Good Faith Media attended the 2024 South By Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin, Texas. The conference brings together a global audience of creative and passionate people and organizations, providing collaboration, conversation, and networking opportunities.

The conference was a remarkable experience, offering numerous engagements with incredible people who are changing the world. I will share about the work of some of these people in future columns. While most of the conference centered on positive outcomes, many voiced deep concerns over the current state of democracy and decency.

One concern was the legislative strategy of dividing citizens by turning them against one another.  For example, with the recent emphasis on book restrictions and bans, citizens are being asked to report librarians for providing “pornographic” and “hate-filled” materials to minors.  

The “pornographic” materials almost always refer to books with LGBTQ+ characters or themes, while “hate-filled” content deals with systemic racism and racial justice. Parents and others are threatening librarians for providing educational opportunities to students about these matters.  

Adam Webb, the founder of Advocates for All Arkansas Libraries and the Executive Director of Garland County, Arkansas Libraries, spoke at a panel hosted by Democracy Forward. He told stories of librarians being called “groomers” and other derogatory names as state laws were passed criminalizing librarians for providing “inappropriate” materials.  

Laws such as these encourage citizens to report librarians for breaking this draconian law.  Thankfully, an injunction was issued by a federal district court blocking the law. 

The strategy of asking parents to turn in librarians for breaking this law followed previous efforts from anti-abortion legislation in other states. Citizens were asked to turn on their fellow citizens when they suspected anyone of assisting women receiving abortion care. 

For example, a 2021 law in Texas turned citizens into “bounty hunters.” CBS News reported state residents “can sue clinics, doctors, nurses, and even people who drive a woman to get the procedure for at least $10,000.”  

Rebecca Parma, senior legislative associate for Texas Right to Life, told the news outlet, “The ability to sue for $10,000 in damages for each abortion performed after six weeks is a great incentive to have the abortion industry comply with the law.”

Parma and supporters of such laws, including laws reporting suspected librarian violations, must have misheard the words of Jesus when he gave the Great Commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Instead, these self-professed Christians ask their fellow citizens to become modern-day Judases. They turn their neighbors into law enforcement officers while, in the Texas case, receiving pieces of silver as a reward for their betrayal. (The New Testament records Judas Iscariot receiving 30 pieces of silver for his betrayal of Jesus—Matthew 27:5).

Judas Laws, such as those mentioned, provide evidence that many lawmakers have no desire to bring people together for a productive conversation to find positive solutions to society’s complex issues. On the contrary, laws like these only further divide communities, pitting neighbors against one another.

We must ask advocates of these strategies why they continue to advance these divisive tactics. Do they genuinely hold to these convictions, or is something more sinister at play? 

While I will hold the possibility that many have convictions about abortion and sexuality, the strategies and tactics they implement to advance their cause appear to preference chaos and division over conversation and commonality.  

But chaos and division might be the goals. Increasingly, the extreme ends of the political spectrum are more concerned about creating chaos than solving problems and propelling the country forward.   

While they missed the wisdom of the Great Commandment, maybe they heard these words from Jesus: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25).

Propagating chaos and division allows the extremes to control the arena while potentially nefarious maneuvering occurs in the shadows. In other words, strategies like the Judas experiment provide cover while the foundation of our sacred institutions continues to deteriorate.

For those calling ourselves Jesus-followers, we should heed Peter’s wisdom: “Be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble” (1 Peter 3:8). Only by rejecting the Judas experiments that lead to chaos and division can we come together to find sensible solutions. 

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