Saturday, October 25, 2008

United, Under the Flag

I'm sorry, Conservative brethren, for sounding like an a-hole about your beliefs. I'm not really an a-hole. It's just easier to write that way to get the point across. I think that you are wrong about a lot of issues, but I'm sorry if you think I've been an a-hole about it.

I saw Religulous tonight and it's put me in a thoughtful mood.

In one of the scenes, Bill Mahr says that he understands how a person who is in a hole, who has a lot of bad stuff in his life, who has nothing else, can turn to faith. He gets that. He doesn't understand almost anything else about faith, but he gets that. People who are oppressed turn to faith.

Faith is strengthening. One way it strengthens is in building community. I have seen this in Muslim prayer rituals (everyone kneels towards Mecca at the same time--everyone, in the same direction, at the same time--in the same time zone, at least). I have seen this in the Sabbath feast of Jewish people (families coming together, spending time with each other, every week, same time). I have seen this in the Catholic rites (communion, for instance, is something that all Catholics do, every Sunday, and non-Catholics are excluded).

In history class, we've been talking about the origins of Japanese society. Japan used to have an animistic religion, where people in the north prayed to their local deity, and people in the south prayed to their local deity, and every town along the way prayed to a different one. Not very unifying. One of the ways the Yamato clan unified the country was by promoting and promulgating Buddhism as a national religion. If everybody believed the same things, they wouldn't fight each other, and there could be a nation-wide government. The new faith unified the country and made the government strong.

Faith is strengthening in its unifying theme. Faith builds a community, unites it, ties it together. The members become brothers.

Then, is the current rightward-tilt, the evangelical tide in America, stemming from a lack of community?

Did the American individualist, who built this country on freedom and personal liberty, suddenly grow up and realize that being an individualist in a country of individualists gets to be lonely?

Did the "heartland" feel estranged from the coastal, liberal cities (see below pic)?

Is that why everybody is insisting on America being a "Christian" country?

And uniting "Under God"?

I'm sorry, Conservative Christians, that you ever felt unloved by the media, TV shows, books, radio, or even by this blogger. I love you guys as my American brothers and sisters. I don't need to share your fundamentalist ideas about the Bible, Creation, evolution, and drilling oil to feel that you and I are fundamentally the same. We're all human, but more than that, we're Americans, and we don't need any more reason to defend each other than that.

I feel that faith and religion are things that spring up when people need a stronger feeling of community. I think maybe we should start looking at what we share, rather than what we disagree on. That's why I am for Obama, whose speech at the DNC went directly to this matter:

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that's what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America's promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

My ideas above about religion are not completely researched, backed up, or thought through. Just some things I was thinking about tonight. I hope that one day we will all be equals and united in being a part of the human race. Til then, I'm content to say, I'm American, and that makes us united enough for me.


Kat said...

There's a theory I've heard that part of the reason the conservative religious element can become so contentious is that there's no emotional/philosophical security for them as the primary religion (although they are the U.S.'s primary religion nonetheless). The U.S., unlike a lot of countries, doesn't have an official state religion. The idea is that as a result, they have to fight to maintain their position of preeminence. Hence the emphasis on uniting under God, being a Christian nation, etc. Also, because of all the different factions of Christianity in this country (Baptist, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Catholic... the list goes on), every facet wants to make sure its beliefs are taken seriously, so even the Christians can't agree.

Anyway, that's just an interesting idea I heard recently, so apparently I'm spamming your blog with it - sorry! Back on topic, I love that speech from Obama. I'm going to be on pins and needles until the election results come in.

aak said...

That could be part of it, too. Religion has many, many aspects to it. Power, unity, strength... these are all things that a person who feels disconnected, oppressed, and at the whims of perceivedly-hostile powers grasps at desperately.

I think we've got to fix the problems in our communities before religion swoops in and makes more problems. Or has it already done so?

I'm just as pins-and-needley as you are about the election. It could be amazing, it could be horrible. It could be both!