Friday, August 12, 2005

Liberal Fundamentalism

I've been meaning to write this post for quite a while, and I think I won't be able to write anything else until I get it done. Also, I don't really have any evidence; this is just my own unproven rambling

I've been noticing in the last little while what is to me a rather disturbing trend which I'll call liberal fundamentalism. My surprise at its existence is starting to fade, but at first I was very surprised by its irony.

Here's the deal: liberals are constantly attacking conservatives and especially fundamentalists for their closed-minded-ness and unwillingness to consider other viewpoints. The argument seems to be that it's not that fundamentalists have different views that's the problem, it's that they refuse to consider other arguments, etc. The liberal idea is that all perspectives should bloom and be respected by all others.

The problem is that this is a hypercritical argument on the part of many liberals. Yes, there are some who are open to all sorts of competing perspectives. But it seems like many liberals are just as fundamentalist as the conservatives they attack. They are just as unwilling to change, as unwilling to consider differing views. The only difference is that they base their ideology on different fundamentals.

Here's one example. Bill Maher was on Larry King last night, and I heard a good deal of the interview. Now, I've heard Mr. Maher say this before, but it always shocks me a little. He made the argument (over and over) that all religious people have been brainwashed, that all religious beliefs are ridiculous, and that all people holding any type of religious belief are mentally unstable. This is after saying that he is not an atheist, but an agnostic, and that he is not unspiritual. The problem here is that he has so completely oversimplified the religious landscape that he has ceased being able to listen to any type of religious argument whatsoever. Even though he says on the one hand that he just doesn't know one way or the other about the existence of God, he is ultimately saying that the only valid view for anyone is that they cannot know and therefore should not even try to know in part. It is actually a fundamentalist view disguised as anti-fundamentalism.

I've seen the same sort of thing from religious liberals. We start to become so convinced by our own positions that we start to completely discount all others. We cease being able to listen to anything else. It's getting more and more easy to isolate ourselves among friends and media sources with which we virtually always agree and to say that anything outside our bubble is extremist and fundamentalist because they won't listen to us. Nevermind the fact that we won't listen to them either. This is dangerous state of polarization that can only lead to us vilinizing each other and getting nowhere.

Here's what I'd like to try to believe instead. If there is one thing I know, it is that something about what I believe is wrong. I haven't got everything right. Something about it is surely wrong. And furthermore, I don't know which part is wrong. So, that means that out of all the people with which I disagree, something about what each one of them says is probably right. Maybe not all of it, but there's probably some kernel of rightness in each person's beliefs. Therefore, it is necessary for me at least to listen. Besides, we are never going to get anywhere if we can't work together. We'll just get more and more polarized and keep talking past each other until finally we just hate and demonize each other. That should not be an option for the serious Christian. If we are called to love our enemies, should we not at least listen to them.


Blogger Brian said...

David - I think you're absolutely right. In one of my classes at Willamette in political philosophy my professor was all of us liberals to admit that as much as we'd like to claim to be moral relativists, the reality is that most of us are absolutists. We think that we're right, as much as we spout the rhetoric of tolerance.

I guess the one thing going for right-wing fundamentalists is that at least they can admit they're not interested in listening to anyone else's opinion.

I think one critical stage in being able to listen is to be able to realize that we can talk about ideas in the abstract. For some people, bringing ideas into your head (like that maybe Jesus isn't the only path to heaven, or that abortion in some cases might be wrong) is very threatening. But maybe that's not possible...

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you.

Something I find valuable-- and I hope that my sense of this value pervades my theology and life-- is trying to get a *feel* for the function of central tenets that don't happen to work for me, or that just aren't very important for me.

And something I find a bit curious about us liberals is how easily we learn buzz phrases and use recitation of them as a substitute for living them.

Mary Ann

3:15 PM  
Blogger NoTONoEagles said...

Help Mommy, there are Liberals! underneath my bed!!! (No, seriously, that's the name of the book...) Don't believe me? The dang thing's on Amazon, not some hippie-press bullcrap ;) Anyway, thought you might enjoy, pinko ;)

8:55 PM  

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