Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The Graph and the Axes

Concerning this graph:

Cynthia asks in a comment:

What are the axes for a graph that you would propose? Would it make sense to frame one where one was government focused on protection from outside threats vs. government focused on social support for Americans and the other axis was morality focused on individual responsibility vs. societal responsibility? That latter one in particular doesn't really capture the way to frame the differences in morality focus from left to right, so I'm still struggling with how to frame the spectrum.

If you take on the task of mapping where denominations and religions fit into the social and political issues of the day, it seems that you have two choices: one is to map where people say they are on the issues as they understand them. I think that that approach is not particularly useful for religious leaders, although it may be useful to political strategists. What you are going to get, I am afraid, is a mish-mash of what people heard on the news last night as filtered through mainstream political comment.

The second way starts from doing the political and historical analysis of the political and social conflicts of the country (and world). Then, trying to find a way of discovering what people stand implicitly or explicitly about those issues. And when dealing with religious bodies, I would want to track as separate items, what the people in the pews think, and what the religious leaders have been teaching, as reflected in their official statements. After all, religious bodies are thought worlds with some degree of teaching and learning attempted.

I think that Unitarian Universalists have done some political and historical analysis of the issues. Our history of humanist pragmatism has directed us toward reality as our text. We are deeply interested in what is going on, in fact. The religious texts of the world, to us, illuminate some aspects of reality. In many other religions, the texts are the truth and daily reality illustrates them.

I think that UU leaders, in the period of time, have come to a conclusion that the fundamental social and political issues are, to state them baldly, race and sex. Those are the core differences, but they come down complicated and particularized through history.

Greg Howard writes an article with the title:
"America is Not For Black People" 
I would define the core contradiction in American politics as: Is the USA a nation where the interests of white people are systematically favored over the interests of people of color, especially African Americans, where the interests and well-being of people of color are systematically shorted to preserve the privileges of the white majority, and where it is necessary therefore, to disempower people of color. (You could spend a lifetime of great conversation and research to get that statement exactly right and fully comprehensive. And daily work to see that  contradiction as it plays out in daily life.)

And the second contradiction, which is related to the first: Is the USA a social order in which the needs, autonomy, safety, well-being of women is systematically shorted for the benefit of men? (Again, a lifetime of work to define that issue properly and to see it in action.)

I want to know where the religious bodies stand on these issues -- not only what they teach and proclaim, but where their members stand as well.

Again, the reason why this matters is that one of the tasks of religious leadership is to offer to people a picture of life from the largest possible perspective. What really matters? What does it mean to be alive in this moment of time? What time is it on the clock of the world?


No comments: