Integral Neo-Ludditism?

What is the difference between the SCIRI, Dawa, and The Army of the Medhi (of Moqtada al-Sadr)? There are differences, serious importance differences.

There are of course huge similarities as well–e.g. the fact that all three are Shi’a parties in Iraq as distinct from Sunni and/or Kurdish entities.

What are some of the main themes that separate Shi’a Islam from Sunni Islam? Why have those themes been reversed, some would say, so radically since the 1970s, but particuarly since the US invasion of Iraq?

These are extremely important questions. I raise them because of a negative trend I have noticed in some of the integral movement, so-called. And that is the loss of learning about movements, systems, and ideas from the inside. As a group, as an individual defines itself, himself, herself.

Integral consciousness (or post-postmodern consciousness) is marked by its meta-systematic nature. My favorite definition of integral cognition comes from Don Beck: it is a system of systems. Integral cognition is a worldview that recognizes the (partial) reality of developmentally prior worldviews. It is a “system” that sees systems. That is its genius and its great hope for the planet.

A shadow side of that vision is only seeing structures. Perhaps because premodern, modern, and postmodern thought has so typically disavowed understanding of developmental sequences, integral thought has pounded them home with a vengeance.

Unfortunately in common practice this pounding is often bordering at times on a new anti-intellectualism. Groups, ideational movements, religious and philosophical systems are simply labeled as blue, orange, green whatever. It seems many people become so fixated on the deep structures (developmental sequences) of integral evolutionary constructs, they forget about how those structures actually manifest in the flesh and blood world.

And more disturbingly, I find, structural thinking is typically quite ahistorical. To really understand the inner workings of structures–like mass movements, theologies of different flavors, philosophical and cultural frames–one has to know the historical timeline of the country, peoples, religion(s) and so on involved.

Just describing the world as red, blue, orange, or green does not illuminate that historical unfolding.

So returning to our earlier example, a person would write off all three of those movements as blue systems. And that is true. They are (mostly) blue structures, but that doesn’t explain how they see themselves or why they fight with one another?

The SCIRI(Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq) is a party that seeks to create an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq. Remember Shia’s make up only about 10-20% of Muslims worldwide, but they are the majority in Iran and southern Iraq. The only two such places on the planet.

The Islamic_Dawa_Party worked originally with Sunnis, was founded to fight the godless socialist atheism of the Baathist Regime. AND in opposition to Iran and SCIRI believes that the Shi’ite government should be run by the ummah–the believers–and not the ulema–the clergy. Ibrahim Jafari, the Prime Minister of Iraq represents this party. Recall PM Jafari is a doctor not a cleric.

Muqtada_al-Sadr is a theologically uneducated man of the street. He only claims religious authority from his family’s lineage of gifted Ayatollahs. He appeals to the lower classes. He is an Arab Shi’ite living in Baghdad. He threatened the most revered of all Iraq Shi’ite Clerics–Ayatollah ali al Sistani. Sistani is more cerberal and drew his support from middle classes. al-Sadr is the man of the poor, a fiery demagogue igniting the passions of the dispossessed (or never-posessed). His father Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr was a moderate, a real voice of reason, who stood up to Saddam–who had promoted him in attempt to create a puppet. His uncle actually was an original member of the Dawa Party and was a close friend of Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim–the founder of SCIRI. Some have even suggested al-Sadr killed his uncle’s old friend. Muqtada joined in a chorus of Arab Baghdad (Sunni and Shite) boos at the suggestion of Abdul al Hakim–current head of SCIRI–demand that the South be a Shia super-region granted the same autonomy as the Kurds in the North.

And that is just within the Iraqi Shia experience of the last 50 or so odd years.

Shia spirituality has been historically marked by a consciousness of martyrdom, of being the outsider, of the holiness of failure and sacrifice to God. The Shia are the party that followed The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) cousin and son-in-law Ali. Ali was assassinated by his own. The caliphate was taken from him and given to a ruthless politico named Muawayia. His son Husayn rose up to defend his father, and was killed with his infant son in his arms, the last man standing of his small army. The Shia for thenceforth split with the Sunni (the majority party of Islam). The Shia as a result were typically apolitical, and usually withdrew into themselves. They focused more on protection of the poor, charity for the oppressed, and especially mysticism (e.g. Bahai is an outgrowth of Shi’ism). Ali was considered to be possessed of mystical knowledge, knowledge of the higher realities passed on directly to by secretly by word of mouth from Muhammad himself. This Shi’ite also became more much interested in apocalyptic and messianic movements as a result of their interest in mysticism and separation from the world.

And if you think these themes, these deep morphogenetic patterns do not continue to our day consider this question: where did the movement of suicide bombing begin?

Answer: the Iran-Iraq war. Who committed the first suicide attack? A: A young Iranian boy. An Iranian. Therefore a Shi’ite. Therefore someone raised on the consciousness of the heroism of martyrdom and of the redemptive value of the blood of the faithful warrior–just like Husayn.

From Iran, the practice of suicide bombing spread to Hezbollah (The Party of God) in Lebanon against the Israelis. Again Hezbollah supported by both Iran and Syria, is the party of Shi’a.

It was only there in the Lebanese Civil War that the first Sunnis began using the tactic. In that case The Palestinians. Only after seeing the Palestinians use suicide bombing to such lethal effectiveness did a certain Arab Sunni named Osama bin Laden consider using it in his own newly forming group known as al-Qaeda (“The Base.”)

Sunni Islam is more marked traditionally by emphasis on conquering, the victorious, and the morality of the triumphant. It was of course the Sunnis who created the largest empire in the history of the world–far larger than Rome, China, Aztec, Incan, or Indian–during the Middle Ages. It was the Sunnis who were then the world’s greatest scientists, philosphers, poets, and doctors. Their empire stretched from Spain through North Africa, the Persian Gulf, the Levant, through Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Central Asia, Afghanistan, India, even to Indonesia (today the world largest Muslim nation). Think of that. The religion is booming in Southern Africa and even within Western Europe.

Since the modern era that world, the final great blue empire has lost out to the Europeans and Americans–from their perspective the dirty, ignorant barbarians of the Northern hinterland.

When Sunnis have begun to use suicide bombings against Shi’ites, something has gone awfully wrong. The Sunnis have imported the Shi’ite theology of the underside out of rage, desperation, and a feeling of total inadequacy. The Shi’ite interestingly enough are on the march. Iran is now poised to become the power in the Middle East. Getting rid of the Taleban (on the East) and Saddam (on the West) was like Christmas—not exactly Christmas–twice in the same year for the Ayatollahs of Iran.

It was Ayatollah Khomeni would revolutionized Shi’ite theology by proclaiming that only the Ayatollahs could lead the secular realm. Khomeni was denounced in his own lifetime by other Iranian Shi’ite Ayatollahs. Prior to his overthrow of the Shah, Shi’ite theology had always maintained that the Ayatollah-Clerical Establishment were the ones to interpret the law and hold the special wisdom of the Imam (the secret, esoteric, mystical ones). But they were never expected to lead the government. Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani of Iraq, the leader of the Shi’ite community there, is of this school. He is more moderate, old guard.

The SCIRI is likely to become more hardline in the wake of the assassination of its great leader Ayatollah al-Hakim in 2004. An event that received no attention in the US press (what a surprise). Their resources and links to Iran are now wide open.

The Shi’ite have a clerical establishment which the Sunni do not. There is no Vatican for Sunni Islam–the closet thing is the University of al-Azhar in Egypt. Shi’ite religion in Iran interestingly enough is the only place where a Reformation-like movement may occur within the religion. Iran could follow the path of Western Europe. The religion of the people (in that case Catholic Christianity) which first advocates a total separation of religion and politics (“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s”), then attempts a religious takeover of the political establishment–i.e. the Papal Monarchy. A revolt occurs that overthrows the religious establishment (Luther, Reformation) and the state becomes totally secularized in its wake (the modern nation state).

