Religious Fundamentalism: A Strategy is Available, So Options Ensue

     A successful politician is one who can make you feel his/her issues match your values. The Founding Fathers of this nation have to rank among the most successful politicians of all time, for their creation was ex nihilo. The success of Messrs. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, et al, is the victory of the Common Message.

   The Founding Fathers appealed to God in their political treatise quite because of the religious culture of their day. Deists, outright atheists, Anglicans, Episcopalians and the occasional baptist Christian sprinkled their speech with entreaties to God. Granted, few more devout believers than John Adams appeared in any nation's history but, as for many of the others, well, their call for God's help may not have raised above the heads of the masses.

   Today, the "theology" of the values starts and stops with the "American People." References to God offend, or call for longer explanations. Populist recitations invoking the "American People," replace the call for divine assistance. The politician who shows he/she knows the American People are out there appeals to the Common Message, the music of the many, at the same time the American government moves farther and farther from it electoral constituency.

   The "American People" get a lot more mention than God today in the speech patterns of American politicians. In the same way that many of the Founding Fathers believed in God as a colloquial hat-rack, so do many purveyors of the Common Message today use the "American People" as their vocal default position, with only the slightest concern for the actual needs or wants of the "American People."

   Religious Fundamentalists (Left and Right) use dogmatic language to polarize. Tolerance is a wonderful virtue but few men are converted by it; only after years of application, of trial and error, can the average man be converted to it. To refute the Religious Polarizer requires a strategy that is at once confrontational but not unduly destructive.

   If we believe there is value to religion, we mean that we find truth in its stained glass windows, its wailing wall or its high minarets. The Religious Difficulty of the Center is this; how to preach and practice tolerance, patience, forbearing, kindness, gentleness, faith, meekness, temperance and joy, etc., without appearing as the gooey, lukewarm center of a day old PB&J.

   We could take a page from the recently practiced international political remedy for terrorism. We could try to impose power in troubled regions, either in concert with allies or, less effectively, in a lonely, gunslinger fashion. This strategy allows the terrorist knowledge of the terrain and makes us appear the aggressor. Along with the great cost, the vast distances and the higher body count, this strategy is probably not a long term winner. A guerrilla war is seldom won by overwhelming conventional force without the compliance of the locals.

   There is another strategy. Occupy the empty center with all the mature, decent, reasonable joiners who will join you. Granted, you will have to show some value to your coming, but you can begin with the phrase, "No one gets hurt any more, at least not intentionally."

   Any action of any possible force can have unintended consequences. One tries to foresee these consequences but not to be paralyzed by the fear of them. Start with good intentions and capable people; practice charity; perform efficiently; change course to make the road straighter; protect the innocent. Use only the minimal possible force, withdrawing even that force at the first opportunity so one does not breed the next generation of terrorists by atrocities against this generation.

   In short, our strategy must involve the tension between helping persons forget the past without leaving it and helping them leave the past without forgetting it. The taut string between these two analogous positions, the sinew holding muscle to bone for greatest strength ought to involve listening to and following the wisdom of the reasonable.

   For this, we will probably have to leave the camp on the Right and the one on the Left. It is hard to lie down with dogs and not get up with fleas. 


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