Friday, February 10, 2006

While the Left abdicates, real pain drives voters into the arms of the Religious Right

Given the fact that you folks – all couple hundred of you – read me because I am totally brilliant (note sarcasm), it pains me to have to admit that another author has figured out something I’ve been fumbling with for months now.

Please click over to AlterNet and read Finding Spirit Among the Dems and then run out and buy Michael Lerner’s new book “The Left Hand of God: Taking Our Country Back From the Religious Right.” (HarperSF 2006). Lerner is the rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synogogue and editor of TIKKUN magazine: A Bimonthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture and Society.

The writer at AlterNet called Lerner’s new book a paradigm-shifting work that “doesn't just change the view so much as it changes our way of viewing.” From what I can tell from reading the story, I think that writer may well be right.

First, Lerner clearly identifies the chasm that separates the two sides in what I suspect is the real cultural struggle going on in the world right now. That war isn’t necessarily between political ideologies, but between approaches to life. Lerner says:
The Left Hand of God means looking at the universe through the perception that love, kindness, generosity and caring for others are the central ontological realities of life, and that when they do not manifest in the world in which we live, the world is distorted and needs to be healed. The Right Hand of God, conversely, means looking at the universe through the perception that life is a struggle of all against all, and that the only path to security is through domination of others.

I find those words compelling because they match my spiritual approach to life. However, Lerner also has ideas for the secular and the political. He explains that the reason the Religious Right is drawing people is not because those folks are brainwashed or idiots. It’s because they are in real pain, suffering from the flaws in our society, and the Religious Right is not only talking about that pain but claiming to have a cure.

This is the point I was fumbling to make in my piece, The Lesbian and the Fundamentalists, when I talked about a “hole” in society.

Lerner says it so much better and clearer than I did.

[M]any of the millions of people who get attracted to the Religious Right are not motivated by excitement for their political program, but by the experience of community, caring for others, and its ability to recognize and address the deep distortions in life that are caused by a societal ethos of materialism and selfishness.

Unless Democrats and the political Left understand this, they will never succeed at the ballot box again, Lerner argues.

By its tone-deafness to the spiritual suffering of the American people, the Left continues to miss the fundamental crisis that demands a social transformation, and in so missing this reality, it clears the path for reactionary forces to enter the spiritual arena and manipulate that crisis in destructive and potentially fascistic directions.
Amen to that.

Now that Lerner has defined the problem, what are we going to do about it?

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