Sunni Islam–particularly in the Arab world–is in dire need of reform. Unfortunately the Saudi Arabians, the Protector of the Holiest Shrines in Islam–Mecca and Medina–have been overtaken by a modernist form of Islam known as Wahabhism or Salifah. It is a fundamenatlist rejection of the modern world, depicting a glorious return to the Sunni Caliphate–not a Shi’ite Theocracy. However, in its ahistoricity, its lack of sound methodology, and corrupted rote memorizations, it shows all the signs of an anemic modernist-attempting rejectionist thought pattern. Just like Fundamenatlisms in Christianity (see earlier post).
The Saudi monarchs are no real Muslims. They are hedonists and materialist band of effete overlords living in palatial paradise replete with junkets, harems, alcohol, and excess. They only manage to maintain their legitimacy by their funding of the Wahabi sect. This relationship goes back to the origins of the Saudi monarch (1920s). With their oil money they have not only supported such ideology but have exported it everywhere in the Sunni world–particuarly to Pakistan and Indonesia. This foorm of Sunnism is inimical both to the Western world and Shia. Sunni scholars denounced the attacks on the London trains, yet have not issued a fatwa–a reigio-juridical ruling…not necessarily a death sentence as with Salman Rushdie and in any case that was issued by the Sh’ia Khomeni–against the Sunni attacks on Shias (brother and sister MUSLIMS) at any point.
That is the kind of background knowledge I speak of. Not simply saying “blue” or “fundamenatlist” without having any deeper knowledge. In his Integral Philosophy Ken Wilber notes that not only the surface features but also deeper structures are molded by the evolutionary current. The deep structures that are morphogenetically inherited at say blue–like mythic belief structures, ethnocentricism, and agarian techno-economic structure–are there but are vastly different in Shia and Sunni cases–an even intra-Shi’ite and intra-Sunni manifestations.
It is this lack of real knowledge that is troubling to me. From non-integral sources we get good information on the background and thought patterns of different groups, (sub)cultures, religious movements and so on. But not an integral splicing–a systematic placement on a developmental curve. But with only Integral-frame thinking, we actually do not learn the real contours of any perspectives arising in manifestation. We need to unite these two.
Published in: on September 26, 2005 at 8:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Religious Part IV: Abortion

Now to the thorniest of them all….abortion. This issue is a cobsweb of interrelated issues–women’s empowerment, human population, harmonizing the biosphere and the noosphere, the sanctity of life, legislative vs. judicial activism, and the definition of being pro-life (for whom, to whom, and when).

This debate no longer has much room for dialogue, if it ever did. It is so politicized that finding sane voices amidst the din becomes a near impossibility. Still, it must be addressed.

A note on terminology. I use the typical Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, anti-abortion labels. We have no netural terms for this topic which says somethin I think about our collective consciousness on the issue. Of course to say you are Pro-Life means really you are Pro what you consider to be an infant’s life. And mostly the biological life of the fetus. Is that person pro all forms of life? Or to be pro-choice, means really to be pro-abortion choice. They are certainly not pro-choice for those who choose to be pro-life/anti-abortion? So I use the terms that are familiar though I don’t subscribe to the ideology behind either.

It has been more than thirty years now since Roe vs. Wade seared this nation’s psyche. All can agree that it has been a momentous sea-change.

I’ll begin with a famous psycholgical experiment on morals done by Lawrence Kohlberg. This one has been used just about to death, I know, but it’s worth the time anyway. Here it goes: A man’s wife is dying of a treatable disease. He is too poor to afford the medicine. Should he or should he not steal the medicine from the local pharmacy?

The respondents answered yes or no. Nothing surprising there. What was important however was that when Kohlberg then asked, Why? he got three different answers.

Response 1: Yes he should steal the medicine. Why? Because he can do whatever the hell wants.
Response 2: No. Why? Because the law is the law. It can not be broken.
Response 3: Yes. Why? Because the woman’s life is more important than statues. The law is meant to help and protect people. The man should follow the spirit of the law, even if he might have to break the letter of it.

What Kohlberg also noticed is that if a person were to change his/her answer over a lifetime they always went from Number 1, to Number 2, to Number 3. Never 1 to 3, skipping two. Nor backsliding from a #3 to a #1.

So let us substitute a man stealing medicine for an abortion. Yes, because she shoud do whatever she wants. No, because it is immoral. Yes, there are higher truths than conventional morality.

Here is the source of most of the confusion. Just on the surface, Number 3 and Number 1 look the same. The man will steal the medicine, the woman have the abortion. But their internal reasons for doing so are completely different. For Choice #1, the only motivation is self-concern. This manifests too often when it comes to abortion as a choice based on convenience. Camp 3 actually sees a larger picture, and some #3ers come to believe that in certain cases, an abortion might serve the whole. [We’ll return to that issue in a moment].

Even worse, Choice #2 respondents can not distinguish between the internal consciousness of a number 1 and a number 3. In fact, Camp 2 does not even recognize the validity of Camp 3, they will only interpret them as Camp 1. Also, as we will we see the pro-choice camp has unfortunately made the same basic mistake on the whole–not differentiating between Yes #1 and Yes #3.

Some background is needed.

One thing I think it is worth to note is that there is no such well organized and vocal anti-abortion/pro-life movement in any other Western coutnry. Not even conservatives in England have much to say about the issue. There is an interesting truth to ponder in exactly why this is the case–I will deal with it in more detail later.

Also, as I noted in earlier posts, evangelical Protestant American Christians though we know think of them as against abortion did not pay any attention to the issue for basically a decade after Roe v. Wade. Only Catholics did. The Southern Baptist Convention during the mid/late 70s affirmed the right of a woman to end a pregnancy.

Something flipped during the Reagan years. Conservative Christians mobilized, and the tenor of discourse became decidely more invective. Yet it was really only until after the fall of the Berlin Wall that the real vitirol was poured on the fire. In large measure perhaps because conservatives had spent most of the Cold War focusing on the external threat of the Soviet Empire. With the demise of the collectivist Soviet regime, Americans began to focus more inwardly, and conservative Christians changed their emphasis to the perceived threats from within–e.g. ACLU, liberals, gays, feminists, and abortionists.

Operation Rescue was founded using the same techniques of civil disobedience in honor of a higher law developed by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. This was a very telling episode. The original intent of an OR was peaceful civil disobedience. Randall Terry, the founder of the group, really admired MLK, and sincerely felt he was overtuning human law in order to serve the law of God. And many of the same people who supprted the civil disobedience of the 60s and the South came out against the same processes when it came to abortion, interestingly enough. Not in all cases, certainly there are/were many people who are pro-civil rights and anti-abortion. Still, it should the gulf between the mainstream (somewhat) liberal media and government of the Clinton years and a group of Americans on the ground.

Certain fringe elements in the pro-life movement went beyond an OR, and began actively targeting abortion clinics and doctors. Again a fringe element, often fueled by young male testosterone and social ostracism, combined with a fundamentalist theology.

The pro-choice camp has not fared much better sadly. Betty Friedan, one of the true heroes of the feminist movement early on came out against the Gloria Steinmans and Germaine Greers of the world for what Friedan believed was an excessive politicization and dualism in the emerging feminist consciousness. Friedan

For Friedan the issue of feminism never had to do with creating stark either/or scenarios for women: either a woman joins the workforce and is liberated or is a homemaker and colludes in the oppression of all women. Friedan thought the issue was about liberating women’s psyche’s so that they could feel free to choose whatever it is that best expressed their deepest desires–so that a woman could be, if she wanted to although by no means had to, stay at home and raise children AND be liberated. Friedan wanted women to feel equally free whether in the workplace or the home. She wisely saw the issue was one of internal transformation more than an external change of scenery.

Friedan also argued against the demonization of men within feminist circles. Again, for her, the issue was one of integration and liberation–liberating both women and men together. For if women’s liberation came at the cost of hurting men, who would these women share their new freedom with? They would have gained the world, as it were, and lost their souls in the process. Also how does it make any sense to beginning helping women achieving their highest potentials by first making them feel like victims? How would that message inspire young women to manifest their inner strength and courage?

