• Posted: Aug 15, 2010 17:28:27
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I'd like to put a name to something, something the "mainstream" press has barely taken notice of. Or, if they have taken notice, they seem to have judiciously chosen not to point to it. It's a touchy topic because pointing to it risks offending people and, on the face of it, would seem protected by the First Amendment. But there are serious consequences in the balance for a significant portion of the U.S. population whose rights may also be at risk of infringement. I'd like to call that something: The Purity Movement.
Think back to the 2008 presidential election when Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin would address rallies with the pronouncement "It's good to be with real Americans." Then take a spin on your radio dial and listen to Christian talk radio speak of "real Christians" and conservative talking heads trying to ferret out and define "real conservatives". To say that kind of rhetoric is "divisive" because it seeks to separate the population into two competing groups, one "pure" and the other not, is certainly true. But it also seems to miss something important. It misses noting that while such rhetoric is protected by the First Amendment, it is also entirely contradictory to some of the main principles of American democracy and of Christianity itself.
Christian talk radio likes to proclaim our American democracy was founded upon Christian principles. They use that assertion to decry the exclusion of certain Christian religious beliefs and practices from public life. But what were those Christian principles borrowed in the framing of the Constitution?
To answer that question one needs get their mind around the concept of parts as opposed to wholes, as in one might borrow a design for a suspension from Chevy and put it with an engine design from Ford to make a hybrid vehicle that is better, or at least more purposeful, than either a Ford or a Chevy. What framers of the U.S. Constitution intended to build was a society wherein individuals from all kinds of background could work and live together in peace and harmony. The Preamble uses the words "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility". The concept of inclusion was certainly borrowed from Christianity, as is "we are all God's children". And the concepts of peace and harmony were in part borrowed from Christianity, as in "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". So, what the U.S. Constitution ended up being is a practical guide toward realizing those ideals borrowed from Christianity, as well as making a fair stab at realizing the ideals of "justice" and "liberty" borrowed from other great thinkers going back to Plato and Aristotle and the more contemporaneous Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. The point is, the Constitution of the United States borrowed from Christianity, but not exclusively from Christianity, and was never meant to be thought of as an exclusively Christian document. Hence, Christian talk radio's assertion that the U.S. Constitution implies the entirety of Christianity, especially as they themselves understand it, is entirely wrong.
The main problem for those who find comfort engaging in what I would term "simple think" is the concept of inclusion, as in "we are all God's children" or "we the people". What troubles them is change, because whenever someone new is included in the group, the group changes. It is no longer the same group. It has distinctly new properties. And making adjustments to that newness isn't always easy. It takes a special mindset that takes account of the possibility things may eventually change and require adjustment. And not everybody is prepared or willing to adopt that mindset. Instead of willingness to adjust to inevitable change, in some circles the reaction is toward exclusivity. In other words, "keep the agents of change out and purify the ranks to insure stability", what I would label "the purity movement". It is the same kind of thinking that has historically led to genocide and ethnic purges, slavery and Fascism. One group of people decides they are the chosen "we" and that everyone else is the unclean unworthy enemy. The result has always been tragedy of the highest order.
It is interesting to note that within the processes of biology, population exclusivity or genetic sameness almost always similarly leads to tragedy. There are moments when genetic sameness can lead to huge and rapid advances in population density. But inevitably a weakness is found and exploited by some exploitive vector and populations fall horrifically. Plus, inbreeding magnifies genetic defects and weakens genetic robustness. It is only through the mechanisms of genetic diversity that over time populations achieve harmonious interconnecting sustainability.
Historically, human populations can and have benefited from the influx of new ideas, new skills, and renewed willingness to put in effort that intermixing with other populations brings. But in contrast, there are also numerous historical instances where unwillingness to accept change has seen the intransigents lose out, crumble, and fade.
One sees the purity movement on overdrive within the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalist groups. But one also sees the same misguided rationalizations fomenting religious and politically conservative groups in the U.S. Purity is not a viable longterm strategy for survival. It is an evolutionary dead end, except when establishing uniqueness within sustainably viable interconnectivity, and wholly contrary to the underlying principles of both Christianity and the U.S. Constitution. It is also a concept not totally consistent with the precepts of Islam or Judaism either.
May you always always always see and flourish beyond the tragedy of "simple think".
Monday, July 20th, 2009