Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Can you be civil when the opposition is fighting to the death?

I’ve been writing about issues involving the so-called “culture war,” and arguing here that we should drop the use of the term. I’ve argued that invoking the imagery of war means that we’ve left ourselves no room to consider peaceful co-existence.

By claiming to be in a war, we’re telling all involved that one side has to win and the other has to lose. In other words, invoking war means that someone is going to end up being humiliated, annihilated, or at the very least, conquered and occupied.

Sue Lange brings up an important point, though. She writes, in part:
One problem with not viewing this as a war is that one side seems to take a "live and let live" approach, the other seems to have conversion as a mandate from God. How does a live-and-let-live person live if the opposition has a believe-or-die mentality. When do you actually admit that it is a war? I don't believe war is ever inevitable, but this is the one point where I have my doubts. How many times can you turn the other cheek? Until you're dead? Did you win then? Is it still just a debate?
I have to admit that I don’t have an easy, glib response to that argument. It’s particularly difficult since the foot soldiers and many leaders of the political Religious Right believe they are on a mission from God to convert, well, you, me, Sue and anyone else who doesn’t agree with them.

The answer might be found, though, in realizing that the seemingly all-powerful Religious Right is made up of people who have a variety of reasons for pushing the agenda of domination.

Some of those folks are driven by a deep psychological need for power or control, and we can never reach them.

Other Dominationists believe their effort to force us all into one belief system and one life is actually saving us and our souls. Frankly, I’m not certain what approach we can possibly take with those folks except to continually explain that God gave us all free will.

It may well be against God’s will to use the legal system to force people to subscribe to a certain religion or religious approach. Using the force of government to push one theology, or even using government funding as George W’s so-called faith-based initiative does to support certain churches, may well circumvent God’s plan for all of us to have free will.

For these sincere folks who believe they are helping us poor sinners, it’s also important for us to continually repeat our support for freedom of speech. Personally, I support their right to preach, speak, argue, yell for whatever theology or lifestyle they want to promote. I draw the line, however, on giving anyone the right to use the law or the government to limit my choices in life, to punish my family, or to censor the media so that my freedom to speak up for my theology is limited.

Finally, I also wonder if there is a third category of people involved in the Dominationist camp. I wonder if some of the people sending money, walking door to door and calling their senators do so because they’re frightened that we are trying to destroy them.

From a practical political point of view, if those folks feel attacked, they WILL fight to the death. The cultural controversies we see today will then become a true war. The struggles and fear we face now will seem like child’s play compared to what will happen in the future.

As a fellow human being, I also don’t want to see any other human have to live under this kind of threat. As a lesbian, I know what it feels like to walk around with a target on my back. As a person of faith (not Christian nor Jewish, but still a deep faith), I know what it feels like to see your beliefs ridiculed daily in the media or in casual conversation. I don’t want anyone to have to live like that. I don’t want Fundamentalists, even Dominationists, to feel that pain, that fear and that incredible sense of being invisible.

What I do want to see is a nation where we admit that we all have the right to speak what we want, to believe what we want, and live the way we want.

Gosh, I feel like I’m making a political speech here, but that freedom is the promise of the United States. The only way we can make that promise a reality is to continue to work for peaceful coexistence between the many cultures and religions within this nation. We’ve got to begin to understand that we are not at war with each other, and we actually can learn to live together.

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