Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Enforcing rules with a kind of neo-Puritanical rigor

Quick recap, Ann comments on Bob Dylan, commenters at Crooked Timber give themselves wedgies and then back to Ann for more commenting on comments on comments...or something.

Taking a different tack, let's look at part of the comment by Mark Daniels.
As a Christian, I'm really bothered by the connection made by some--Christians and others--between Christian faith and conservatism. Christianity is not a political program and it's perfectly possible for Christians to be liberal Dems as well as conservative Republicans. (By the way, I'm a Republican.) Jesus has no political party. Governments--and the varying philosophies about how best to run them--are what Martin Luther called "emergency measures" necessitated by the fallenness and consequent selfishness that exists in the human race.

I like that. I'm not religious, but it sounds perfectly reasonable to me. I think it often comes down to what must be a human need to divide everything into binary systems. "If I consider myself left and you disagree with me, then you must be right." Of course the whole left/right thing is pretty much a matter of perspective. I have friends who would consider me so far left of them that I'm feeding castro grapes and I have friends who would consider me so far right of them that I'm forcing infants to pick grapes for me.

I dip into Crooked Timber once in a while because they can have interesting topics, but they do have a bit of myopia in certain areas. For a group that tends to pigeon-hole "conservatives" as single-minded and simplistic, their reaction to the Bob Dylan thought reveals an equally simplistic view of the world. Althouse and Reynolds are, for some unknown reason, bee stings on their ass and the CT gang cannot deal rationally with them.

Back to religion. I'm not a church-going person and tend to avoid organized (or for that matter, disorganized) religions. Still I recognize the value of the social contract that religion has played throughout history. So while I can also be guilty of kneejerk linking the Christian faith with conservatism I do try and remind myself this is not always so. And that being religious is not the same as being closeminded and bigoted. Unfortunately, too many people who consider themselves openminded progessives get a bit jihadist when confronted by someone holding a bible*.

All of this reminded me of a passage from Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon.

Having separated from Charlene, Randy shows up with a new girlfriend (actually, at this point in the story their relationship is still in flux and Randy still has doubts about Amy's sexuality. Let's just say that to the neighbors Amy represents the "other woman.")

He embodies (he realizes) just about the worst nightmare, for many women, of what might happen in their lives. As for the men he saw last night, they were pretty strongly incensed to back whatever stance their wives adopted. Some them really did, apparently, feel similarly. Others eyed him with obvious curiosity. Some were openly friendly. Weirdly, the ones who adopted the sternest and most terrible Old Testament moral tone were the Modern Language Association types who believed that everything was relative and that, for example, polygamy was as valid as monogamy. The friendliest and most sincere welcome he'd gotten was from Scott, a chemistry professor, and Laura, a pediatrician, who after knowing Randy and Charlene for many years, had one day divulged to Randy, in strict confidence, that, unbeknownst to the academic community at large, they had been spiriting their three children off to church every Sunday morning, and even had them all baptized.


Randy and Amy had spent a full hour talking to Scott and Laura last night; they were the only people who made any effort to make Amy feel welcome. Randy hadn't the faintest idea what these people thought of him and what he had done, but he could sense right away that, essentially that was not the issue because even if they though he had done something evil, they at least had a framework, a sort of procedure manual, for dealing with transgressions. To translate it into UNIX system administration terms (Randy's fundamental metaphor for just about everything), the post=modern, politically correct atheists were like people who had suddenly found themselves in charge of a big and unfathomably complex computer system (viz. society) with no documentation o instructions of any kind, and so whose only way to keep the thing running was to invent and enforce rules with a kind of neo-Puritanical rigor, because they were at a loss to deal with any deviations from what they saw as the norm. Whereas people who were wired into a church were like UNIX system administrators who, while they might not understand everything, at least had some documentation, some FAQs and How-tos and README files, providing some guidance on what to do when things got out of whack. They were, in other words, capable of displaying adaptability.

Having said all that, keep Intelligent Design out of science classes. In the words of MC Hawking: "Fuck the Creationists." Hey, never said I didn't have a blindspot.


Blogger Mark Daniels said...

First of all, thanks for taking the time to visit my blog and for sending some of your thoughts my way regarding my comments at Ann Althouse's site.

Secondly, I'll tell you that most Christians are not part of the Religious Right, even if some may be sympathetic to pieces of that group's agenda.

By and large, the Religious Right is the modern-day equivalent of Pharisaism, that first-century movement whose members Jesus regularly upbraided and whose opposition was so pivotal in His crucifixion. They represent the legalistic impulses of those who use their religion as a bargaining chip with God (as if bargaining with God were possible) or who like looking at others with smugness.

Christianity is about relationship more than religion. Christ makes it possible for all of us imperfect people to be reconciled to God and freed to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It seems to me that the Religious Right sometimes obscures these facts.

Thanks again for visiting.

9/29/2005 08:13:00 AM  

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