My life is a struggle of in and out of focus Christianity and a desire for God that strobes like a bad horror movie. Every time I feel encouraged in faith, someone, something or a whole group of people do something extremely stupid that makes me wonder, “Why would I ever want to be part of that club?”
Wearing the Christian brand is something I want for my relationship with God, but it’s a scarlet letter for Apologists. I’m not using the classical definition of Apologists (Wikipedia); I’m using it to refer to the countless number of Christians who end up apologizing for their “brothers and sisters.”
Don’t all Christians read the same Bible, follow the same rules, and have the same beliefs? Why should one Christian apologize for another? The easy answer is that not one of us is perfect, but we have God’s grace waiting for us when we fall. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand God’s grace. We apologize to those people because they’ve probably known a Christian who knocked them down as they fell.
I’m not afraid to tell someone I’m a Christian. All too often, after the initial shock subsides, non-Christians tell me stories of the fallen: their Christian aunt who shoves religion down their throat, their Christian next door neighbor who leaves nasty letters in their mailbox but invites them to church every week, or their Christian parent who drank too much and beat them but taught Bible school every Sunday. I don’t like it, but I’m sure that I’ve been the story of the fallen for a non-Christian at some point.
We all fail, we’re all mean, we all have stupid opinions… some just do it louder than others. For the purposes of this post, we’ll call the loud ones Elitists. They are often the most vocal and ignorant sample of the Christian political spectrum.
Conservatism versus Liberalism
I cannot understand a religion where people live on both sides of the fence. In the US, we typically refer to this as Republican versus Democrat… but it’s become much more complicated than that in the last couple years, especially in the Christian sector. As a dramatic overcorrection for the Democratic domination of 2008, the American people voted heavily for Republican candidates during the 2010 midterm elections. It was a play to regain checks and balances; no one party should control the Presidency, House, and Senate. Unfortunately, those elections introduced a new Republican subculture called the Tea Party — it’s safe to consider them Elitist.
The Tea Party does not understand the meaning of compromise. They often call upon their morals to justify their political positions. Most of the time, they vote by a matter of principle: if the Democrats want one outcome, they want they other. By their name’s definition, their only real purpose is to wreak havoc on the government. People on both sides of the political spectrum blame the Tea Party for the complete lack of political progress during the last two years, and it’s not going away. Some people view that as a point of pride; others see it as a disgrace to the American political system.
This ongoing polarity has reached ridiculous depths, ever changing the campaign strategy from reason and benefit to illusion and detriment. As one group becomes more popular, another group battles back to regain their foothold. It’s not even confined to election season any more; politicians campaign endlessly to prove they’re fighting for the American people… even when they aren’t. Often, these groups turn to political propaganda to convince the inexperienced (dare I say naive or ignorant?) that their lies are true. “Oh, but it’s not a lie, it’s just spin.” Spin only exists to fool the ignorant into believing an exaggerated truth… in other words, a lie. Because of spin, we now accept “fact checkers” as a normal part of our political atmosphere. Am I the only one who finds that disappointing?
The media — paper, television, radio, etc. — is the most influential source of information. It’s even extremely easy to setup a website and gain readership (you decided to read this didn’t you?). With how much the media throws at us in this digital age, it’s impossible to trust anything said anywhere in any medium… but people do just that. Someone reads something online, tells their friend who tells another friend and, after traveling through two intermediaries, they accept it as a fact because they heard it from a trusted source. Have you ever played a game of telephone? All messages passed from one person to another drop or pickup new concepts: relational to complexity. That’s without considering the validity of the original source material.
Negativity is king. The media will always do what’s best for their bottom line. If a controversial article attracts more hits, they’ll post it just to gain ad revenue from pageviews. When an industry considers positivity boring and negativity exciting, they’ll report on every negative bit of news they can find — robberies, house fires and especially murder. Haven’t you wondered why the media only covers the failures or mistakes of our politicians?
Ultimately, every piece of news you find has bias… most of it is dripping with spin to satisfy a certain political slant. Don’t believe me? Remove yourself from politics for a moment and realize that Fox News sleeps with conservatives and MSNBC shelters large quantities of liberals. Even NPR has a political slant: as an organization, it claims no allegiance, but the reporters can’t seem to remove political emotion from their segments.
Too many people are content with lazy consumption. I’ve repeatedly suggested snopes.com to a number people who easily accept questionable information and share it with their friends. Those people always challenge me with this question, “Why would I trust that website over this one?” They’re more than willing to trust some biased news channel, email or commenter online, but they won’t trust a website dedicated to (and financially dependent on) unbiased fact checking for the general public’s education. Oh, internet, I love you.
