The old wisdom repeated since I was a youngster was that if you wanted to keep a friend avoid speaking about politics or religion. As I grow older I can see the reason for such a guideline having experienced the loss of friends precisely for expressing my opinion within both of these forbidden arenas.
The loss of these “friends” led me to delve a bit deeper into my examination of why this is true. There are people who will only speak of politics or religion if it agrees with their opinion. Yet they have no interest in arguing their point of view with an adversary – especially with a well-informed opponent. The controversy is never an endeavor to realize or confirm a truth (as those days are long gone). These arguments are more likely to arouse emotional rebuttals (usually name calling and slander) and do not spur any intellectual curiosity to explore, in depth, the finer points of a well reasoned argument. Therefore, truth is neither the prize to be won nor the motive of these emotionally entrenched individuals even if their positions are proved to be patently false by incontrovertible fact. The only goal and purpose of these individuals is to protect their “personal subjective truth” at all costs: usually a loss of friendship or outbursts of indignity. It seems that objective truth causes great pain and suffering to those who hold to their infallible belief that things are exactly as they wish.
There was a time, not so very long ago as human history goes, that men were eager to search for truth wherever they could find it. Great arguments from worthy foes were waged in newspapers or in public discourses that generally ended with a single victor while the most honest of the vanquished would tip their hat to the victor and readjust their thinking to coincide with provable fact and logic. What a loss it is that we no longer are eager to know the truth nor understand the practice of reason or logic. Converts were made from these debates to religion or to a political party or personage solely from the strength of the arguments.
The idea that there are alternative truths, one for each of us, was promoted in books and
songs during the 60’s: I’m OK, You’re OK, Thomas A. Harris, MD (1967), “Your right from your side and I’m right from mine” stanza from Bob Dylan’s song One Too Many Mornings (1964). This idea might be thought of as complete anarchy from truth or the affirmation of Pilate’s derision of Christ with his eternally remembered quote: What is truth? __ Jn 18:38. So it seems that the general thinking might be summed up by, what is true for you is not necessarily true for me.
The same can be said of morality: What is wrong for you is not necessarily wrong for me. In this instance, the best way to avoid an attack of conscience is to hold to a self-imposed ethic that my sins are not sin at all. In this way if you are guilty of murder, you might just rationalize that murder is not a sin, absolving yourself of all guilt. The same could be said of any of the moral issues that confront us on a daily basis. Simply “self-rationalize” your behavior to adhere to some arbitrary subjective set of ethics and sin will no longer be sin. You may then live satisfactorily finding peace, joy and happiness in this life.
This is the reason why politics and religion are inextricably linked: in the end, both are concerned with moral values and judgments. There is no argument from me that we each view things from a perspective that is individually shaped by our lives our families and our intellectual talents. It is for that reason, religiously speaking, that our eating of the tree of ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ was a disastrous thing. It gave each of us the freedom to decide what is good and what is evil.
Why is this a disaster you ask? Because we have lost the ability to see that there is an
objective good and an objective evil from an unbiased perspective. This objective Truth can only be claimed by the source of all things: the living God. Our only redemption from this fall seems to be our complete submission to Truth Himself, Jesus Christ, conforming our will and conscience to His. Without this compliance, we are ceaselessly lost, forever divided and our relationships become fractured: nation against nation and man against man. We will never see the Truth on our own: He had to bring Truth to us lest we would be our own gods: Behold Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil __ Gen 3:22. It is the reason that we were forced from Paradise.
Indeed many of us have acted as though we are the Trinitarian God and have usurped the right to declare ourselves worthy and to label our fellow citizens as evil. Yet our Lord spoke to us affirming our wickedness: O generation of vipers, how can you speak good things, whereas you are evil? A good man out of a good treasure bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of an evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. __ Mt 12:34-37. We gained our treasure of knowledge of good and evil illicitly, having stolen what was forbidden for us. So our treasure is evil treasure. Now it is up to us to give this treasure back and make amends by putting ourselves under the guidance and obedience of the Real Good and the Real Good will give us a treasure that is truly good.
Since every idle word has eternal consequence, how can any of us live a life free from the guilt that our slightest imperfections might have caused? Indeed, irreparable harm is wielded upon all of God’s creation lest our loving Creator both forgives and repairs these mistakes: and it is precisely this gift that our Lord has promised (i.e. Rev 7:17). Therefore it is imperative that we surrender to Divine Providence and make ourselves slaves to the Truth; being obedient to everything that we are commanded. Such obedience requires us to teach his gospel (good news), whether in season (fashion) or out of season (fashion) __ 2 Tim 4:2, subjecting our self-counsel to the counsel of Him and to those whom He placed over us. A world so conformed to His Majesty is far from us but, no matter, we are commanded to fight the good fight if we would be counted among His brethren.
It seems that those who would not enter the arena of this eternal spiritual struggle are not willing to take a moral stand that is beyond the wisdom of this world. As such they are uneasy to speak of morality and uncomfortable in their defense of political or religious matters of grave moral consequence. Unwittingly, many think that they might be able to hide behind the quite transparent veil called separation of Church and state. Like an ostrich that hides his head in the dirt he exposes his derriere for the whole world to see.