Ecclesiastical and political pragmatism, with a beat
As you know, I read a lot about the civil rights movement. I just finished Bruce Watson’s new book (Freedom Summer). The closed society, as Mississippi largely was in 1964, relied among other things on conformity at its most benign and intimidation, fear and terror at its most malign. Many Southerners then still displayed a yearning for a romanticized past and idealization of The Lost Cause. And resented and vilified as communists those who challenged their way of looking at things. It feels to me as if there was a superficiality and a shallowness to the way some of them practiced their faith. Praising “Our Way of Life” required ignoring or explaining away old and new injustices inflicted by one’s side. It was a society with little self awareness, hence little belief in accountability. By contrast, the beloved community for which civil rights leaders such as John Lewis advocated in the early 1960s relied on pushing oneself to one’s limits. People such as Lewis strove for social justice, relied on nonviolent action, and demonstrated nobility and extraordinary courage. The young white and black volunteers who descended on Mississippi during Freedom Summer weren’t out for themselves. If not privileged, (although a few were), many were middle class and had led very comfortable lives before coming to Mississippi. In exchanging their comforts for hardships and danger in 1964, they were doing for others. They put their lives at risk to help the downtrodden and to fight for voting rights for the disenfranchised. Religious or secular, they walked their talk in ways that many of the white Southerners who filled the pews in their churches every Sunday during the 1950s and early 1960s did not do.Which do I admire? Lewis and the beloved community – religious and secular both, of course. Pushing one’s limits and striving for nobility as he did as a young man could have provided a model on which to build, for people across the political spectrum in this country. Too many right leaning pundits have gone the other way. They’ve played and then doubled down on the resentment card. I’m convinced conservatism in America could have been more positive and noble than it is now, had it had different opinion leaders. Ones who believed in GOP voters’ ability to push their limits and to cope, rather than taking the easy route of feeding resentments. What a shame.
One can be a Republican and a conservative and move beyond the usual Sullivan bait seen on Fox and on talk radio, as Kathleen Parker does in her column today. She writes, “There's little appealing about either party dominated by a base that bears little resemblance to who we are as a nation or the way most of us live our lives.” Parker notes, "In a political culture where moderation is the new heresy, centrism is fast becoming the new black.” When the right and the left represent the hidebound and timid and centrists are portrayed as the bold heretics, you know we've entered into an interesting time period.
Oops, that's MK with the Parker quote, not "anonymous." I had intended to use her quote under my comment on Hewitt and the NYT piece but that one ran on too long. But it fits just as well under this Fox piece so I put it up here.
Thanks, MK. It won't surprise you to learn that the greatest concentration of parishes and dioceses opposed to the Episcopal Church's reforms affecting gay and lesbian people is in the south. I'm not saying that they're racists or that anyone in the church wants to re-fight the Civil War. What does resonate, in the comments of church people who describe themselves as the last defenders of true orthodoxy, is your comment about those who cling to "a romanticized past."
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