These interactions demonstrate my theory that our nation is too lazy to fix its ignorance. As a result, we elect government officials and pay them to make educated decisions for us while we yell from the sidelines, complaining that they’re doing it wrong. If we happen to pay attention to a particular vote where our representative ignores our desire and votes the other way, we’ll do everything we can to make sure they don’t get another office. Politicians and voters, alike, believe they’re the puppeteer controlling the marionette and making it dance — each spinning different directions creating a twisted mess with plenty of strings attached.
Ethics versus Morals
With this new class of politicking comes a media that preys on the ignorant and elected officials who believe they’re fulfilling the will of the people. The will of their supporters, donors, advisors, may not always be what’s best for the country and our representatives should be intelligent enough to grasp that concept. I’m afraid that politicians who have that understanding are being banished by ignorant puppeteers. We have a political epidemic seething through our nation compounded by an inability to differentiate ethics and morals. All too often, people consider ethics and morals interchangeable but the definitions are quite different. I’ve studied various definitions and written new guidelines for this particular argument. You will not find these in any dictionary:
- Ethics — rational and logical thinking that, while influenced by social norms, entertains all arguments equally and determines the most beneficial outcome for the greatest number of people.
- Morals — an unwavering belief system, typically defined by religious or secular philosophy and tradition, that determines right from wrong with no regard for alternate viewpoints.
If our elected officials could leave their morals at the door but bring their ethics inside, we’d have a much healthier system that could actually work towards compromise. Unfortunately, most of our politicians don’t understand the difference. For example, Paul Ryan said during the Vice Presidential Debate that he couldn’t separate his religion from his politics. That’s absolutely incorrect; he chooses to let his morals influence his politics. If he focused on the ethics not the morality of the political argument, we may have seen a different outcome for the presidential race.
Just like that debate, Republicans shifted the fiscal cliff discussion from ethics to morals. The ethical viewpoint would be a compromise that doesn’t tailspin the nation back into a recession. Instead, they’ve decided to hold our nation hostage for their morals of small government. They fight to keep the Bush-era tax cuts while the rest of us will see an average of $2,400 in increased taxes. Ethics and morals are important, but when an entire nation’s economic future is in jeopardy, ethics should always win.
One Nation, with Ethics
One Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Every US citizen is familiar with the Pledge of Allegiance, but any observer could say there’s no truth behind those words. Our nation is very different from that of our founding fathers. How much longer can we choose to ignore one of the most important texts from our history? To better illustrate the importance, let’s start from the end and go backwards.
Liberty and justice are completely relative to the moral society we created. Any gay marriage proponent would loudly object to our nation’s concept of freedom. Alternatively, for every one of you who thinks racism is dead, I’ll find you five people to prove otherwise… and yet, we call that freedom.
Is our nation too large to continue functioning at a reasonably productive level? If our nation is so divided that one person can accurately calculate the state-by-state outcome of a presidential election, maybe we should look at alternative voting procedures. However, we could be to the point where a divided nation would be better overall… but everyone is afraid to define that relationship.
We are no longer one Nation, under God. We are one Nation, with agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, Protestants and a growing number of other beliefs. While God is the driving motivator in my life, I do not believe that we can have a free and just nation that assumes all people worship the same god… or any god at all. Like the forceful aunt I mentioned earlier, our government shouldn’t let its members vote with their religion in mind.
We are supposed to be a nation that separates church and state, but that really only applies to running for office. No “religious tests” have ever been necessary to hold office, but our politicians are more than willing to preach their religion with their votes (gay marriage?). True separation of church and state comes with a government that rules with ethics.
Every single person has individualized morals that our current political system cannot perfectly satisfy. If we could ignore morals and vote strictly with ethics, maybe our country could finally climb out of this recession and back into a position of dominance in the modern world. Instead of one Nation, under God — we should be one Nation, with Ethics.
An Ethical Utopia
I love this concept of Ethics-driven politics because it relies heavily on logic. Logical reasoning plays a tremendously large roll in my life. For better or worse, I question everything and cannot blindly follow anything. Blindly voting along party lines is a perfect example of a broken system. If our politicians were brave enough to vote based on ethics alone, we wouldn’t face ridiculous issues like the fiscal cliff.
We, as the voting people, would also need to change the way we approach politics. Voting Democrat or Republican becomes pointless with a system of independent thought. However, our laziness prevents this from becoming reality; instead of researching candidates, most people elect along party lines because they generally share the same political views. Even if our Nation were ready to change this broken system, people would find a new way to bastardize it so they can satisfy their laziness.
We can only dream of a day where the norm shifts towards ethics: rational and logical thinking that, while influenced by social norms, entertains all arguments equally and determines the most beneficial outcome for the greatest number of people.
On that day, we’ll be able to wear our religion — any religion — on our sleeves without fear of social backlash.
On that day, we’ll no longer need to apologize for the Elitists we regretfully call brother and sister.
On that day, our nation will understand the true meaning of democratic freedom.
Someday, I hope our nation is brave enough to get there.