Unfortunately to date, Friedan’s sage advice has not been headed by most feminists nor pro-choice groups. Groups like NOW and NARAL to this day do not offer women post-abortive cousneling, therapy, support groups, etc. They are “PRO-CHOICE”; they exist to keep their political agenda. In many cases even if one believes that abortion should be legal, these groups have not had the best intentions of women at heart it seems to me. Interestingly the only groups that do offer such post-abortive support are from the pro-life side Project Rachel

Sadly their support comes with a clearly stated-agenda: to convince the woman that she has committed sin and that her healing will only come by confessing her immoral action.

So just starting off with one piece of the pie here: post-abortive depression. There are well documented studies that show increased rates of depression and even suicide among women who have had abortions. See here

The reaction of the left (pro-choice) camp is to simply ignore the facts. Deny, deny, deny them and hopefully they’ll go away. In other words living in a state of unreality. The right of course interprets these findings to prove their position–these women are experiencing these symptoms as marks of a guilty conscience and/or as punishment for their sins.

An integral position would admit the facts first and foremost. Women are likely to experience trauma from an abortion, and it could take years in some cases to come to grips with it all. AND an integral position would not necessarily assume that therefore the decision was still the wrong choice. Not to say that it necessarily wasn’t either.

One solution would be the following. We admit that many women will face emotional trauma after an abortion and that perhaps some who haven’t experienced such pain, probably should or are repressing/denying such pain. Now, if we take into account say the soul-subtle body we could argue that the pain the women is experiencing is actually the grief of the soul that tried to incarnate but was prevented from doing so. Many of these women perhaps because of their own conditioning, outside forces, or simple ignorance, misunderstand what is occurring. Some hide their pain anyway, lest they have to admit to themselves–so they think–that they did something wrong. Others lay a massive guilt trip on themselves. Others run from their pain in hedonistic pleasure perhaps repeating the cycle, alcohol, self-loathing, drugs, or whatever else.

Meanwhile no one need assume that just because a woman is experiencing the grief of the Soul that her act was inherently immoral. There is no reason to jump to that automatic conclusion as do the Religoius pro-lifers. Nor need one repress it or act as if the evidence for its existence is a lie–the pro-choice choice. Grief is a natural psychological process that indicates loss and suffering. There is no guilt to be imputed.

What Camp 3 (Integral) realizes is that all of our choices are between shades of good and evil, and we must, as Joseph Campbell said, lean to the good. Also admitting our own ignorance. We can not know all of the repercussions of our actions. AND we are still responsible for our thoughts, words, and deeds at least to the degree that we have conscious choice.

Camp 2 still holds to a black/white vision of morality. Camp 2 is supported mostly by basic formal operational cognition. An example of this is learning a simple mathematical formula and being able to plug numbers in and solve an equation but not really understanding the deeper workings of math–like how does this equation function, why does this equation work at all, how did someone discover this formula? Just so, Camp 2 has learned the basic moral equation, as it were, and simply plugs it in over and over again–formulaically. The basic moral equation itself though is never questioned, examined, or understood from the inside out. It is simply to be applied. In other words, abortion is against the Bible–so it is claimed–and then they simply treat every further case as simply different numbers in the same equation.

But even this position is better than Camp 1 which doesn’t even have a morality. In this situation, I don’t even care about the consequences of my actions, so long as I don’t get hurt and it makes me “feel good.”

Just like in math, a student has to go through a phase of learning rote repetition of an equation before they go on to higher post-formal cognition where they understand the inner workings of mathematical procedures. So in other words, a truly integrated pro-choice position would actually, get this, have to move a certain percentage of people into anti-choice position, so that they could then come through on the other side. On a higher pro-choice position.

I believe in certain cases individuals have only the choice between two evils and in that case there is ethical weight to the lesser of two evils. In certain scenarios I would say abortion might be the lesser of two evils.


Roe v. Wade argued for choice based on the first amendment’s right to governmental non-interference in the private lives of individual citizens. Now, whatever one’s view on pro-choice/pro-life, if people were honest, it would be very hard to logically get your head around the idea that abortion is covered under the right to privacy. That is a real stretch intellectually.

And, if its not clear by now, I actually believe in a pluralistic non-sectarian society like ours, abortion should be the law. But I find it very hard to understand how that is covered by the right to privacy.

I mentioned earlier that the United States is the only post-industrial country where abortion is still an issue of such heated debate–the only country where abortion evokes such emotional responses on all sides. Why is that? Again, following my hypothesis of the Religious Right as barometers of what is wrong in our society (while usually disregarding the Religious Right’s recommendations for how to fix society’s ills) we should look to the Right’s assertion that Roe V. Wade was an act of judicial activism. By this they intend that in Roe v. Wade (and other cases) the judicial branch overstepped its Constitutional bounds by legislating–the job of the Congress–instead of simply interpreting the law and ruling on the constitutionality of laws.

If I concede that the logic behind the right to privacy has no bearing, then I have to admit that the Right has a point on this one. The United States went basically overnight to having the most liberal of abortion laws in the post-industrial Western world. Our abortion laws are more liberal than the so-called bastions of liberality that are Germany and France. We are the more conservative country politically and yet we have the most liberal laws on this issue. The countries in Western Europe where liberal thought is the dominant political voice do not have such liberal laws. What is going on here? How can that be? But if we see that the issue of abortion was handled at the judicial level, then the issue becomes clearer. The Judiciary, particularly The Supreme Court is the least democratic of any institution in our country. Individuals do not directly vote for the President–the candidates to the Electoral College do, and unless you are an affliated member of one of the Two Parties voters have no choice in the appointment of Electoral Voters. Then that president nominates a man or woman to a lifetime appointment and the citizenry do not vote on the person. Only their elected representatives in the Senate do.

I’m not saying democracy is the cure-all. Democracy in our world is usually more part of the problem than the solution (Illiberal Democracy The best book written on the subject, absolutely mindblowing). Still because of the lack of direct influence on the Supreme Courts makeup, if a court were to not only rule a law unconstitutional but to actively promote a point of view, and that point of view offended a majority or significant minority’s values, then they are liable to call foul.

See abortion was handled, properly, in countries like Britain, France, Germany, and Canada at the legislative level. Therefore when passed, the legislation reflected the majority of the people.

And contrary to the opinion of Religious Right and Bible Thumpers, if referenda were held on the issue of abortion in this country–we would basically end up with a Western European view: i.e. abortion is legal but held to tighter restrictions than currently are in place.

For proof see:
Gallup Poll (See if you can splice these numbers based on the developmental sequence outlined earlier).

For all the wrangling over the issue, I am amazed at how consistent the numbers are. The majority however you slice it believe abortion should be legal but have greater restrictions. A good example would be the ban on partial-birth abortions except in the case of danger to the mother’s life. Partial-birth are horrendous procedures that in many cases are barely, if at all dinstinguishable from outright murder. In a way that a first-trimester abortion is not.

So the Supreme Court got the right answer but for the wrong reasons, using the wrong methods. Ethics are weighed as a combination both of the actual act itself and the intention behidn the act. It is the combination of the two that is important, not exclusively holding to one (Kantian deontological thought) or the other (utilitarianism).

I am generally speaking against overturning Roe v. Wade because the only people that will be hurt will be the poor. If the United States outlined abortions, then the wealthy would just fly to Canada for a weekend and have it done. And the moral righteousness of mostly middle class people who have sufficient funds to be spending time away from a 9-5 job to stand out in protest of an abortion clinic or spend their days in a political action group often committ sins of omission, showing how out of touch they are with the lives of the poor. The ones that Jesus specially loved.


There is Christian theological support for abortion–in certain cases. It is not talked about much, but its most famous proponent is none other than St. Thomas Aquinas Aquinas, following Aristotelian biology argued that the human was not “ensouled” until well after conception. Ensoulment is “getting” a soul. Although that isn’t quite right, even in Aquinas, for the Soul is actually the form of the body-mind. It would be better to say we are Souls that have a humans. Not humans that have souls. Anyway, Aquinas termed this process: delayed hominization. Teilhard never specifically mentions this topic, at least that I know of, although it is a clear logical hypothesis of his work on the relationship between consciousness and matter.

