and successful, common enemy who has become expert in turning us against each other.
For a brief time after 9-11, our Country was united in a way reminiscent of the World War II era, when we were faced with an obvious identifiable evil – a common enemy. Unfortunately, it did not take much time for us to become divided again until divisiveness is now greater than I have ever known.
The great irony is that though the recognition of a common enemy is usually effective in uniting groups of people to fight against that enemy, we do in fact have a very real, and powerful, and successful, common enemy who has become expert in turning us against each other. He seeks to destroy us all though getting us to destroy each other. He is winning when we fight against each other rather than unite to oppose him.
Exposing this common enemy might be easier by contrasting opposites, for he became our enemy by opposing our common God and all that is good and true which comes from him.
Truth vs. Lies
If we understand that God is the source of all truth – absolute, eternal truth – and “is a God of truth and can not lie” we can more easily recognize our enemy as the opposite. One of his known titles is “father of lies.” His lies are numerous and pervasive. He has successfully convinced many that there is no absolute truth – that we can create our own reality and define truth through popularity. He is persuasive in convincing us that his lies are not lies. There is the great lie about his existence and many do believe he is a myth. If we believe he does not exist, we can never recognize him for the enemy he is. He lies about everything. He lies about his lies. He twists lies into truths and in the process makes truth appear false. As the Prophet Isaiah said; “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)
Agency – Freedom vs. Bondage
Opposition in all things is characteristic of our lives in this world. Without opposition we would have no frame of reference to determine truth or lies, good or evil, right or wrong. A wise God has allowed us the great gift of Agency – the ability to choose between these opposites. It is for this purpose – so we can be agents to act for ourselves – that He allows our enemy to present us with false ideas and entice us to make choices contrary to God’s will. Our lying enemy knows, as God does, that freedom and happiness depend upon the choices we make. The enemy would convince us, however, that God’s laws and commandments restrict freedom. That is a lie. He convinces us to seek those short term, immediate pleasures which in the long run diminish freedom and result in sorrow and pain. This is the path of addiction and bondage – bondage to him. This is what he wants, though the lie he tells us is that his path will make us happy and free us from restrictions. Our enemy really seeks to make us all “miserable like unto himself.”
Creator vs. Destroyer
God is The Creator. He created the heavens and the earth and all that lives upon the earth. Some have a magical view of creation – that He created all this out of nothing. Others have an opposite, but still rather magical view, that elements somehow combined themselves and evolved into higher life forms. I believe God is the creator because He is all knowing and all powerful and uses that knowledge and power to use existing elements to create. He encourages us to create – to make useful and beautiful things, and most especially to join with His power to create human life. Creation is a wonderful process.
All that our common enemy does is intended to destroy: to destroy what God has created; to destroy the happiness God intended for us; to destroy relationships and the family; even to destroy life itself. His influence is behind all war and destruction. Because he was denied a physical body, he especially desires us to destroy ours and others. This can be obvious and dramatic through murder, war and terrorism. But it can also be subtle in encouraging habits which destroy our health and freedom. His lies encourage the destruction of unborn lives.
Selflesness vs. Pride
Jesus Christ is the one perfect example of selflessness – The one life that in the history and purpose of the whole world it really was all about Him, yet He only sought to do will of His Father and give glory to Him. His entire ministry was selfless. He sought no attention or glory for himself, but was constantly attending to the needs of those around Him. Satan from the beginning sought power and glory for himself. He is “all about me” and encourages us to be likewise selfish, greedy and seek for power.
Unity vs. Divisiveness
Through his tactic of division, our enemy uses us to destroy each other and even ourselves. In the early days of the apostolic church, Christians had “all things in common” and were united. The Book of Mormon tells of the visit of Jesus Christ to the American continent after his resurrection. For a long time afterwards there was peace and unity among the people, “there were no contentions and disputations among them” and they had “all things in common.” (4 Nephi 1:2-3, see also vs 15-18) This was among a people who for generations/centuries had been divided into two distinct and opposing groups frequently at war with each other. During this time of peace there were no “ites”(4 Nephi 1:17) for they were united.
It is interesting that one of the first signs of decline among this united people, was that they “began to be divided into classes.” (4 Nephi 1:26) Our enemy’s first toehold with them was to get them to see differences rather than commonalities. Then it is a short step to make comparisons and see those differences in positive or negative terms. Some begin to feel superior or resent what seems superior in the other. These differences are easily magnified until persecution of one group by the other is justified by some perceived offense. Our common enemy convinces people of lies about each other which polarizes and divides. There is no real search for truth or understanding, only justification of one’s position and distrust of the other. This easily leads to hate, which leads to destruction – exactly what our common enemy desires. This hate eventually resulted in the destruction of entire civilizations.
Sadly, I see that this is where we are headed, if not there already. Our Country is so polarized politically, with each party so sure of their own position and distrustful of the opposition, that no one is really working to solve problems, only to prevent the other side from having their way. We divide ourselves by race, gender, religion, etc. and tend to see things in terms of us and them. This polarization makes it difficult to discern truth from lies, and as a result we all become more susceptible to the lies and deception of our common enemy. We feel that allowing the others to have something they want will deprive us of what we want. We only trust what comes from our side – never questioning that our side may be deceived as much or maybe just in a different way than the other. Even actions presented as promoting “tolerance” and “equality” have resulted in dividing us further, by showing no tolerance for those with other points of view and making them out to be the enemy. Taking offense becomes a way of attacking others.
Our Real Common Enemy
Can we not see that our real enemy is not those in the opposite political camp? That our enemies are not those of a different color, religion or gender? Other human beings are not our real adversary. We are allowing our common enemy to have the advantage when we turn against each other. When will we realize that we have been sucked in by the lies of the great deceiver who desires us to divide and destroy each other?
Maybe another 9-11 type crisis will re-unite us to fight against a common enemy? But if we keep looking to each other to find fault rather than recognize THE common enemy, we are giving him the advantage. It is much easier for our common enemy to let us continue to attack each other until the divisiveness will weaken us to the point that we are more vulnerable to attacks from outside – from those he has already influenced to destroy.
The unity of the people in the Book of Mormon came from their common experience with Christ. Their hearts were changed and feelings of unity resulted. I am sure they still continued to be individuals – they did not all have the same talents, gifts, knowledge or experiences. Unity can be achieved without anyone having to give up their uniqueness. Remembering that our common enemy is the enemy of God himself, being on God’s side as a united people will be our only hope to conquer that great common enemy of us all.