The Sin of Elitism

Jean Vanier (in From Brokenness to Community) writes that “elitism is the sickness of us all.” At first blush, I was taken back by the line when I came across it. I’m not an elitist was my immediate reaction, as I suspect it would be for many people reading the line.

His next line, however, opened my understanding. “Elitism is the sickness of us all. We all want to be on the winning team.” Whatever our reaction to his first sentence, I suspect few of us could deny the truth of the second sentence. Who doesn’t want to be one of the winners?

But, of course, once there is a winning team, there is a losing team, as to which the winning team is superior. Once there is an insider, there is a outsider who doesn’t belong. And so on. Hence, Vanier’s continuation of his thought. “Elitism is the sickness of us all. We all want to be on the winning team. That is the heart of apartheid and every form of racism.”

Vanier wrote those lines from the recognition of the “immense forces of darkness and hatred” within his own heart. And he recognized the need to acknowledge their existence, to not pretend none of that “garbage” exists within us. He continues, “The important thing is to become conscious of those forces in us and to work at being liberated from them and to discover that the worst enemy is inside our own hearts not outside.”