In other words an abortion during the delayed hominization phase was considered generally wrong, but not equivalent to murder. And in certain cases may be a better choice again, from teh standpoint of the lesser of two evils. It is immoral to let a woman die, but it would also be wrong to kill an embryo developing into a human being. But the choice to abort might be the lesser of two evils, given that the situation offers no “good” choice.

Or take for example the well known medical fact that women routinely have “natural abortions.” That is many times eggs are fertilized in a woman’s body, but are passed out through the menstrual cycle. Now, I have never heard of any Pro-life person advocate emergency measures on tampons at the end of a woman’s cycle. If someone really believes that life begins at the moment of conception that how can they allow for these “natural abortions?” Particularly when the argument is made that it is unnatural to abort, to consciously choose to terminate a pregnancy? The argument from nature is a flawed one for many reasons, but in this case actually it is quite the reverse: natural abortions are common throughout the mammalian species. Even worse we are human beings and we have choice over our biology–that is why we hold each accountable. We have animalistic elements to our makeup, but we are not exclusively so. Panda bears give birth to two cubs, and the mother always leaves one to die. Is that natural? We would rightly be appalled at such actions and label them infanticide. So who is to say what is natural, and more importantly who said what is “natural” is what is right?

Following Teilhard’s Law of Consciousness and Complexity it is difficult to make a total determination as to when we are “hominized” or “ensouled.” Or where life begins in other words. Life being in this case, the life-force and subtle consciousness of humanity.

Wilber defines The Basic Moral Intutition as the greatest depth for the greatest span. The question of how best the human race can create a sustainable form of noospheric community that both transcends and includes the biosphere is the most important question for our future, and the ethical frame in which all our decisions should be made.

Abortion then becomes a much more challenging question in that context. We are experiencing simultaneously over population and under population in the world. The parts of our world that are struggling with both the least developed technology and the most ethnocentric cultural norms are the ones having the most children.

Evidence shows that when women have greater access to education, finances, social freedoms, and contraception they always choose to have less children. In traditional societies and countries without governmental support (basically anywhere but the West) women must have more children to take care of them as they age. To quote Lester Brown:

Half of the world’s annual population growth of 77 million people occurs in just six countries—India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.

That’s a staggering statistic. And those countries are all at the center of revived ethnocentric and religious fundamenatlist conflict in the post Cold-War era. Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are all Muslim. Indonesia is most populous Muslim nation in the world far higher than Saudi Arabia, any Gulf State, even Iraq or Iran. Pakistan happens to be with Saudi Arabia running neck and neck the most puritannical of Sunni Islam. Nigeria is experiencing intermittent civil war between Muslims trying to establish sharia (Islamic law) in the North versus Christians and animists in the South. So the exact places where we need less people are the ones with the most growth. Sobbering meditation on the future.

Even worse, the post-industrial world particulary Scandanavia, Western Europe, and Japan are breeding themselves out of existence. They are ageing rapidly and no one is sure how their economies will cope with the massive burden of medicine, elderly care, pensions, and the like.

Empty Cradle

The excess populations from places like the countries just named are filling in the gaps in Western Europe. And those immigrants, particularly Muslim ones, are not being integrated into society. Hence the bombings in Spain and England.

Until we get a handle on how to create a sustainable human project, particularly human-human justice and human-earth justice, abortion is read out of context. It is argued out of the context of the human being as the universe aware of itself thinking, who is here to establish justice and mercy on the planet. Abortion, though it might seem a bit strange to say, is part of human development. Until we see that, then these arguments will continue.


The easy answer is that abortion should not be the focus. It is inherently divisive. What can bring us together instead? The answer is to focus on what matters: stopping unwanted pregnancies. Guess who came out recently and spoke brilliantly on the matter.


Of course the left pro-choice people totally missed what she was saying. And some/most of the Right read it only as a ploy for her future presidential run. Whether that’s true or not, she’s right. Everyone, or the majority of sane people anyway, can only connect on the issue of stopping unwanted pregnancy. Help create situations where as few women as possible have to make the horrific decision of abortion.

Evidence shos repeatedly that the best way to lower unwanted pregnancies is to promote moral absistence and distribute condoms and generate economic revenu so that women are freed up to go to school longer and delay having children. Of course in our politicized culture controlled by the single-issue PACs and religious groups no one advocates such a comprehensive integral policy. They sadly put their own ideologies before true care of others and the good of the whole. The liberals are uncomfortable with absistence/moral training, and the conservatives, particuarly in the Catholic Church are flat out against contraception.

As Sen. Clinton summarized her views on abortion: Safe, legal, and rare. Rare being the operative word.

Really rare. We should not fool ourselves at how awful and gruesome a choice abortion is, even if we accept its legality and perhaps its possible “morality” (lesser of two evils morality). The human is the universe aware of itself, and we need to transcend and include our own connection to the biosphere. Transcend and Include. Right now the portions of the world that have transcended the biosphere have not included, while the majority of the world lives enslaved to the brutality of the biosphere. Humans do have to grow into the maturity of co-creation and deciding together on balancing human population with the earth, with economics–both human and natural–and with quality of life issues.

And we need to create vehicles for women to understand the morality of the issue–whether yea or nea. For a woman at Stage 1, the answer might in most cases be, No. You need to have this child and learn what it is like to be responsible. At Stage 3, it might be yes.

The question of whether an abortion should occur because the mother realizes she will not be able to take care of her child is a most difficult one. Particularly for me as I’m adopted. So I realize I could have been aborted by such a logic. I also realize that the family I ended up in psychologically, emotionally, economically, and educationally was extremely fortunate. Most adoptions in this country, aren’t so mutually beneficial.

Either way we need to create vehicles that will help women (and men) go through a post-abortive process without the layers of guilt laid on by the Pro-Life movement.

It is a tangled web no doubt about it, and becomes the flashpoint for so many other issues. Intelligent debate on this topic is so far from common right now. This piece is just a start, and I hope generates some further discussion.

In ending I guess I never specifically mentioned my views, although I think its clear from the tenor. But just for the record. I believe someone can hold integral consciousness and be against abortion in all cases–except of course the mother’s life, rape, incest, etc. I happen not to hold that opinion, but if someone truly does hold that view I respect it. It is not integral to assume that the de facto integral position is pro-choice. That is just, in my mind, mean green meme with integral cognition acting high and mighty.

What I am pro, as I said, is pro-reducing unwated pregnancies, pro-people not having to be faced with two choices neither of which they want, pro women not getting pregnant until they are actually ready and are responsible to care for a human life.

I am pro helping women who have suffered,whether rightly or wrongly, from this decision to get help without having to be told how guilty they are. They may have to come to accept guilt and shame. That may be part of their karma, but it is not mine to know that in advance. It is my duty to console someone whatever his/her karma may be.

I believe abortion is never better than the lesser of two evils. It is never a “good” choice in my view. That is why I would never describe myself as pro-choice, so long as the choice indicated is abortion. I am pro good choices. Like not getting pregnant in the first place. I am pro the choice of giving people free contraception and education to learn how to live responsible sexual lives.

Published in: on September 24, 2005 at 4:35 pm  Comments (1)  

Religious Right Part III: Creationism and Intelligent Design

So I lied, or mispoke. I said the next installment would be on abortion, but I decided to do creationsism, evolution, and intelligent design first.

Again, always keeping in the mindset of the evangelicals as holding wisdom of the underside. In this case the elements of truth lost in a materialist metaphysics of evolution.

When Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species he postulated that the primary mechanism whereby evolution proceeded was natural selection-survial of the fittest. Around the same time Gregor Mendel, Austrian monk, was separately discovering the basic laws of inheritance, cross-breeding his pea plants in the solace of the cloistered walls. It was not until the 1950s and the discovery of DNA that Mendelian genetics was fused with Darwinian views on natural selection giving birth to the so-called Neo-Darwinian Synthesis. Evolution was now defined in the mainstream scientific community as proceeding by random mutation worked on by natural selection over long periods of time. This is the standard scientific definition still in use by most.

