The Problem With “All”

The word “all” is becoming more troublesome to me. In some ways, it reminds me of when I was a child.


In my attempt to persuade my mom to let me participate in an activity or event that I knew was not acceptable to her, my standard default response was: “All my friends will be there!” Or, “Everyone is doing it.”


In reality, not all my friends would be there, and not everyone was participating. It was just a childish attempt to influence my mom by deceit; in order get what I wanted.


Not only do children use this approach. It’s quite common for adults to be tempted to use a “broad-brush” tactic as well.


There’s something about wanting to convince others of how “all” Evangelicals, “all” Baptists, “all” Catholics, or “all” Jews are like “this.” And, a mass lumping of individuals into any religious or political camp has its disadvantage:


It encourages polarization, eliminates dialogue, and bears false witness.


The problem when we attempt to brush-stroke those who have different opinions, ideas, and beliefs than we do as “all,” it is inaccurate and deceitful.


Not “all” Evangelicals are uncaring, unkind, and unloving. As an Evangelical minister, I can point to many Evangelicals who are filled with charity, compassion, and courage – actively engaged in acts of justice and mercy.


For those who want to brand all Baptists as unkind and unsympathetic, I can show you many of my Baptist friends who are caring, loving, and merciful. Not all Catholics or Jews are intolerant or unaccepting. Not every Democrat is an extreme liberal, nor is every Republican a right-wing conservative.


The moment we classify any group as “all,” we risk the sin of bearing false witness (speaking untruths about others to make them appear guilty when they are innocent). In full disclosure, I’m guilty as well.


Too, often (when I’m frustrated with our political leaders and representatives that appear to want to stay in the blame-game) I’m tempted to pick up a broad brush and paint them “all” as one. However, it’s deceitful.


Not every Senator or Congressperson is arbitrarily sinking their heels into the ground and refusing to have constructive conversations. And, the moment I classify them as “all,” I’m bearing false witness against those who are innocent.


It may be convenient for us to leverage our position or preference by wanting to classify those of other persuasions as “all.” However, the moment we do we violate God’s command:


You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” – Exodus 10:16 (NRSV) [1]




[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ex 20:16.

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