Contemporary evangelicalism has a strong divisive and contentious streak and some evangelicals feel no compunction over employing violent rhetoric against fellow evangelicals. In an effort to get something of a handle on these dynamics I picked up Russell Jacoby’s very interesting book Bloodlust. It’s a highly readable essay on the fratricidal roots of violence. He notes that throughout history church authorities were most vicious and unspeakably barbaric toward those nearest to them (fellow Christians) rather than those of other religions (Jews and Muslims).
In the midst of a discussion of Michael Servetus, he writes:
It is easy to forget that the religious violence of the sixteenth century, and that of the Inquisition that preceded and succeeded it, pitted Christian against Christian. “From the beginning,” writes a historian of religion, “Christianity was distinctive among religions in its tendency to demonize its enemies, especially one type: the enemy within the fold.” . . . Small distinctions are what engender the hatred (p. 20).