There are however problems right off the bat with this definition. First–spotted courtesy of Huston Smith, the great historian of World Religions–how does a scientist know that mutations are random or meaningless? All science deals with are physical observations. There is nothing in the fossilized record that shows that the change over time that is physical evolution is meangingless or random. There is no physical evidence either to prove that those changes are “meaningful” nor “non-random” either. The evidence on this point is totally mute.

Second point–this was the main thesis of the late great Stephen Jay Gould. If one assumes the standard Neo-Darwinian syntheis there is simply not enough time for mutations to work themselves out “randomly” to bring about the world we live–with its amazing diversity, complexity, and speciation. Natural selection working on random genetic mutation can not scientifically account for the totality of the fossilized record. Gould noted that the fossilized record showed periods of relative stability puncuated by disequlibirium, periods that saw massive new speciation. [Note: To Wilberites, punctuated equlibrium is simply transcend and include/transformation and tranlsation. The equilibria=translation, the punctuated=transformation.]

Third, the Neo-Darwinian synthesis has often been framed in exclusively individualist terms. The hero of this school is Richard Dawkins and his notion of the selfish gene. The selfish gene hypothesis amplifies random mutation worked on by natural selection. While not untrue, Dawkins has clearly overstated his case (as with the Neo-Darwinian position itself–not untrue just aboslutized and massively overstated). Dawkins’ major rebuttal from the scientific point of view comes from Howard Bloom, the genius author of the Global Brain and Lucifer’s Principle. Lucifer’s Principle talks of an inherent death-wish (thanatos in Freudian terms) at the biological level, thereby repelling the notion that all acts are of the selfish erotic gene variety. Second, and more importantly Bloom notes that evolution is influenced heavily by collective, “global”, machinations. The selfish gene notion does not cover inter-species symbiotic relationships nor intra-species collectivity: e.g. cellular systems, ant & bee colonies, primate tribes, etc. For other biological scientists who show the inadequacy of the Neo-Darwinian selfish-gene school see: Manfred Eigen and Stuart Kauffman.

Fourth and most devasting, the Neo-Darwinian synthesis falls into the general modernist metaphysics of materalism. Just as the Biblical fundamentalism has no Biblical quotation that states the Bible should be read literally, no physical-material piece of evidence in the universe categorically shows that only physical-material things are real. Materalism exists only in the “mind” (not the brain) of scientists and philosophers. It is not only bad science, its really bad philosophy and faith. Recall Plato’s great insight–everyone believes in something. Materalism is as unquestioned a belief structure as any fundamentalist religious doctrine. Question its underpinnings and watch a scientist react as emotionally and viscerally as any evangelical Christian when you tell them that someone can be saved without believing in Jesus as the Christ. Materalist metaphysics can not explain the reality of complexification in the fossilized record. How is is that a human being has a reptilian brain stem, a paleo-mamamalian brain stem, and a neocortex? This unknown quantity that would show up after periods of “punctuation” are known as emergent qualities. Emergent qualities are something more than simply the sum of their parts. Something new, creative, and novel emerges from within. And there is no way random mutation and natural selection covers this fact. Simply put. There is not enough time, the paradigm of mutation/selection is not wide enough to encompass a mjaority of physical-chemical-biological data.

So here is the rub of course. The Neo-Darwinian Synthesis which all told accounts for only a small percentage of physical evolution is described as the whole shebang in classrooms. The materialist metaphysical belief system (and that is what it is) is never addressed, nor the fact that there are better frames to explain the fossilized record–punctuated equilibrium, complexity, Prigigone’s dissipative structures and nonequilibrated thermodynamics, and on and on.

All of that is out there and we teach our children some stupid story about random mutation, blah blah blah long time, takes long long very long time, then changes happen. Wow. I’m excited already.

So know wonder the evangelicals (and others) bark at this. Of course they have chucked the babino with the babino’s aqua. Creationism and intelligent design are even worse. There awful science, and horrible theology.

Creationism and ID are different, even though the media typically portrays them as the same. An IDer would not necessarily disagree with evolutionary science as such–only that they believe such a process could be guided by “intelligent design” and an intelligent designer. The most famous argument for Intelligent Design is based on the analogy of a clock (hence this Designer is referred to as The Watchmaker God). You stumble upon a clock sitting on a beach. It has gears, hands, numerals, battery and so on. You assume that someone built the watch, not that it randomly pieced itself together. Nature is like this clock with its intricate inner-harmony….and you get the point.

Even more so, all of the pieces had to be in place from the beginning for the clock to work. You can not first have the gears, then later somehow they glob onto a face, then a wristband, etc. Just so, there are certain complex systems in biology that must be pre-set for the entire structure to function. The example used by Michael Behe is a cell (see Behe: Darwin’s Black Box). Behe’s work is a souped-up version of the old design argument. Much more articulate and including much more up-to-date science, but still the same basic premise.

An IDer can easily believe in a universe that is 13.5 bilion years old, as well as the idea the creation story of Genesis is meant as a theological statement not a scientific one. IDers do not subscribe to a so-called young earth hypothesis–i.e. the earth is only 6,000 years old that.

That belief is the presevere of the creationists. Creationism is a strange mixture. Prior to the modern world, the question of “literalness” in regards to the Bible only came up so far as I know in Christian theology in relation to the question of the millenium. Was there to be a real, literal concrete 1,000 year reign of peace, prosperity on this literal concrete earth that would dissolve into the Final Tribulation-Battle of Armageddon, the total victory of the Returned Christ, and the End of the Universe and the Final Judgement of Souls? Now notice the key question here–was there really going to be a literal millenium on earth? The mainline theologians said no.

Those who said yes were known as chiliasts. Origen, the great Church Father derided them for their simplistic notions. The Chiliasts also believed that we would be resurrected with the bodies we know possess? To which Origen slyly remarked–what then about the bodies of the martyrs eaten by the lions? Will they resurrect in grotesque, managled form–missing limbs, half lion-half human?

[Sidenote: Mainstream Christianity does not hold to a literal 1,000 yr. millenium: this would include the official theology of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and mainline Protestants (e.g. Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans). This view is held by many Baptist, evangelical, and fundamentalist Protestants in the United States. But again this is a minority view in Christianity, only seems majority in the United States, proof again of the total uniqueness and I would say weirdness of American Christianity].

So no literal thousand year reign. The millenium is a symbol of the life after death. The resurrected body is not the gross, concerte literal body. Nor is the Bible to be read solely as what is says concretely, literally. That was the Ancient view.

With the coming of modernism, the notion of truth was reduced to historicity and scientific observation. Was it true means “did it happen the way it says it did.” This question struck at the Biblical story because it had never been questioned in quite that way. Fundamenatlist Christians made the categorical error of assuming the modernist view of truth. Truth is only what is observable and historically verifiable. And the Bible is true. So the Bible must be scientifically, observationally, historically accurate.

The problem then with this view is not that it is backward and old-timey, it is that is far too modern. It is the inverse of modernism. The premodern theologies never had this problem because they were never stupid enough to believe that what was true was only what was physical or historically reported. Only modernists both atheistic and fundamenatlist adhere to such nincompoopery.

The Creationists show their modernist strip by arguing that the book of Genesis reports the facts. Turns out interestingly enough the notion of the earth as only 6,000 years old comes from St. Augustine, fourth/fifth century Church Father. Augustine, by the standards of his day, undertook an ingeniuous paradigm; namely, he would add up the ages of the all those named in the Bible counting backwards until Adam (i.e. Noah was such an such an age when he begat his son Shem. Noah lived to be x number of years old).

