By Rudy Barnes, Jr., February 19, 2022
Over the years the dilemma of diversity has plagued pluralistic democracies. While a minority of Christians have promoted the universal reconciliation of different races and religions based on the universal and altruistic teachings of Jesus, churches have promoted exclusivist religious doctrines that foster religious divisions over reconciliation.
In America’s pluralistic libertarian democracy the competition for political power has made diversity a source of conflict that requires reconciliation to hold the diverse fabric of democracy together. Reconciliation doesn’t require agreement on all issues, only respect for differences and a willingness to compromise on issues critical to the common good.
Thomas Jefferson was a unitarian deist and child of the 18th century Enlightenment. He drafted the Declaration of Independence and considered the teachings of Jesus “the most sublime moral code ever designed by man;” but as a slaveholder Jefferson was a hypocrite in promoting “the unalienable rights of all men to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The church of Jefferson’s day was like him--split on issues of slavery. Even after the Civil War ended slavery, most churches remained havens for racism. As in politics, the church measures its success by its popularity--even though the teachings of Jesus were never popular. That has allowed racism to plague both Christianity and politics in American democracy.
In the cosmic battle of the forces of good and evil, unprincipled demagogues and their charlatan religious supporters have done a convincing imitation of God in religion and politics, demonizing diversity and corrupting religion and politics with polarizing divisiveness. Is there any alternative to exclusivist religion to reconcile the dilemma of diversity in democracy?
Like the teachings of Jesus--but unlike Christianity and Islam--UU doesn’t promote exclusivist doctrines of belief that favor any religion over others. That makes UU a suitable substitute for the church to help Americans save their pluralistic democracy from self-destruction through reconciliation. Pogo got it right when he said, “We have met the enemy, and it’s us.”
In democracy popularity is the measure of success, but Jesus rejected that for his followers when he said:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
In addressing the Pharisees, “who loved money”, Jesus said,”You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:14-15)
Carl Krieg is a progressive Christians and scholar who has described the dilemma of democracy as the collapse of American society. “Who ever thought we would say this, but it seems to be the case that society could be collapsing before our very eyes. The common bond that forges a basis for unity is disintegrating, indicated and exemplified by the litany of headlines that continue to bombard us. We know them all: people inexplicably refuse vaccination, thereby overcrowding hospitals and threatening everyone. The majority of Republicans promote the big lie. 30 million overly armed militia stand ready. Fox news dissolves truth, broadcasting untruth and falsehood. The list goes on: increasing attacks on blacks, Asians, Jews, women. Cruel despots are lauded. Mobs seek to overthrow the government, US senators believe that other peoples’ children, children of the nation, are not their responsibility. And we are supposed to applaud when Bezos and other bozos of the super rich revel in their own spaceship.
Three central beliefs joined to form …the American Dream, the American Empire, and White/Christian America. The Dream was the illusion that anybody could climb the ladder of success, a dream that gave hope to those struggling economically. It was a fabrication, of course, but it functioned as a powerful bond. And because we were so great, we had a right to rule the world and take what we wanted. And that was a god-given right because we were a nation favored by god, the christian god who empowered white people.
What we are currently witnessing is the dissolution of these three beliefs that have been operative in the minds of millions, consciously or not, and the extreme Right’s agitating these same millions by bemoaning the loss of Empire and the loss of the “Christian Nation”, blaming these losses on immigrants and Muslims. They never mention that it is they, the rich, the corporations, the powerful, who took away any vestige of the Dream that might have remained.
Gone, then, is the American Dream where everyone who worked hard could be a success. Gone is the self image of a glorious country who had a right to rule the world, the city on the hill, casting a beacon of light to the rest of the world. And gone is the falsehood of a White/Christian America, created by the Founding Fathers and gifted to their descendents. And, we might add, thank god they are gone. They were and continue to be destructive in so many ways, and the violence that ensues is tearing apart the fabric of society. Realizing that they are losing the images that structured their minds, the millions are encouraged to fight the loss and follow the fascist leaders who promise a return to the supposed golden era. We will make America great again, they promise. And the path is littered with hate crimes, militias, big lies, voter suppression, and insurrection.
