Last Sunday, I spent time with a dear friend and philosophy professor talking about violence in the name of religion and how so many Christian young adults are ill-prepared to deal with objections to their belief system.
Earlier this week, I listened to an NPR interview with Maajid Nawaz, an Islamist radical who, after reading “Animal Farm” in prison, denounced his radical fundamentalism in favor of moderate interaction with society.
Mid-week, I participated in a denominational appeal to attract college students to participate in church planting. They were told it’s what they needed to do. Then given pizza. I also met some young women (age and gender given not in a patriarchal, misogynist way, but only to clarify that I’m old and a dude and they’re neither) who created a blog to help women discover worth and value.
Last night, members of my community, including friends and peers, gathered to fight a repeal of my city’s anti-discrimination policy concerning Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. There are people in my town actively admitting they want to discriminate. I was home eating nachos. Without sour cream.
It’s been a weird week.
Throughout my cognitive life, I have run a spectrum of beliefs, staying mostly within right or left of center. Sure, there was that time in grad school when I rejected total depravity, and the experimentation in college with revivalist preaching, but for the most part, I like to keep the ideological spaz cap tightly secured.
However, at the risk of over-simplicity, we live in a world of polemic extremes. People on every side of aisle are playing this game to win, creating enemies, both real and perceived, and figuring out strategies to defeat them. The Culture War, The Gay Agenda, Islam vs. The West, Ken Hamm and Bill Nye The Science Guy, The Battle over Obamacare, The War on Christmas, The Game of Thrones, everybody seems to hate somebody. You’re nobody ’til somebody hates you.
I have opinions and I have beliefs. (No really, I do.) I hold strongly to them, I believe and do my best to live them, and I have no intention or desire to change several of them. What I cannot do is join the frenzy. What I cannot do is actively seek to exclude. What I cannot do is participate in the creation of extremist radicals who revel in rejecting dissent and demand certitude and servitude, who may never blow up a building, but would blow up relationships, family, and community over opinion, perspectives, and ideologies.
I want to talk about a few things in a few blog posts. I want to share my perspective on moderate radicalization, how many people in and out of my tradition are being pushed to see their neighbors, family, even friends as an enemy, and how that perception erodes the fundamental teachings of my faith tradition.