I was reading a Daily Kos entry by a liberal Protestant (I assume) minister (RevRandy) about a “liberal religious revolution” today, in which he was attempting to rouse liberal members of all religions to take action of some sort. As I told him, I wish him well, but I have my doubts about how much success he and others will have without some major changes on the religious left.
As a Neopagan activist I have watched over four decades of liberal mainstream religionists speaking noble words and expressing (four or more) noble truths, but still not having one-tenth the cultural, political, or economic impact their fundamentalist brethren have.
As I look at the eternal stewpot of hate that is the Middle East, or even just at domestic American events, I find myself wondering where the liberal Jews, Christians, and Muslims are. I know they exist, but their voices all seem terribly muffled (with the major exception of the civil rights movement of the 60s).
Where are the liberal religious PACs and get-out-the-vote efforts electing candidates to federal office, loudly denouncing fundamentalist lies, refusing to allow the Talibaptists and their ilk to represent the only voice of religious or spiritual concern in our nation?
I read about some such folks every now and then, but they are so few, so terribly few.
The only explanation that has come to me over all the years is fear — sensible fear, but fear nonetheless. It’s the fundamentalists and their cohorts, the people with absolute truth claims who live in a black and white world, who have all the guns. Their monopoly on weaponry and other implements of violence, combined with their willingness to use them against those who oppose their theocratic agendas (they shoot doctors, remember, and university professors), is enough to silence loud and persistent opposition from their liberal coreligionists, whether here in the USA or overseas in the Muslim world.
Martin Luthor King and Malcom X knew they were risking their lives to stand up for their religious beliefs, and they paid the price. How many Martins and Malcoms are there now on the religious left to stand up to the snipers, the firebombers, the character assassins (and the literal ones), and the militias on the religious right?
When will the liberal monotheists have the courage to loudly, publically, and repeatedly state that people who believe their scriptures literally, and who believe those scriptures give them the right to kill other people, are insane rather than “misguided”? Because that seems to me to be the meme they should be spreading. When will they (liberal religionists) understand that tolerating bigots is not only intellectually and spiritually bankrupt, but also suicidal?
Their religious opposition consists of people who are crazy, intolerent, and violent. Mere rationality, toleration, and peacefulness won’t stop them. They want an eventual worldwide theocracy, with themselves in charge, starting with the USA and the Middle East, leading to a “glorious” battle of Armageddon in which the “winning” Crusaders or Jihadists will rule over the radioactive ruins. Being sweetly reasonable and talking just to ourselves won’t stop them.
I don’t really know what will. I deeply suspect that monotheism, with the almost inevitible dualism that usually accompanies it, is part of the problem, not part of a solution. The culture wars are between dualists and pluralists, with liberal monotheists stuck uncomfortably in the fuzzy area between.
This may be an an area where liberal Neopagans, Hindus, Voodooists, and Native religionists of many lands may have a role to play in the coming years. We know that the universe can count higher than two, so we’re not necessarily stuck in the mainstream Western culture’s dualist worldview.
Ironically, many leftists who might stumble over this post will probably think that I’m as crazy as the fundamentalists of the religious right, because they’ve decided by their own religious dualism that all religions are insane. That is correct Marxist dogma, but the only variety of Marxist-Lennonism I’m interested in involves Groucho and John.
(This post also posted on my Daily Kos page.)
This entry was originally posted on Sunday, July 30th, 2006 at 12:44 am. The following are the comments originally made:
1. niamh Says:
Perhaps a great deal of the problem lies within the very spirit of liberalism, in most cases. My fellow Liberals have always seemed to me to be less concerned with convincing people that their way is the Correct and Proper Way. I know for myself, that the appealing thing about Liberalism *in general* is the willingness to accord others the right to think for themselves, that there is more than one “right” way, that reason and empathy are valid tools for resolving many issues. The fundamentalist view is concerned, above all things, with converting others to their way of thinking/feeling/acting. If they cannot convince them reasonably to do so, they are perfectly willing to do whatever they must to ensure *cooperation*, even if it means violence. To be frank, I think that frothing at the mouth is far more impressive and convincing to most folks than tolerance. A little fire in the eyes would, I think, do wonders for the leftist argument, but I think that it is a quality lacking in most of the breed. Vicious onemindedness appeals to the lowest common denominator. Reason and emapthy demand restraint and I think that most folks are so comfortable in their own apathy to even bother. Reason and emapthy are the more difficult path. It is oversimplifying, I know, but to me, this is one of the roothairs of the liberal-charisma problem.
Oh my gods, my husband is right. I *am* an elitist!
2. ibonewits Says:
Welcome to the club!
3. sari0009 Says:
Like domestic abuse victims that so many are quick to look down on, populations know fundamentalists/abusers are nuts, often armed, and dangerous but are afraid (and often in denial regarding “flare ups,” and so take a ride on the cycles of violence.
I got out of an abusive marriage when I reached out and many responded with a “we can do this” attitude — and so we developed a plan of escape, complete with contingencies.
Like careful gardeners, legacies of activism may have to be passed down through at least several generations of mentors and their students/children — good results may require a combination of a Johnny Appleseed approach and interfaith mentorship programs. Clearly, we need more than one wave of civil rights and other types of activism.
I like Ralph Nader’s Appleseed Foundation but while we need the best minds, we also need to involve and further develop the average person. We have to rethink the nature of common ground. We need a convergence of genius/persistence that’s accessible and put to use. Americans are not getting a sound education in logic and social intelligence in public schools. We’re going to have to supplement school/adult education.
Fundamentalists or other overly religious people engage their kids with books, tapes, games, videos or camp experiences that indoctrinate their children. What are the masses doing to develop socially and intellectually on more of a “platform independent” common ground?
4. sari0009 Says:
I don’t know if reason and empathy need restraint as much as they need direction. With direction, one can be on fire and still have reason and empathy.
This entry was reposted on August 4, 2006 at 1:30pm EDT. My special thanks to Sari for making this possible.