Wednesday, August 31, 2005

What Are They Thinking (and Why)?

We shall muse a bit in future posts on motivations those anti-gay fundamentalists. Unfortunately, the sources our mental-health acquaintances sent us to are not very promising for chances to work with them, much less their minds.

An earlier post here touched on some of the issues.

With nice timing, our own liberal-religious maggy, the UU World, appeared yesterday. Its lead story, Who's Afraid of Freedom and Tolerance?, is just to this issue. It appears online here.

We soft-hearted pinkos cannot seem to get over the ideas and ideals of reasoning together, finding common ground, and as possible, working for a common good. The UU author, Doug Muder, sees little chance of the fundies being able or willing to do any of that.

He cites research into their actions and mindset. In particular, he expands on a seminal book on the subject Spirit and Flesh: Life Inside a Fundamentalist Baptist Church, by James M. Ault Jr. His review of that appeared a few months ago and is also online here.

The typical fundy relies on an intergenerational village-like culture. This minimizes choices and maximizes obligations, thus keeping ambiguity to a minimum. A thing is either this or that. You need not fret over it or reclassify it as the preponderance of evidence piles up on one side of the scale. Life is simple. Ahhhhh.

Both the heartland righties and the urban lefties have solid reasons to stereotype the other and themselves. Muder writes:
Fundamentalist communities like to see themselves as embattled citadels, islands of eternal values in the storm-tossed sea of Anything Goes. Liberals, on the other hand, like to portray the Robertsons and Falwells as busybodies: If conservatives are high and dry inside their citadels of righteousness, then why donÂ’t they just mind their own business rather than rail about our moral decline?
He cites numerous examples of ironic and hypocritical failings and excuses of fundies in their behavior, but hey, Jesus loves and forgives, right, Right?

More important, he notes that "(c)hoice is the serpent in this Garden of Obligation.
I have to look at all the people in my life and wonder what they’re going to do—and they have to wonder about me as well. If other people have choices, then maybe fulfilling my timeless obligations just makes me a sucker. Maybe everyone who does his or her duty is a sucker.

Now the gay couple next door provokes serious cognitive dissonance: Who is the Husband and who is the Wife? If they raise children, who is Mother and who is Father? And if none of that matters, then what does matter? Not just the definition of marriage is being questioned, but the obligation system itself. If I see Western civilization as a network of obligations with millions and millions of people filling timeless roles for no reason other than the expectation that everyone else will fill their own timeless roles, then I might suspect that the whole structure was about to come down.
An unfortunate aspect that some fundies have noticed is that the other side does not grab onto an issue and then suddenly abandon it for the next one. The Left in the main continues to protest, lobby, legislate and bite or nibble on such issues as same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

That's really insecurity-making stuff. You can see why they would avoid it. As Muder puts it, "...fundamentalists have every right to fear and resent religious liberals By adjusting to the breakdown of the obligation system, we speed its collapse."

Muder says to expect more lashing out by the fundies as their model loses influence. He urges pinkos not to match persecution claims with fundies. Rather to "understand the anger and helplessness of the Christian right, so that we can cut through the static that jams our signal" of explaining why freedom and choice work better than obligation.

Then, like a true liberal, he puts the burden back on the reader:
We need, in short, to reclaim one of Christianity'’s best ideas and hardest practices: We need to love our enemies and to bless with hope those who curse us with anger. Such love and such blessing would not be a signal of weakness or an overture to surrender, but rather a portent that we had found the true power of our religious heritage. Armed with that power, we can win these culture wars. Without it, we may not deserve to.

1 comment:

Boston Eye said...

2 unrelated ideas this conjures up:

1. Similarity between the fundies and the Sopranos, in the emphasis on obligation and respect for authority.

2. After reading New Yorker article on Billy and Franklin Graham, that we are going to miss Billy, who appeared to aim for the Christian ideal of: "We need to love our enemies and to bless with hope those who curse us with anger."

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