Thursday, December 09, 2004

Rev. Gerry: Anti-Fundamentalism

Ah, I just love it when someone smarter than me and more influential than me (Adam Werbach, here) says the same things I do. Well, not that I am alone in this, it’s like there’s an awakening happening everywhere simultaneously that could not gain traction had we not been trounced. But a lot of other people brand us as traitors to the cause of being mad at wrongdoing. As though being mad would win us brownie points. Or elections. Or change the wrongdoers. And if we were not trounced cleanly, but stolen from, and even if we can right that wrong, our story still remains incoherent and divisive. There has been a shift in progressives, not towards the middle, but towards a realization of transcendent interconnectedness. This interconnectedness proclaims an emphasis on the interests of all stakeholders, and our philosophy must clearly announce it.

I’m not talking about wimping out of bringing strong political pressure to bear on decision makers. I’m not talking about buckling under an avalanche of anti-environmental policy. I’m not talking about shutting up when the Rove-rumor mill, having dined on America for its meat and potatoes, now goes for the United Nations for dessert. I’m talking about courageously facing our present impasse, and using the apparent darkness in which we find ourselves as a chrysalis to bring forth a new vision and a new social contract, based on Unconditional Love with a capital L and Equality with a capital E. "We hold these truths to be self evident that all (men) are created equal."

What if we had a political movement without rancor and without an enemy? A movement informed by unconditional positive regard? A movement that knows that, deep inside, we are all one interconnected whole and that we cannot diminish "them" without diminishing "us?" MLK said famously, "You can kill me, but you can’t make me hate you." Ask Nelson Mandela if it is powerful "enough."

I have been working on a new vision of progressive politics for my own better understanding, and hoping for a dialogue about our possibilities. A coherent politics of hope and meaning that responds to the yearning of hungry hearts for something larger, something more. More than wallets and bank accounts, more than reality TV shows or video games or the various "adrenaline-sins" enjoyed by even the poorest in our affluent society. A vision that mixes love and politics, mixes joy and laughter and politics, mixes basic honesty and fairness and goodness with politics, mixes the arts and politics, mixes belief in the unlimited possibilities of the human spirit with politics, mixes the golden rule and politics. We do share a coherent vision of a world that works for everyone (Bucky Fuller), and we know it is possible. That’s what’s so depressing about being trounced. How shall we reach our destination?

I started with the notion that the philosophical underpinnings of the old "left" are no longer workable. They are based in an angry "us vs. them," and require victims and victimizers, winners and losers. It requires division and precludes shared interest. And it says that being rich and successful is wrong. I do not mean to underplay the debilitating power of cold and heartless victimizers to cause harm and suffering to the planet itself and to untold numbers of individuals and families upon it. But one does not have to be a victimizer to be successful, corporately or individually. This is not a zero sum game. That’s the shift in possibility.

I also don’t think we will be made powerful by playing at their game of divide and conquer. They are better at it, more indentured to it, more ruthless, and more aggressive. I simply think we must use the power of aikido, rather than the power of direct aggression to win the world we want to see. We must change the game. We must be very smart and very clear. And we must start with ourselves.

I propose that one of the most basic expressions of progressive ideals, that speaks directly to "forming a more perfect Union," is the golden rule. And I do believe we should speak to "ideals" rather than "values." Do unto others as you would have others do unto you – love your neighbor as yourself. This ideal is embraced by every major body of religious thought, as well as by humanists and atheists. It works well to express everything we hope for in a world that works, from social justice to individual rights to environmental sustainability to world peace. It is taught in every elementary school classroom and inhabits our collective unconscious. It brings up for me a social contract based on equality, respect, fair play, honesty, self-restraint, responsibility, reciprocity. (Like a good neighborhood, more on that later.)

Now, we know that the warm sun can easily and effortlessly cause someone to remove a cape that a strong wind will only make them hold closer to themselves. So what if we applied the Golden Rule to our political strategy? What if ALL of our language was about what we were FOR and none about what we are against? Protesting AGAINST a war is quite different than BUILDING PEACE. If peace is what we want, then peace is what we will have to be, to paraphrase Gandhi.

I think it’s actually possible that when we on "opposite" sides rant about immoral "welfare mothers" or immoral "corporate welfare," that we are merely expressing two sides of the same fearful, divisive worldview – that someone is going to win and someone is going to lose, that there’s not enough to go around. We add to the fear that is already corroding our common hope. What you and I know is that there is enough for everyone to prosper – and it will be evident enough if everyone does their FAIR SHARE.

Here’s a direct quote form Adam Werbach"s November 3 Theses:
"The progressive vision must be a direct challenge to fundamentalism in all its forms: political, religious, and economic. It must match fundamentalism’s power without replicating its authoritariansim. It must appeal to the values of liberty, equality, community, justice, unconditional love, shared prosperity, and ecological restoration, among many others."

How validating is that?

How can we move the true majority away from the cold comfort of a fundamentalist, authoritarian, male-dominance, robber-baron, winner-takes-all, "bring ‘em on," Wild West mentality? I mean, did anyone read Dickens in high school? Maybe it’s time to feature Scrooge films.

Next time, I would like to explore the notion of "fair share," as an expression of the Golden Rule.

In peace, Gerry


At 5:20 PM, Blogger Tiny Montgomery said...

Rev. Jerry, great idea! The biggest challenge is coming up with an effective way of marketing this concept. Let's face it, if most evangelical Christians took the time to open their minds, read the New Testament and tried to live their lives according to those principles, we wouldn't be in the pickle we are today. If people can't be relied upon to grasp (much less aspire to) the central lessons of their "holy" book, how are we supposed to sell a political message based upon the Golden Rule?


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