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Faith and the Yellow Brick Road

Originally written Thursday, November 11, 2004

It’s interesting how certain beliefs that seem to be unrelated to each other are combined in very standard ways and adopted by distinct groups of people.

Let me explain. Think about the idea of conservatism. What issues come to mind?

Here are some I can think of off the top of my head:

- corporatism, unbridled capitalism, free markets
- anti-abortion
- in favour of the war in Iraq and the so-called War on Terror
- anti-gun control
- religious
- anti-gay rights

This is a broad range of issues that don’t all have strong connections. For example, conservatives are against abortion because they support what they call a “culture of life”, yet many support needless war, which is all about death. Conservatives support corporatism, capitalism and free markets, yet many are Christians, and Christ said that those who followed him should “go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).

Why is it that people accept beliefs (conservatism, liberalism) that cover just about every conceivable social and political issue, yet are often unrelated and even contradictory?

The issue of faith is especially important. Most people are religious, or at least claim to be, and there’s no doubt a significant number hold their faith as very important in their lives. The successful merging of faith, especially evangelical and born-again Christianity, with conservatism has become an enormous factor in US politics. The same has happened here in Canada although to a lesser degree.

For any revolution to be successful, it must encompass faith. The change that needs to take place in our society and across the globe cannot happen if religious people are left out. How can this challenge be met? What can be done to separate faith from conservatism?

The optimistic part is that the belief system held by religious conservatives really is self-contradictory. How does Jesus’ instruction to “turn the other cheek” when slapped reconcile with a policy of “pre-emptive” war? How can unrestrained corporatism be defended when Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”? (Mark 10:25)

(This optimism might be unfounded. Maybe a contradictory belief system is actually harder to change than a rational one.)

In a recent conversation I had with an insightful friend (that’s you, Luc), we talked about what could be done to break down barriers between groups of people. Most conservative Christians are strongly opposed to gay marriage and often gay rights in general. I think that for many, the root of this opposition (and hatred in some cases) is based on the primitive human fear of the Other.

Fear of the Other has driven human conflict since the dawn of mankind and that fear still drives international events today. One of the best-known ways to break this barrier is simple: make friends. When the Other becomes familiar and friendly, fear dissolves, taking hatred with it.

Would it be possible to create events that brought different groups of people together in an atmosphere that forced or fostered reliance, teamwork and eventually friendship between them? For example, a survivalist trip in the Northern wilderness. The event could be billed to church groups as a way to experience God’s creation, and to groups of gay activists as a way to get out of the city. ;) Create a stressful event – perhaps the “accidental” destruction of all of the canoes once the camping site had been reached – that forces the group of people to rely on each other.

Is this a recipe for disaster or could it see the outbreak of friendship among people who would not normally ever meet each other? (Perhaps it’s both – people finally break those barriers, then die of starvation.)

When Dorothy lived in Kansas, she experienced a very small world. Kansas is the middle of nowhere by anybody’s judgment, even a Kansan’s. But when a tornado swept her away to Oz, her world changed. She became close friends with people (well, an animal, a scarecrow and a robot) that she would not normally have ever met. They joined each other on the Yellow Brick Road and traveled with a common purpose.

I realize that this idea is not exactly ethical. But it’s just an idea, the product of a wacky brainstorm session. It’s probably not a good idea to mislead people into unexpected situations. But perhaps something similar could be accomplished in a different, better way. Maybe YOU can think of something. So why not leave a comment and let me know? I’d like to hear from you…

Bringing people together under false pretenses is wrong, even if in the end it would be better for everyone involved. It’s worrisome to think, though, that we may all be brought together because of some horrific catastrophe, like nuclear war and the ensuing nuclear winter, if we do not solve our differences. If that happens, we may wish we had tried every stupid idea we came up with to try and solve them.

Comment by Iliafer:

Thoughtful, nay, insightful, but here’s why your plan won’t work:

Quote:

“Would it be possible to create events that brought different groups of people together in an atmosphere that forced or fostered reliance, teamwork and eventually friendship between them? For example, a survivalist trip in the Northern wilderness. The event could be billed to church groups as a way to experience God’s creation, and to groups of gay activists as a way to get out of the city. ;) Create a stressful event – perhaps the “accidental” destruction of all of the canoes once the camping site had been reached – that forces the group of people to rely on each other.”

This won’t work, because one of the Christian conservatives will undoubtedly bring his hunting rifle on the trip to the great white north – our deer are bigger ;o) Then, when the canoes are taken away and the Christians and gays are forced to live in so-called “harmony”, the stress of the situation will surely cause one of the Christians to blow their stack, take the gun and shoot one or more mouthy gay person (because, gays tend to run off at the mouth ;o) j/k). No matter what, there will be power struggles (a la Lord of the Flies) and eventually someone’s gonna lose it. And, the conservatives will likely come out on top because they are the ones with the guns.

Sad, isn’t it?

Comment by Royboy:

Quote: ***This is a broad range of issues that don’t all have strong connections. For example, conservatives are against abortion because they support what they call a “culture of life”, yet many support needless war, which is all about death. Conservatives support corporatism, capitalism and free markets, yet many are Christians, and Christ said that those who followed him should “go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).***

“Needless war”, that’s editorial… hence the premise isn’t terribly well founded.

From a religious perspective war is entirely necessary to smite the “evildoers”. This is bolstered with the “me” culture of America where ppl are actually encouraged to buy large SUV’s to keep themselves (and families) safe at the expense of the smaller car they smash into. Meaning “take the fight over there instead of here”. It is this ethos that narrowly won the election for Bush despite transparent shortcomings in execution. (meaning I disagree with the conventional wisdom that values issues won Bush the election) That certainly shored up his core support and got them to the poles… but for the undecideds that put him over the top IMO.

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