The Church and The Illusion
I used to be a youth leader in a number of churches. I led bible and topic discussions for many years for kids ages 12-18. I eventually left being a leader when it became apparent I really couldn’t be effective. The reason I couldn’t be effective is that I wanted to kids to really think about things and come to their own conclusions. The church leadership said they wanted the same thing but I came to understand they were actually not interested in that. What they were interested in was giving the kids the illusion they had thought about things and come to their own conclusions.
How did I know this? Because the goal of the church was to have them believe and adhere to a very specific set of beliefs. The kids were not free to go where their minds led them so they were given the illusion of freedom by allowing debate and questions within a very limited and constricted box of acceptable opinions, just as the napkin drawing above illustrates. It is still that way in most every church in America and most religions around the world. I don’t like it because it does a grave disservice to the kids and to the integrity of the church or other institution that is foisting that same illusion on its youth.
Politics of the Unacceptable
Politics in America and many other countries is pretty much the same. A perfect example in America right now is the accusation many reactionary right wing partisans through about that President Obama is a communist, a socialist and a Muslim. Why are those effective tactics to use in falsely portraying Obama? Because those who propagate those tactics know that those 3 identities are outside the acceptable arena of debate in America. It is not acceptable to consider communism and socialism in political debate, they are wrong, dead, bad, evil, atheist, murderous, failed, morally perverse, anti-american and treasonous to consider those ideas. And it certainly is not acceptable to many Americans at this point in time to contemplate a President being of the Muslim faith. The reactionaries know this and they know that if they paint the President with these brushes, they can bully people into thinking he is wholly unacceptable.
And guess what? Reactionaries on the far left of the Democratic party do the same thing to Romney. Paint him with the brush of big business, of capital, of investments, of wall street, of incredible wealth and you paint him to be unacceptable. Why? Because considering big business as acceptable is unacceptable. People are bullied by that faction to not consider business and corporations as being valuable or good in any way. Some evangelicals and atheists paint Romney with the Mormon brush, wholly unacceptable. Others paint him with the ‘he hates all women’ brush, wholly unacceptable.
Thinking About What We Can’t Think About
In many cases it’s good you don’t think about it. It’s good it’s off the table for debate. We don’t want to consider the idea of slavery. We don’t want to consider the idea of genocide. We don’t want to consider the idea of…of what? What else is off the table for good reasons?
Even more importantly for our future, what is off the table because we have been told it is unacceptable but perhaps it’s not?
Drawing by Marty Coleman
Quote by Noam Chomsky, 1928 – not dead yet, American linguist and writer among many other things.