May 2006 posts

Are “patriotism” and “war” synonymous?

 From May, 2006

Patriotism is:

…driving a fuel-efficient vehicle
…donating blood
…being an active and caring part of your neighborhood
…treating your less advantaged neighbor with respect
…supporting local farmers and merchants
…fighting for better schools for all neighborhoods
…volunteering in your community
…taking care of the environment
…appreciating the diversity of your fellow Americans
…mediating peaceful compromises with those around you
…being one with the world not superior to it.

Patriotism is exemplified by our personal lifestyle choices, not by our actions in a foreign country.

How did we let this administration define “patriotism” as being synonymous with “war”? 

The new Christianity without Jesus

 Humans are capable of a wide range of cognitive and emotional expression.
We can be aggressive, tender, introspective, competitive, peaceful, emotive, judgmental, or caring. At some point early in human development, however, societies became patriarchal, and strength and power became the most valued qualities.

Although women and men are more alike than different (more differences are found within gender than between genders), patriarchal societies tended to exaggerate and encourage those differences. Work was divided along gender lines, as were the human qualities we are all capable of. Females were assigned the more peaceful, communicative, and emotive qualities, while males were assigned the more aggressive, stoic, and cognitive qualities. Just as women were considered inferior to men, so the qualities assigned to them were considered inferior and unimportant.

An alternative approach would have been to let everyone develop all of their human abilities and express each one depending on the situation, such as showing nurturance to a crying baby or showing competition when in a race, regardless of gender. People would exhibit varying constellations of the different human abilities, but it would be based on their individual personality, not on their gender. Feminism enabled many women and men to move past their proscribed gender roles, but our collective societal beliefs still cling to the past.

A comparison can be made to the God of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament. God is presented as similar to the masculine gender identity; he appears arrogant, interested in his own power, judgmental, and advocates aggressive solutions, speaking of “an eye for an eye”. Jesus, on the other hand, has qualities representative of the feminine gender identity. He was humble, and he spoke of “turning the other cheek”, taking care of the poor (nurturance and compassion), and accepting diversity. He is emotive and does not seem invested in his own power.

More interesting – and disturbing – is that our current Christian political leaders seem to have substituted God’s “masculine” identity for Jesus’ “feminine” identity. Our guiding “moral” principles seem now to revolve around aggressive national power (“my country right or wrong” and “might makes right”), self-centered personal power (“I’m going to make my own financial fortune and I don’t care about the less advantaged”), and discriminatory social power (let’s take rights away from people who are different than I am”).

We are still a patriarchy, and there is still a stigma of inferiority attached to so-called “feminine” qualities. Power is still seen as the most valued human quality and war is glorified. Could this be part of the reason that Christianity has been “de-feminized” ? The world is quickly becoming an extremely volatile place, and a cowboy administration based on a “masculinized” morality seems likely to further fan the flames, particularly as recognized states are increasingly resorting to terrorist tactics of pre-emption, disproportunate retaliation, and indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

As a secularist, I don’t believe that religion belongs in government, but if we must have it for two more years, I’d prefer our “Christian” leaders start focusing on what Jesus stood for. A government that focused on Jesus’ values, rather than on religious identification and power, may very likely be able to prevent World War 3. We need to finally agree that humans are capable of a range of behaviors, stop glorifying and overusing our “masculine” abilities, and start appreciating those behaviors previously assigned to the “feminine gender identity”. Those “feminine” qualities might literally be the saving grace for our world.

Such a shift would open up to us a whole new worldview, and enable us to finally envision (and desire) prevention of conflict, as well as non-violent resolution of grievances. A good place to start would be to address the poverty that most of the world’s citizens live in. Jesus would like that. 

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