Given the historical/intellectual context, it was in a way, as brilliant a paradigm as the scientific one is in our day. It just has been superseded–transcended and included. I mean Augustine was right in his math. He followed evidence, used sound (though misguided) logic, and even left his quest open to further exploration at a later time. Coincidentally, Augustine also theorized that perhaps God had implanted seeds in the universe at creation that would grow at a later point–not exactly evolution but interesting nonetheless. Augustine’ s historical timeline is in his magisterial De Civitatis Dei (On the City of God).

Young earth creationists have bought into Augustine’s paradigm wholesale–yet again showing that it is not a solely Biblical viewpoint. It actually is a product of a Catholic theologian in Late Antiquity. No one before Augustine read the Bible that way, so those after him are not beholden to.

Augustine was a forerunner of modern thought. He is the author of the first autobiography in Western history, discovered the unconscious 1500 years before Freud, and wrote about doubting until one can no longer doubt that one is doubting over a thousand years before Descartes. Not surprising therefore that his views would lend themselves to the faux modernist evangelical creationist camp.

So how to parse all these streams?

Well, what intelligent design and creationism both get right (along with plenty of other scientific systems that are not theologically-religiously connected, e.g. Howard Bloom) is that the Neo-Darwinian explanation of evolution is flawed.

Intelligent design further is right to point to intelligence and creativity as inherent to the evolutionary process.

Creationism, as a faux modernist position, makes the same mistake as mainstream science–it assumes the materialist Neo-Darwinian position is the only one. Creationists reject it; scientists accept it. Both are wrong. The Neo-Darwinian position is only a small percentage of the mechamism of evolution. Evolution itself is not the issue. The packaging of it in terms of Neo-Darwinian materialist dribbe is. That is when the Neo-Darwinian materialist metaphysics is absolutized as the only and/or most important mechanism for biological evolution, which again I can not stress enough is not sound philosophically nor more important evidentially. The evidence doesn’t show that.

Where ID missteps is its de facto assumption of a theistic (or Deistic) theology. The Designer is a thinly veiled reference to the God of the Bible. And more so to the God of the Bible as has been interpreted and understood since the early modern period. That is God is considered to be purely separate from the world, a giant figure “out there” or “up there” somewhere. A God of the concrete imaginary premodern mythic worldview with a little rationality thrown in for good measure.

ID fails because it adds unnecessary steps and being(s). Theism, as understoood to mean a God somewhere out there is a very limited and immature form of theology. Traditional Christianity actually is best interpreted as pan-en-theistic (“everything in God” pan-en-theos). Everything is within God but God is greater than the world. God transcends-and-includes the created matrix in other words. Creation is like a baby in the womb of the Divine.

ID fails to understand the truth of eroticism from within the universe. It actually to my mind does not inspire faith. It reinforces Freud’s criticism of mythic theism–namely that the God figure as either Father or Mother keeps us from having to assume adult responsibility. For our dear Father in Heaven will take care of us all. Our dear Designer has already arranged everything for us. How sweet of him.

In Christian circles the man who overcame these silly (non)debates between creationism, intelligent design, and materialist science was Fr. Teilhard de Chardin. A member of the Jesuit Order, a Catholic priest, and a geologist Teilhard spoke of a phenomenology of the universe.

His masterpiece (an absolute must read) is The Human Phenomenon (formerly translated as The Phenomenon of Man). Teilhard begins by stating that science, by its study of exteriors (“the without“) only had two axises: large or small. In physics it is the argument between Einstenian general relativity and quantum theory. Large or small, heavy or light, vast or miniscule. But how then to fit time into that scheme–for even Einstein understood that time and space are warped together?

Teilhard stated that science had failed to find a trajectory, a guide in its findings because it had neglected the within. His phenomenology was nothing but the description of the inter-relationship between the development of materiality and interiority. He described this inter-relationship in his famous: Law of Complexity and Consciousness. In short, The Law states that the greater the degree of material complexity found in an organism, the greater the degree of consciousness and vice versa. The book simply follows the path of what he called the deployment of the biosphere (the sphere of life) until it reaches the human, then deployed into the noosphere (the sphere of thought).

The human organism has the most complex material make-up with its triune brain stem, and also possesses the first fully self-reflexive consciousness on the planet. Notice, Teilhard never said the materiality caused the consciousness nor the consciousness the materiality. He simply said they were correlated. When you find one, you always find the other. Nor did he then postulate an exterior-outside theistic God who “designed” this relationship? For if that is the case, why all the failed stops and starts in evolution? Why have 95+% of the species ever raised up to life were brought to extinction? Why all the waste in evolution?

So he trumped the materalists, the IDers, and the creationists. And you never hear his name in these debates? Why? Because both sides are wrong–the debate will not end as long as they are both lost in nonsense. Bush says that other theories of evolution should be discussed. He is right but for the wrong reasons. The Teilhardian view of the cosmos should be taught. It not only is more accurate to the data–of both interiors and exteriors–but there is something to be said for aesthetic beauty and giving a direction in life to human beings.

Teilhard famously said that we are the universe aware of itself thinking. Really ponder that for a moment. Let that sink in. All of us are the expression of Life itself in its most complex material form and greatest “centrated” consciousness (so far as we know). The Book of Genesis says that God put us here “to tend the garden.” We are the garden manifest. That is how we are the gardeners. It is our job to realize ourselves as the process itself and help co-create. To bring harmony and mutually beneficial relationship to the physio and biosphere with the noosphere, and begin building the theosphere.

That is what children could be learning in schools. How would children be if that is what they were taught to think of themselves from early on–you are the universe aware of itself. You are responsible. You are the microcosm of the macrocosm. Better theology, better ethics, and better science.

Teilhard’s cosmic vision leaves open the question of the nature of Eros in the Universe and how emergent properties emerge. It holds a healthy mystery, instead of explaining it away as “intelligent design”. It leaves God to be God.

What Teilhard did not understand was nonduality. To find out the exact relationship between materiality and consciousness you must simply inquire into this moment–What is this? Who am I? They both arise as expressions of the same Ground. That Ground can be realized, but never described.

Ultimately the materialist Neo-Darwinians, IDers, and creationists continue their battles because the play on the plane of realtivity. They are playing the game of Atman. They attempt to destroy one of the poles of relativity and declare the Absolute. Neither realizing the Absolute nor the Relative Truth.

Published in: on September 23, 2005 at 5:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Religious Right–Part II: School Prayer

Thinking about what I wrote last night on American evangelical Christianity, I decided it would be a good idea to deal with specific topics on their agenda. I am going to frame these, following the thread that they hold the wisdom of the underside in our society. What would be an integral-radical middle type response to questions like school prayer, church/state, abortion, and so on.

Topic 1: School Prayer

As I mentioned in yesterday’s note, evangelicals did not begin the anti-abortion/pro-life crusade. The Evangelical camp was more organized originally around the abolition of Biblical studies and prayer in public schools.

[Sidenote: My argument is based primarily on an article by Noah Feldman, Fellow at the New America Institute:]

The Constitution as it relates to the church/state issue has two clauses: one on establishment, the other of free expression.

The Constitution states that the government will make no law “establishing” any religious group as the official religion of the United States. This radical idea came out of Thomas Jefferson (Father of the Declaration of Independence) and James Madison’s (Father of the Constitution) movement to de-establish the Anglican Church as the official church in the State of Virginia. The Anglican Church in Virginia was receiving money from the taxes of Virginians. But many Virginians were not members of the Church of England. Patrick Henry argued that the best solution would be to give a proportion of moneys to each of the denominations based on their representation in the populace. Jefferson and Madison took the more radical route and desired to cut the funding all together. Jefferson was more secular than Madison no doubt. Jefferson might even have been combative with the Church, and hoped to see the churches/sects crumble as a result. Madison, however, seems more to have sincerely believed that both for the sake of government and the sake of religion, they should be separated. Religion has a horrible track record when it comes to coozying up to powers of the world. And rational government often fails in the face of ideologically-driven wars and policies emerging from unquestioned religious belief systems.

So the government would not formally establish a State Church as in England or german principalities.

The other clause states that the government will not impede the free expression of one’s religious beliefs, so long as those beliefs do not endanger the livelihood of others (i.e. human sacrifice).

