Politics as religion

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

One of looking at religion is that it is a lens through which believers view reality.

Here's an example.  When I tell one of my agnostic friends that something good happened to me, he responds either that I earned or that it was just random luck.  In contrast, the lens through which I view life allows me to see the good thing as a miracle or a gift from God. 

He would agree.  His lens sees truth as only that which can be verified by empirical evidence.  I see things he doesn't see.  He would say that that doesn't mean that what I see is real.  It might in fact be created by my lens.  He's not saying it isn't real either—only that his lens doesn't see what I see.

Now, take a look at what we saw in the recent loooong campaign for president.  There were many misrepresentations, half truths and downright "pants on fire" lies spread around. 

When a pro-Obama ad portrayed Romney as a murderer, because a woman who lost her job because her company was downsized by Bain Capital lost her health insurance and thereby died of cancer which wasn't treated, some of my Democrat friends said, "That's what happened.  That shows what we knew all along, i.e. that Romney only cares about the 1%."  Republicans, in contrast, viewed the ad as an outrageous distortion.

Maybe the best example is the ongoing belief by millions that Pres. Obama is not a U.S. citizen.  It doesn't matter how much evidence they are presented.  When you see reality through certain lenses, what other people perceive as convincing facts others see as distortions if not lies.

It's called an ideology when a particular view of the world will not admit another point of view.  One of my friends wouldn't take Romney seriously because Mitt is a Mormon.  When I responded, "Isn't that like being opposed to John Kennedy because he was a Catholic," he answered, "No.  This is different.  I live among a lot of Mormons and they're all crazy."  I don't think what I consider to be facts would convince him otherwise.

The problem, of course, is that ideologies are dangerous when they take on the status of ultimate truth.  When the lens people use to view reality through is monofocal, there's no depth, no sense of perspective. 

God created us with two eyes so we could discern what is close and what is far away.  God gave us neighbors who see life differently than we do to help us be more than bifocal--to be multifocal—because that way we have a better chance of seeing the way things really are.

That's why the present polarization is so destructive.  It's like the story of the blind men who encounter an elephant.  One guy feels the trunk and says it's a tree, while the other feels the tail and says it's a rope.  They can argue about which is right or they can "see" that reality is more complex than they first thought.


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Dave Coulter  

Posted: November 19th, 2012 3:34 PM

It seems that many enjoy fanning the flames of division. And I suppose if you're in politics you're future success somewhat depends on it.

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