Thursday, November 19, 2009

Doctrinal Purity and Its Secular Consequences

Religions most typically develop a set of beliefs, usually metaphysical, about how the world is, what one must believe about it, and other moral stances. These are certain doctrines that are to be professed, and for most of Christian history was a matter of life or death. If you either did or didn't believe in a specifically defined set of doctrinal "truths," such as, say, transubstantiation, then you could be tortured and killed. Furthermore, to say that the world looks this way or that, this forever banishes anything outside of that "norm" as "sinful" or in today's language "pathological." So, a doctrinal truth may be, "Homosexuality is a sin." This then contributes and leads to all manner of horrors meted upon individuals for whom they fall in love with!

This approach carries over to our political imaginations. A particularly venal recent example is the vast hypocrisy of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) who "on principle" on Veteran's Day blocked legislation that held back funding from the VA, until it could be answered to his satisfaction how it would be funded. This "principle" of "fiscal conservatism" while totally ignored for 8 years, suddenly has become important again. But this kind of dogmatic approach to "principles" generally doesn't (and often can't) connect to actual events or actual lived experience in the real world. So, for eight years the principle is altogether ignored since monies went to the military-industrial-congressional complex and tax cuts for the rich, super rich, and the filthy rich. Yet when it comes to the alleviation of suffering, suddenly these "principles" take on doctrinal sanctity! This is an example of what Jesus and the Bible clearly identifies as hypocrisy.

However, no one on the political spectrum has a monopoly on this. In it's own peculiar way, such narrow imaginations of "doctrinal purity" also show up on the Left and especially in the Far Left. Many bemoan that the Left chronically set up their firing squads in a circle. Indeed, many leftist revolutions turned in on one another, such as anarchist group fighting anarchist group in the Spanish Civil War. The "doctrinal purity" hydra raises its ugly head, where one group is accused of not being "Marxist" enough or "anarchist" enough or in today's world, are accused of not being "progressive" enough. Such imaginations that emphasize a person's beliefs, distracts and detracts from assessing a person's actual action or inaction in the world.

Not only is no one on the political spectrum free from such secular forms of Christian cultural dominance, but it applies regardless of whether an individual was raised within a different, or for that matter any sort of religious context at all, it is now a fixed element of our secular cultural (and political) imagination.

-- The Brain Demon

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