Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

fanaticism, and equal opportunity disease

“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”
                               Robert F. Kennedy

The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.
                               Bertrand Russell (writing about the rise of the Nazi Movement)

“You have to quit confusing a madness with a mission.”
                               Flannery O'Connor, The Violent Bear It Away

“Blessed are the meek”, said Jesus

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good” said the prophet Micah (6:8)

“and what does the Lord require of you?

but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Fundamentally, extremism is a dis-ease
That twists and warps the best of people

Instead of bring out the best in those afflicted
It brings out the worst

It is a cancer of the soul
Which hardens good hearts
And distorts thinking

Leaving those exposed to the contagion
Blind to themselves
Blind to others

It leaves them without empathy
And above all cruel

The cause does not matter
Nor does the ideology

The person can be a Trumpster
Or a Berniebot
A repugnican or a libertard
(get my drift?)

The issue can be abortion,
or it can be the environment

fanaticism is fanaticism
and it is an equal opportunity disease
creating cognitive dissonance
and leaving profound damage in its wake

I think of those who are fanatical about banning abortion
And their rabid support for right wing politicians
Who support all kinds of life denying actions
From cutting supports for the poor
To engaging in the destruction of the planet

While rabidly promoting the right to “life” of the unborn
They destroy the lives of those already born

I think of those who rabidly support a person who
Is retributive
And has no moral compass

In the name of one who asked for
The truth
And an unbelievably high moral standard

What gives?

And what about me?
I am fanatical about protecting the vulnerable
And my intense commitment to
Justice and equity
Leaves me
All too often
Harsh, aggressive
And judgmental

I remember Tom Lehrer
In his introduction to “National Brotherhood Week”

“I'm sure we all agree that we ought to love one another,
And I know there are people in the world who do not love
Their fellow human beings, and I hate people like that!”


I have been on the receiving end too
From both those on the radical right
And those on the radical left, who can be absolutely brutal
Toward those whom they clearly consider “lesser beings”

So what do we do?
What do we do with the temptation to get sucked into
To the hate and violence (yes violence) of the extremists?

How can we step back and not become those
Who incite (there are all kinds of violence!  Emotional, verbal as well as physical)

It occurs to me that the antidote to extremism
Is extremism

If, in my desire, to promote, intensely
What I think in right,
I want to avoid being just another
Dysfunctional mess
Flailing around
Damaging all those in reach

I have to be fanatical about my commitment
To the way of Jesus
To the way of sacrificial love

This doesn’t mean I don’t speak out
It doesn’t mean I don’t stand up for what I think is right
But it means I do it in the context of
Jesus’ life and teachings
Jesus’ death and resurrection

Some people go to the 10 Commandments to
Calibrate their moral compass
I go to the beatitudes

Luke, Matthew, either one
Although as an affluent American, I have trouble accessing Luke
Whose beatitudes speak most cogently to the poor and down trodden

So let’s think about Matthew

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I believe, that before I can be “fanatical” about anything else
I have to fanatically submit to the principles of this teaching

Otherwise what might be a blessing (may advocacy for the vulnerable)
Becomes a curse (as I trample on others).

I want to rejoice
I want to be glad
And I want others to join me
All others

We will not get there if we are entrenched
Shouting at each other from opposite ends of the ideological
And moral spectrum

I know this is all complex
Where is that line, over which we cannot pass?
When is it wrong to back off?
How to we stand firm, and stay loving?

I don’t have the answers
Only the desire
To be fanatical about love
All I can do is, in the power of the Spirit, try

Bless my little heart

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