There is another way. Can we not develop a perspective that would enable us to function in harmony rather than disintegrate from within? On the personal level, we can say: love yourself. Accept who you are, grow, advance, open your mind. On a social level, follow the quintessential teaching of the ages: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This unifying perspective is in reality a practical solution for survival. If we cannot realize that love for self, others, and the planet is the only Way to survive, we are in danger of losing everything. See https://progressivechristianity.org/resources/the-collapse-of-american-society/.
Commentary on Christian universalism:
(12/8/14): Religion and Reason
(1/4/15): Religion and New Beginnings: Salvation and Reconciliation in the Family of God http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/01/religion-and-new-beginnings-salvation.html
(2/8/15): Promoting Religion Through Evangelism: Bringing Light or Darkness?
(2/15/15): Is Religion Good or Evil?
(4/5/15): Seeing the Resurrection in a New Light
(4/19/15): Jesus: A Prophet, God’s Only Son, or the Logos?
(1/2/16): God in Three Concepts
(1/21/17): Religion and Reason Redux: Religion Is Ridiculous
(1/28/17): Saving America from the Church
(4/22/17): The Relevance of Jesus and the Irrelevance of the Church in Today’s World
(6/17/17): Religious Exclusivity: Does It Matter?
(7/22/17): Hell No!
(8/5/17): Does Religion Seek to Reconcile and Redeem or to Divide and Conquer?
(8/12/17): The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism
(9/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of Christian Universalism
(10/6/18): Musings on Moral Universalism in Religion and Politics http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/10/musings-on-moral-universalism-in.html.
(10/13/18): Musings on a Common Word of Faith and Politics for Christians and Muslims
(12/1/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Mystical Logos
(12/15/18): Musings on the Great Commission and Religious and Political Tribalism
(12/22/18): Musings on Faith and Works: The Unity of All Believers and The Last Judgment
(3/2/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Post-Christian America
(3/9/19): Musings on the Degradation of Democracy in a Post-Christian America
(3/16/19): Musings on the Evolution of Christian Exclusivism to Universalism
(4/20/19): Musings on the Resurrection of Altruistic Morality in Dying Democracies
(5/11/19): Musings on the Relevance of Jefferson’s Jesus in the 21st Century
(5/25/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Divinity and Moral Teachings of Jesus
(6/8/19): The Moral Failure of the Church to Promote Altruism in Politics
(6/15/19): Back to the Future: A 21st Century Pentecost for the Church
(6/22/19): The Universal Family of God: Where Inclusivity Trumps Exclusivity
(6/29/19): Musings on a Politics of Reconciliation: An Impossible Dream?
(7/20/19): Musings on Diversity in Democracy: Who Are Our Neighbors?
(8/3/19): Musings on the Dismal Future of the Church and Democracy in America
(8/31/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism
(9/7/19): Musings on the Self-Destruction of Christianity and American Democracy
(9/21/19): An Afterword on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics from 2014-2019
(9/28/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Polarized Politics of Climate Change
(10/26/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Discipleship in a Democracy
(11/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Virtual Alternative to a Failing Church
(11/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irrelevance of Morality in Politics
(11/23/19): Musings on Jesus and Christ as Conflicting Concepts in Christianity
(1/11/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christians as a Moral Minority
(2/22/20): Musings on Why All Politics and Religion Are Local (and not Universal)
(4/4/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of America’s Values
(12/23/20): Musings on the coming of a light that can dispel the darkness of the world.
(1/2/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Making a Covenant with God for the New Year
(1/16/21): Truth and Reconciliation in Politics and Religion in a Maze of Conflicting Realities
(5/22/21): Musings on Morality and Politics and the Need for a Civil Religion in America
(6/5/21): Musings on Why Socialism is no Substitute for Altruism in Politics
(10/9/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Relevance of Jesus Today
(11/6/21): Musings on the Need for Political and Religious Reconciliation in America
(12/4/21): Musings on How Universal Heterodox Beliefs Promote Religious Reconciliation
(1/1/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Renewing a Covenant with God in 2022