Now those two clauses from time to time come into conflict. During the 19th century, Protestant ministers would routinely teach the Bible in public schools. Both in the North and South. The United States up until the later half of the 19th century was a predominantly white, Protestant country.

Then the waves of European immigration started and the move to the cities took over. Many Catholic immigrants came from Ireland, Germany, Italy. Orthodox Christians as well as Jews from Eastern Europe. A series of anti-immigrant WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) groups arose–think Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York–like the Know-Nothings (not that they knew-nothing, they Catholics knew-nothing). Al Smith was defeated by Herbert Hoover based primarily on Hoover’s platform: Smith will build a bridge to the Papacy.

Catholic schools began so that Catholics would not be subjected to Protestant theology in public schools. So the Catholics and Jews ghettoized themselves with their own schools, neighborhoods, sports team, and social clubs. And prayer-Biblical study from an evangelical Protestant point of view was still the rule of the day in public institutions.

Fast foward to the 50s/60s. The Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation was illegal.

Then the Warren Court made a series of decisions over the next decade or so–banning school prayer and the study of the Bible in public institutions. The Democratic Party had shifted from being the New Deal Democrats–a combination of social progressives, unionized workers in the North, and Southern whites–to the JFK elite-New England liberals. The Democrats lost the Southern White vote with de-segregation, support for civil rights, and the banning of school prayer.

So what are the Evangelicals’ claims on this subject. The Warren Court had argued that prayer in school violated the establishment clause–that praying to God (and especially to Jesus Christ) was an obvious signal that the government was establishing one religion (Christianity, and usually one form of Christianity, evangelical-reformed-Baptist) as the de facto state religion.

This issue came to a head with the widespread rejection of so-called traditional values by the 60s generation, particularly their rejection of WASP 1950s Ozzie and Harriet Eisenhower America.

The Evangelicals typically counter that their rights under the free expression clause are violated by the banning of school prayer.

Now, interesting to note that both the liberal (Warren Court) and conservative (evangelical) are right in what they argue. Prayer in school to God/Jesus Christ does violate the establishment clause, particularly after large minority segments exist in this country who do not define themselves or desire their children to be taught Judeo-Christian notions of divinity. AND the free expression of religion which is certainly not threatening to the life and limb of non-believers is being violated by banning school prayer.

Feldman’s article rightly points out that Sandra Day O’Connor, the swing vote of the Supreme Court over the last 15 years, got it backwards. She voted for support for religious institutions–the office of faith-based ministries, tax credits for children to attend Catholic parochial schools–and against free expression of religious beliefs.

So what happens when the establishment and free exercise clause seem to be in conflict? The easiest way it would seem to parse the issue would be something like the following. The Government does not have a right to establish a religion as official in this country–no one running for office of any kind must pass a religious test–nor do they have the right to prevent public grounds from being used for religious observance. With the proviso that those observances do not threaten minority citizens. Now it is probably true that an upsurge in evangelical Bible-thumping would lead to more name-calling and verbal abuse for Jewish, gay, secular, Hindu, Muslim children. This is a sad fact. Schools could be places where instead children are taught civility and the healthy respect for religious difference that is the great hertiage of the United States–incidentally and unfortunately, the liberal groups like the ACLU have gone so far out there they decry the very educational structures that would help, like teaching “civics” and “moral training” in the classroom because that is an enfringement of people’s rights. Sadly their rights are going to be much more infringed by learning nothing of respect for other groups in public school.

So, people have a right to use public grounds for prayer/Biblical study. However, to protect the (non)establishment clause, these religious ceremonies could not take place during school hours. If after school a bunch of kids want to go out on the football field and pray to Jesus, then that is their right. If that offends non-Christians, then they are free to have their own religious or non-religious ceremonies as well. On the baseball diamond if the football field is already occupied. The schools would not be preventing any religious observance. Now, in many cases schoolboards might make rules that would subterfugely put pressure against a Muslim or Hindu or Pagan religious ceremony. But that is where they could be called to the carpet. There would be no more excuse about the feds preventing their religion–they would be held to task. The right to school prayer would come at the cost of all forms of prayer or even anti-prayer if you will.

That is America. Being a minority in this country should mean that one’s basic rights at protected–that is why we live in a republic thank God, not a democracy. In a pure democracy, in this country, that was just based on the will of the people, many parts of the Constitution would be overturned, particuarly the non-establishment of an official religion–but not that your point of view is always going to be given equal weight (in terms of quantity).

So the evangelicals, as holders (of some) of the wisdom of the underside, are right that we are neglecting are heritage, our greatness in preventing public forms of worship. They are wrong in their assertion that this country was founded on Christianity. Or Judeo-Christian notions. They cetainly played an influence. But remember the Founding Fathers were Deists. They were elite liberal–in the clasical modern sense not the postmodern sense. Alexander Hamilton today would be a moderate Republican. Then he was a liberal, by his day’s standards. Jefferson made a version of the Gospels that took out all of the miraculous healings, the resurrection, and so on, and left only the parables and teaching episodes of Jesus. Those were the “rational” elements that were worth keeping. It was that man who wrote, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Not an evangelical Bible-believer. A Rational, Deistic, Architect, not the God of Biblical Revelation.

The mistaken notion that this was a Judeo-Christian nation from the start is the truth of the lower classes of our country. They typically have been such, and see the rest of the world through their (mistaken) lense. Movements like Mormonism managed to connected American Manifest Destiny political ideology with Biblical notions of a chosen people. They gave voice to the oucast from the (classical) liberal Northeast elite. Or the Baptist-Evangelical reference to America as the New Promised Land. They suffer because their religion is tied into American patriotism, and yet our government does not officially support–in some ways unofficially sure, but not ever officially. And some officially seek to undermine such a notion.

They are betwixt and between–they suffer so much in that no man’s land. But that is their choice if they are willing to choose not to evolve. That is their choice (free expression) to hold such a fundamenatlist ethnocentric view. It is their choice to suffer the consequences of never being connected (non-establishment clause). The tension between those exists to create the negation of their current worldview, so they can transform to a higher plane. Most sadly choose not to, or have no reference or understanding as to that choice.

Because they are wrong about this country being Judeo-Christian in its origins, then the prayers/ceremonies can not take place, in my mind, during the time of school. That would violate the establishment clause.

On a sidenote: The issue over the word “God” in the Pledge of Alleigance has basically no relevance here. One: no one has to say the Pledge. Two: Nobody it takes it seriously. Some off-hand reference to God in the Pledge means about nothing to no one.

The other truth that the Evangelicals point to–although their reasons for holding it and what is to be done about are wrong–is that these things were handled at the judicial level and should have been handled at the legislative level. Or a combination of the two. The Judiciary striking down unconstitutional measures (the violation of the establishment clause) while the Legislature simultaneously builds up laws to bolster the free expression clause, creating a healthy environment in the newly deconstructed one. Otherwise a void remains. The Warren Court on a number of issues struck down oppressive policies in our country, but did not establishment positive measures in its place.

This later point will be discussed in greater detail in the next installation–abortion.

Published in: on September 23, 2005 at 8:01 am  Comments (1)  

The Religious Right

I’ve been reading lately on evangelical Christianity–especially American evangelical faith and its relationship to Washington. Like what are the differences and smiliarities between a Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (Answer: Robertson is the son of a Senator. A Charismatic and Pentecostal Preacher who adheres to a minority strain of theology–knonw as Dominion Theology which believes that God lost control of the earth after the Fall and that the Lord requires a covenant people who are willing to take “dominion” over secular institutions to help bring about the End of Days. Like Run for President as Robertson did in ’88, own a television station, pray that the Lord open up seats on the Supreme Court. Falwell is an old-school Baptist. The son of a drunkard, who attended a rinky-dink Baptist Bible College. Falwell does not go in for speaking in tounges. Originally he was adamantly opposed to religious interference in secular affairs–particularly when those religious leaders were typically campaigning for Civil Rights.)

