Saturday, March 17, 2007
The current struggle with militant Islam has caused a great many Americans to learn as much as they can about the religion called Islam. A great many of Islam’s beliefs and practices are repugnant to Christians, Jews, Deists, Agnostics and every other religion in the US. Why? Besides details such as the vile treatment of women, there is the tenant that religion; life style and government are inseparable. Most Muslims believe that Sharia law (The Sharia extends beyond what Westerners consider law. It covers the totality of religious, political, social, including private life and makes no distinction between sin and law) should govern Muslim nations. To view an extreme application of this tenant one only has to look at the society under the rule of the Taliban. Muslims both moderate and radical want every nation to be Muslim; they just disagree on the means. Muslims in America are actively seeking to form a Nation of Islam governed by Sharia.
Most people can’t understand Muslims or believe anything will happen soon, so lets change the premise to abortion. Do you care now? You betcha. Abortion is the most divisive word in politics today. Close to being as divisive as slavery was, but not quite. Here are some other examples, euthanasia, illegal aliens, death penalty, gun control, political correctness, drugs, alcohol, smoking, animal rights, the environment, global warming, embryos and Christian symbols on government property.
What makes some issues rise to the level of implacability and finally a national crisis? First, it takes one side to consider the issue non negotiable. How does that come about? Dogmatic belief and the will to take action. What is dogma? It is an authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true. Second the other side must at least consider the action unjust and therefore must be resisted on principle. The harder one pushes, the harder the other pushes back. How does a strident issue become politicized? When the dogmatic side decides to abandon persuasion and solicits the federal government to make their belief law and therefore enforced by guns and punishable by jail time or death.
Can it get that bad? We fought a civil war over a divisive principle. The North sought the strong arm of federal law to force their views on the South. The South used violence to oppose the enforcement of emancipation. Dogma met principle and hundreds of thousands died. How does religion play a role? Religion is a unified set of the beliefs. Some of those beliefs are non negotiable. Either you believe them or you can’t belong. These are very strong beliefs. Christians are required to die rather than renounce a dogmatic belief. Islam and other religions have equally strong beliefs. But what about secular issues, why do some people resort to violence and murder to further a cause such as environmentalism or animal rights. The motivations are less strident than religion, and can be varied, such as true belief, power or control. The causes are the means for strident people to act stridently.
Lets examine two examples in our history with opposite outcomes. First slavery. In this case the dogmatic North was successful in getting the votes to impose emancipation. Most of the North was altruistic, but opportunists who sought out power or control were equally committed to the cause. Why did it broil into civil war? There was no escape from the threat of federal law. No outlet for the anger of the South, it was either submit or fight. Next look at alcohol. This issue was just as strident as slavery. The cause attracted the usually hot heads to both sides. Again federal law was used by the dogmatics to impose prohibition on the whole nation. But why no civil war? Oh, there was plenty of violence. Many died on both sides, but there was a relief valve. Those who “had” to drink took advantage of bootlegging. Same can be said of illegal drugs. Take away the relief valve, truly enforce the law and you will see violence on a massive scale.
The key to keeping a dogmatic issue below the boiling point is a relief valve. But why all of a sudden does there seem to be an explosion of issues the rise to the level of dogma? Several ingredients. Intellectual laziness is a critical ingredient. Dogmatic beliefs are/can be good things. Most are altruistic. Those who believe have a moral obligation to persuade as many non-believers as possible. But zealots are easily frustrated today and persuasion is abandoned for activism. The use of federal power to force non-believers into compliance is strident activism. It is intellectually lazy or put another way, expedient to use the power of the federal government to enforce your belief on everyone. But that has been around since 1800, why the explosion of dogmatic issues over the last 25 years? What new is the alliance of big money, big media, big corporations and big issue oriented organizations. Key word, big. This combination is very effective in threatening politicians. Politicians make laws. Laws are enforced by police with guns. Stop paying your taxes and you will soon meet a Fed with a gun. Politicians have also been caught up in our country’s stridency. They reflect our polarizing non-negotiable tactics. Politics is less and less about the persuasion of ideas and more and more about use of force; personal attacks and political correctness, enforced by big media.
There is one more ingredient that has caused the explosion of implacable issues, big government. The federal government, congress and the Supreme Court is one stop shopping for dogmatics. Why because there is almost nothing that can’t be made a federal law. The constitution is routinely corrupted by congress and activist courts. Also the constitution can be changed. Despite the declaration of independence no right in our society is inalienable in our legal system. Your rights are what ever the lawyers say they are.
Is there a way out of this mess? Well there is always the possibility that common sense and moderation will break out. But try to convince an evangelical to moderate his stance on abortion. Try to persuade a cokehead to give up drugs. What do we do? The key is a relief valve. Our nation is a potpourri of dogmatic and semi dogmatic believers. Use of the federal government to enforce one view on all 300M people is too much power in too few hands. Solution, return the social authority to the states. This gives people 50 chances of finding a state that supports their pet rock and you can flee a state that imposes an unacceptable dogmatic belief. When an issue comes to the boiling level at the state level, the state can push the authority down to the counties. Will this work? For a while. First, 50 state relief valves, and then thousands of county relief valves will buy us many years of tranquility. Has it been tried? Ever been to a bar in Texas? Want to have an alcoholic beverage? In one county it is illegal, in the next one over drink away. Drive 10 miles. The prohibition hot heads and the drinkers can live in peace.
Liberty or Death
My somewhat left, Canadian view is that it's driven by religion, given the influence Focus on the Family seems to have there.
I actually think of it in terms of my concern for how much of a role religion may play in our Prime Minister's approach to politics should he secure a majority government.
I'm always interested in American reaction to religion driven governance.
You have the right of it. But religion in politics is more of a local affair. Very little at the national level.