Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Illusions of separation

Every so often I read something and I think: ahh, some clarity. Thoughts on how Christian fundamentalism aligns with the Republican agenda is presented here by Jimmy Carter in this interview.
    What has attracted conservative Christians to a party that protects corporate interests and promotes an aggressive foreign-policy agenda? How do those square?

    There is an element of fundamentalism involved, which involves the belief on the part of a human being that [his or her] own concept of God is the proper one. And since [he or she has] the proper concept of God, [he or she is] particularly blessed and singled out for special consideration above and beyond those who disagree with [him or her].

    Secondly, anyone who does disagree with [him or her], since [he or she is] harnessed to God in a unique way, then, by definition, must be wrong. And the second step is if you are in disagreement with [his or her] concept of the way to worship, even among the Christian community, is that you are inferior to [him or her]. And then the ultimate progression of that is that you’re not only different and wrong and inferior but in some ways you are subhuman. So there’s a loss of concern even for the death of those who disagree. And this takes fundamentalism to the extreme. This is an element of the fundamentalist cause in this country. If you are a wealthy white man, then you are naturally inclined to think that the poor are inferior and don’t deserve your first consideration. If you are a wealthy white man, then you also take on the proposition that women are inherently inferior. This builds up a sense of prejudice and alienation that permeates the Christian right during these days.
I'm certainly not an expert on religion and politics but his explanation seems to ring true especially in how a profound sense of separation is vital to the integrity of both the religion and the politics. Without this sense of separation, there is no there. The emotions harnessed by exclusion are strong: self-righteousness, sense of superiority and entitlement, and a sense of belonging and community. Those who have little are vulnerable to these things that makes one feel good, an intoxicating elixir which excludes and condemns others. These illusions of separation keep real empathy, compassion and altruism out of the picture, fascinating since these are values touted by the very forces that encourage the illusions.