Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On Obama, Islam, and Right Wing Rage

Mystified. Plain mystified. That is the only way I can describe my take on the political scene in the US these days. I have seen the country polarized before. I recall Vietnam days. Folks were polarized then. Much of it was generational. As a teenager in the late 60's and early 70's, I felt a million miles distant from my dad. What to do about the problem? My mom told me that Dad thought the problems would all go away if I was forced to get a haircut. As if the cause of the polarization in our country about the war, about civil rights, about worldview could be boiled down to hair.

That's the nature of extreme polarization. It comes down to simple solutions. The notion is one that spells out solutions to complicated problems as simple and easily implemented. Another thought associated with extreme polarization is demonization. Make a devil of those who disagree. This is common among fundamentalists. Fundamentalism thrives on the view of "us vs. them."

Hence the polarization. Currently it is fueled by the "rage in the right." We see it most clearly in the belief, supposedly held by a third of Republicans, that Obama is a Muslim. Never mind that he has a long public history as a member of a Christian denomination. Never mind that he has publicly stated that he is a Christian. Never mind his escalation of the war in Afghanistan-- a war that is clearly about killing Muslims. A war that kills both the radical and the innocent. So here I am, mystified by the crazy rhetoric.

This rage, and these accusations, demonstrate several characteristics of the fundamentalist mindset. First, there is an appeal to emotion over facts. Second, there is a xenophobia run completely amok. Finally, we can see the demonization that fuels it all. When you consider how all of this adds to the entire notion of "them vs. us" and contributes to the sense of being a righteous, picked-on remnant of the brave and true, it is easy to see how the right wing rage makes common cause with its fundamentalist cousins.

And the rest of us? Those not in the "Holy Club?" I think we watch it all and continue to be mystified. How did it all get this way?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Breaking a CHild's Will?

It has been a very long time since I have had a post on this blog. I don't completely know why. I can't say, either, that I am turning over a new leaf and will be back to making regular posts. Still, this one seems to be calling for expression, so here it is.

As I have described before, on this forum and elsewhere, I am of the opinion that Christian fundamentalism tends toward family violence. I have written about the relationship between fundamentalism and intimate partner violence (spousal abuse). In fact, I have conducted a statistical study of the phenomenon. I have also written concerning fundamentalism and child abuse. What I want to discuss here is a common notion that many evangelicals and fundamentalists take as a credo when it comes to raising children: A child's will must be broken.

The notion here is that children are willful and that that willfulness is sin and tends toward more sin. It must be removed. A child's willfulness is overcome by requiring that a child ABSOLUTELY comply with the wishes of the parent. In short, the parent must win all showdowns. When I was a fundamentalist, I was also told to "tell em' once." I was to tell my kids what to do one time. If their willfulness came into play and they refused to obey, I was to "break their wills."

Breaking their wills meant much more than just delivering consequences for misbehavior. It meant that my children had to do exactly what I said. Say my child misbehaved in some way. It was not considered enough to warn my child of the consequences of misbehavior and, if he continued to misbehave, deliver the consequences and get on with life.

In contrast to facing the consequences and then defusing the situation by moving on, the situation had to be revisited until my child did EXACTLY as told. If it took 40 spankings (so I was told), so be it. The important thing is that the will is broken.

Bad choice! You see, all my children will ever have (they are now adults and it is all they still have) is their wills. How can they learn to stand strong in life when they have been cowered into submitting to everything someone else demands? I'm not saying there should be no consequences for misbehavior (no physical violence, of course), but a child's will should never be forced. S/he must understand that s/he has a choice. S/he can obey or accept the consequences. When a child is forced to bend to the will of another, the element of choice is taken away. With no choice, there can be no real moral growth. All that remains is a pathological brainwashing, perpetrated by an irresistible power.

What is worse, it is not forgotten. It all returns sooner or later. All of the anger, brokenness and fear.

So, the point of all this is simple, my friend. Don't attempt to break, or demolish the will of a child. In the end, the child will suffer and you will be the one who knows true brokenness.