Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Deeper Issue at Hand

This diary at Daily Kos best articulates the differences between small "l" liberal democracies and what the fundamentalists see as their sacred obligation in how to protect and preserve what they see as the right answers to metaphysical questions for everyone. I will write my own treatment of this topic in another blog, but for now, this discussion is wonderful! It directly addresses how I moved from conservative evangelical rightwing Pro-life Republican to someone who can vote for a Democrat. It explains my fundamental shift to embracing pluralism as the most important value in governing.

The Deeper Issue at Hand

Here are a couple of compelling excerpts:
To put it simply, the 2008 Presidential race will not be over politics but -- as it was in 2000 and 2004 -- over the purpose of politics. In that sense it will be a meta-debate, and one that many will miss because they thought it was settled long ago.

Here then are the disputants in this argument over what politics is for in the first place. On the one hand, there are those who think that political argument is best aimed at perfecting a pluralistic society of equal citizens who do not agree on metaphysical questions of purpose and meaning, but nevertheless wish to live together under conditions of amicable cooperation, and on the other hand those who think that political debate is about winning, precisely, the metaphysical argument -- about settling fundamental questions of purpose and meaning on the public stage.

Pluralists do not want to address metaphysical questions on the public-political stage. This is not because they think they cannot win but because they think they should not win. Religio-philosophical victory in a political -- as opposed to dinner-table -- setting has, pluralists think, no upside. We get along as a people in the first place because we first agreed that religio-philosophical issues are not something we need to agree upon. We don't debate those matters at the ballot box. Rather, we need only agree on the best ways to further our society to the benefit of all, so that we may in our own ways address questions of purpose and meaning at home. A home secured by a concern for the general welfare.

Fundamentalists assume that the stakes are higher. That what everyone is debating is a question that has, secretly or not, deep and abiding metaphysical import. That is why when fundamentalists are told that Obama is a Muslim, they take great notice. Not because they care what Obama's religion is, but rather because they assume that Obama, like everyone else, is in a metaphysical argument, and means to win it. If he wins, they lose. And the pot could not be fuller. As far as this goes, it does not even matter whether Obama really is a Muslim, only that his answers to the metaphysical questions are somehow different. The fact that Obama, being a pluralist, does not take himself to be having that debate, only causes cognitive dissonance and the appearance that he is trying to win underhandedly. To a fundamentalist, everyone is always trying to win the metaphysical debate.
In fact, what makes all this more troubling is that for the fundamentalists (the arch conservatives), they feel an obligation to God in addition to their ideology. They see themselves bringing "right" to the world. As Francis Schaeffer once expressed (paraphrase), If we bring God's laws to the nation, everyone benefits even if they don't want them because we know they are true and they are the best for everyone.


brian said...


Fascinating article and I mostly agree with it.

BTW, I think Francis Schaeffer was right. The question is though "What are G-d's laws?" I believe G-d's laws are precisely those laws that are best for humankind. They're not the 10 commandments or even what's written in the New Testament (necessarily). They are humane principles in which we treat each other with respect and dignity and view everyone as our equal and recognize the divinity in each human being.

To steal a line from a sermon I was listening to this week "God rejects the divine whenever it violates the the human." The problem with Right Wing fundamentalists is not that they want to bring God's laws to the land, the problem is they don't understand what God's laws are.


Chuck said...

Julie, this article is dead on, in my opinion. Thanks for referencing it. Seems to describe post-modernism at its best.