SYRACUSE — Religious battles in America can get as vicious as the fights between political parties.
A new documentary shows that it doesn’t have to be that way. “Us and Them,” recently released by Excel Films, follows one man’s journey as he attempts to understand the vitriol that people can feel for someone else’s faith and tries to find ways to bridge that divide.
“We have a problem in America in terms of relating to each other over religious differences,” said John Morehead, a Syracuse resident and the custodian of the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. The foundation owns the rights to the film, and it was produced in part by the Evangelical and Mormon Chapters.
“We have very different ideas about which religion is true, and it’s a natural human tendency to demonize the other person,” he continued. “It’s the same thing that’s happening in politics. It’s almost to the point where they see each other as inhuman, and the result is we can’t get much done.”
The documentary was created by Bryan Hall, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was shocked by the backlash Mitt Romney received from other Christian groups during his run for office.
He then moves beyond that to look at the accusations thrown at Obama of being secretly a Muslim, the backlash faced by Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, the disruption of a Hindu prayer on the Senate floor in 2007, and even the difficulty John F. Kennedy faced for being Catholic 50 years ago.
The documentary also includes several religious leaders who say that being respectful of someone from another religion doesn’t mean you’ve abandoned your beliefs.
For their part, both Morehead and the foundation agree with this wholeheartedly.
“The foundation teaches people in different religious traditions how to view those in other traditions not as enemies, but as trusted rivals,” Morehead said. “We want to persuade others of the truthfulness of our religion, but in our view you’re more persuasive when you speak in a civil fashion and try to understand where the other person is coming from.”