Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fundamentalist Politics

It has been a mainstay of politics in the US for a long time, or so we claim and would have people believe, that religion is kept separate from it and likewise politics are kept out of religion. This is one of the major dividing points between us and the Islamic world; they don’t see the two as being able to be separate, thus the whole discourse against secularism*. This same rhetoric entered into American politics in force in the early 1900s with the development of Fundamentalism, which frankly did not exist prior to then**. The attempt to use political power as a means of forcing religious behavior and conformity upon others is one of the primary tactics used by the World Conqueror motif of Fundamentalists. It is in stark contrast to that of the World Renouncer, the Amish who are clearly Fundamentalists by the definition of the word are not going around trying save the other, that being us, from damnation, suffering, un-enlightenment, or whatever the poison is, by use of force, that force being politics. More on this later, first let’s talk about what Fundamentalism is and some of how it operates.

Fundamentalism as a phenomenon has a number of characteristics that are similar amongst the range of religions in which it has manifested. These similarities have become known as family resemblances within the world of fundamentalist study. Fundamentalism is first and foremost a social reaction. It is a defensive reaction against modernization, and everything that encompasses, such as secularism and advancements in science that contradict traditional religious views. These aspects of modernization are seen as an attack on religion, and it is the duty of the chosen to uphold the purity of religion. A very real psychological, and sometimes physical, wall if built between those in the group and its enemies— everyone else. It is a wall of moral pluralism; those within its confines are the moral upholders of the faith and adherents to its correct and moral behavioral practices and those outside this realm of influence are those trying to destroy it. The foundation for this wall is built from absolutes and the inerrancy of a combination of, scripture, authority, and doctrine; all of which are carefully selected and construed so as to support their fundamentalist stance and ideology.

One of the main traits of fundamentalism is the ideology of the Other, that is the idea that the chosen few exist separate from, and must guard against, the threat against religion. Politics are used by the World Conqueror as a tactic of maintaining that wall, and pushing back. By engaging in hostility and opposition with the Other and the returning opposition is used partially to keep their own ranks in line, “Look at how they attack us and strive to destroy our lives.” This becomes a rallying point as well as a wall that keeps people within their control. Like all groups, fundamentalist groups would wither away if their membership did not stay. The wall is also used as the clear dividing line between the saved and the damned. Politics have allowed Fundamentalists to take this moral pluralism and apply it to our two party system. Voting and participation in the system then becomes a choice between which side of the line, damned or saved, upon which one falls regardless of their actual feelings and opinions on the matter.

I for one, am sick of it. I don’t express my political opinions often because of the rampant fundamentalism that has entered and taken control of our politics. I generally choose not to engage. I do, however, still vote and exercise my own morality with said vote. So if you can’t tell, the latest rampage of hate within our politics has gotten my feathers ruffled. Today’s blog is my attempt to remind myself what is happening culturally and religiously. Comment if you will, but as I know politics and religion can be hot topics, please keep it respectful.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

* For more about the relationship in Islam and politics read chapter one of: Prothero, S. (2010). God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World—And Why Their Differences Matter. New York, Harper Collins.

** For more about Fundamentalism is from a scholarly perspective read: Almond, G. A., Appleby, S. R. (2003). Strong Religion: The Rise of Fundamentalisms around the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. OR Ruthven, M. (2005). Fundamentalism: The Search for Meaning. Oxford University Press.

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