But what they do have in common is bringing evangelicals into the political process: Falwell through the Moral Majority, Robertson through 700 Club. Both as fundamentalist apocalyptic Christians are staunchly pro-Israel.

[Sidenote for the reader. If you have ever wondered why evangelical Christians are so pro-Isreal (while usually blaming all Jews for Jesus’ death) the key lies in the Book of Revelation. Thsoe who read the Book of Revelation literally as a guidebook to the future events of the world find their justification for the expansion of the State of Israel beyond the 1947 UN Mandate borders (i.e. The West Bank). All of the Jews must return to Israel before the Final Tribulation and the Return of Christ. Unfortunately most if not all of those Jews are going to perish in a horrible death. Sorry about their luck.

It must be surreal to be say a Russian Jew, persecuted in your land, accepting money to seek refuge in Israel from a white, American Evangelical Christian, who has a nice smile on his face, but secretly sees you perishing so that his God can triumph.

Normally I use the words fundamentalist and evangelical Christian interchangably. But that isn’t exactly right. Evangelicals historically, especially in the 20th century have been more connected to revivalism (think Billy Graham), show-manship (or lack thereof, think Elmer Gantry), emotional-pietistic outbursts, saving souls, as well as, in some cases, more willingness to work on social justice issues (Social Gospel movement of the 19-20th centuries). Fundamentalists, at least originally were more doctrinaire, more concerned about saving the”fundamentals” of doctrine at all cost. Fundamenatlists, originally advocated complete separation from society. Evangelicals wants to convert everyone and save as many souls as possible. But recently the two have merged in many ways. This movement is quite modern in its flexibility, lack of historical consciousness (as opposed to say Roman Catholicism), and emphasis on the individual. Fundamentalism is really the inverse of the modern project. They try to deny the modern world, but end up using the modern world’s processes to try and overtake/destroy the modern world itself, thereby showing their secret fascination.

There is only one law to the Realm of Consciousness–you become what you meditate on (particularly if you meditate on what you supposedly “hate” or “revile”). This applies particularly to violent fundamentalism, especially of a Islamist strain. The Left will not be able to win back the US government until they realize this fact–until the see the logic of the underside in its conservative reaction.

It is very interesting to me that the evangelical and low Protestant churches have always been the gathering place for Americans disgruntled with their government. In the days of the Founding Fathers, the country was run by a wealthy land-owning EastCoast elite. The Founding Fathers, to a man, were basically Deist, many influenced by certain strains of Masonic theology.

The other super-fascinating trend is that fundamenatlism does not come on the scene until after a liberal-modernist religious movement has first taken route. So for Protestant Fundamenatlism was originally only a Northern phenomenon. Fundamenatlism was started in the North, not the South. Fundamentalism was a distinct reaction to critical modern Protestant theology brought over from German theological centers and imported to American Prot. seminaries in the late 19th, early 20th century.

Fundamenatlism did not hit the South really until the Cultural Revolution of the 60/70s. That is why the political and cultural awakening of a Jerry Falwell is so amazing–Moral Majority was not founded until 1979, the year I was born!!! Falwell had been a pastor far longer than that. That was the same year that hardline traditionalists elements in the Southern Baptist Convention instigated a coup d’etat and assumed leadership of the church body.

Also interesting to note is that evangelicals were not at the front of the anti-abortion crusade. The Catholics for a long period of time were the only ones who carried that torch. Dr. C.Everett Koop (later Surgeon General under Reagan) was the first evangelical to really raise the issue. He was later criticized for putting his own personal beliefs aside as Surgeon General in advocating distribution of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS.

The way I see it, these evangelicals again are teaching us something about what the modernist/postmodernist American project, both politically and culturally, is missing. Their policy recommendations are often ludicrous and unworkable, but that doesn’t mean they should be laughed off as extremists, religious looney-toons, or backwoods imbeciles. Their criticisms are often far more penetrating than most people, even myself at times, would like to admit. We have to remember their ranks are filled (not exclusively mind you but in large measure) by those rejected by the modern/postmodern project. What is experienced as liberation for post/modernists is idolatry for them, is the rejection of their entire worldview. Sadly, once many have missed their opportunity to grow accustomed and flourish in our world during youth, they are sent down a track that is often very difficult to turn back from.

For all the talk of faith-based values voting and the influence of the Religious Right on the Bush administration (or Reagan before that), most of it is liberally hooey. The fact is the so-called Religious Right hardly makes a real dent in Washington. Sidney Blumenthal wisely noted that the Republicans, since at least Nixon, have played a wise game with the mostly naive evangelicals.

The game consists of two gambits. Step 1: Encourage their continued organization and missionizing activity, get them out to vote. Step 2: After being elected, keep them in a perpetual state of mobilization–then give them the old run around.

And if you think that is not the still the case, consider the following.

The 2 Supreme Court nominations. John Roberts will pass quite easily. Then the Sandra Day O’Connor seat, probably goes to Gonzalez, maybe a woman but likely Br. Alberto. Roberts and Gonzalez will not overturn Roe v. Wade. It won’t happen.

The Evangelicals go through periods of total withdrawl from society–as they did after losing The Scopes Monkey Trial. Technically winning the battle, losing the war. They then re-group, batten down the hatches, stick together, and eventually the pendulum swings back the other way and they go on the march. They are led out of the wilderness through a period of optimism to euphoria, believing they have achieved their goals (as in Bush’s election and re-election), but as a matter of course, their moment of “triumph” will actually be the beginning of the end.

The optimism and euphoria will quickly devolve into depression and calls amongst a new generation of evangelical leaders to withdraw from society. They will blame their own sinfulness for the failure–e.g. “It was getting our hands dirty in the world of politics that caused us to fail. We were no longer not of this world, too enamored of the lure of Mammon, and so God has punished us righteously.”

This is their moment in terms of the Supreme Court and they are not going to get it. They will never have a better chance, and it ain’t gonna happen. Whatever Bush’s personal beliefs–and they are genuinely evangelical I’m certainly not denying that…those who do are just ideologically driven–he is too political of an animal to actually allow a full-scale evangelical take of American politics. The fact is that the Bible is not a handbook on how to run a modern global economy, doesn’t give any hints about how best to fund public education, make sure the roads and sewers work, make sure automobile traffic flows properly, or any other number of things governments must do. Neither does the Quran for that matter.

The Evangelicals would never subscribe to this position of course, but on a larger scale, the Bible, I don’t believe, advocates many real specific moral positions either. The New Testament usually speaks in more generic terms: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And so on.

The evangelical-fundamentalist camps have no argument for why they read the Bible as literal word of God. There is no line of Scripture that states it should be read literally. That is a choice, a paradigm, a practice of reading that unfortunately only reveals a very limited and partial worldview–higher biblical paradigms reveal higher worldviews/states.

They have no basis as to why they pick and choose certain moral offenses from the Bible as still immoral–e.g. homosexuaity–but do not hold to others….like Jewish dietary laws or women wearing headdresses and not being allowed to speak in public.

And I’m wondering how best to reach such people beyond vague references to the need for conversion, mercy, love, courage, honesty, truth, and the like. Their worldview is so set for the majority. It gives a strong self of self, in-group, and mission in an otherwise ambiguous world.

It was like the guy who helped me get my keys out of my car at the park. I had locked them in the car, but fortunately the window was open just enough for him to stick a hot dog poker in and lift my shorts up (the keys were in the right pocket). He was so kind, so helpful. Then as Chloe and I go to leave he hands me a card and pamphlet. I leaf through it down the road, and it is typical Reformed Theology-Evangelical Fair: “All have fall short of the glory and majesty of God. Only confess that Jesus Christ is Lord in your Heart and you will be saved.” There was a list, asking me of which following sins I had committed, and then informing me that my eternal soul was up for grabs. How could a person one minute be so gentle, so loving and at the same moment hand me something that was so filled with revulsion, violence, and psychological hatred? Like Jekyl and Hyde. So bizarre. Such an interesting, if dark, perspective.

Published in: on September 22, 2005 at 7:33 pm  Comments (1)