Belief Politics

I love politics.   Politics is the art of the possible, the wrangling we do to find the best possible solution, the way we compromise to find workable answers that keep our shared interests and needs on track.

I love belief.   We need a context for understanding the world in a bigger way, beyond the daily  shocks that humans are heir to.   A vision of how the universe is connected, how forces beyond our control act everyday, how doing the right and righteous thing can make us a better, more integrated person is so valuable that it is almost required.

When we think that politics and belief are interchangeable, though, trouble starts.  Sure they will always be related, our beliefs underlying our political choices, but they are not the same thing.

If we decide that the very human political process is a place to demand holiness, which means that other people have to adhere to your belief system, then we become bullies and oppressors.   We believe that our essential rightness, our holiness, makes our political choices sacred, so our ends always justify our means, because correctness — God — is on our side.

It doesn’t matter what belief system you think is correct.    Maybe you are a devout southern baptist who really believes that deviant sexual behaviour is a sin and should be outlawed, or maybe you are a devout atheist who really believes that having a god in your cosmology is the sign of a weak and flawed mind. In the end the result is the same.

You feel entitled to bully people to come around to your belief system and you are ready to impede the political process — the coalition building process — to demand that correctness, that holiness, that compliance with your belief system be the only criteria for having standing.

For feminists, woman is this kind of a belief politics identity.   Unless you comply with their belief system, you are denied standing.   The belief system of opposition — good vs evil, us vs them — justifies their own political actions in working to silence and defeat others who do not agree with their beliefs.

When doctrinal correctness is at the heart of your daily, political choices, in how to work with others to get shared goals achieved, your beliefs dominate your politics.

I don’t belief that conflation, that unholy alloy of belief and politics, serves either our communities or our sacred beliefs well at all.  Using our beliefs to justify punishing other people who don’t believe in us, and sabotaging community building unless we get our own way seems to destroy the sanctity of faith and the power of collaboration.

I love politics, the pragmatic connection of humans to achieve shared goals and address communal needs.

I love belief, the understanding of a spiritual context for our choices, the quest to become better and more in harmony with creation.

But when belief and politics are alloyed, the result scares the hell out of me,

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