Here is part one of this series: Religious Freedom In the Midst of the Culture Wars
The first people I would call to account for their behavior in this kerfuffle would be the politicians and the media. The current concept of culture war is being churned (as is the way with actual war) by the politicians jockeying for power and position. The media feeds the beast.
Politicians have a way of being most sincere about the lines they are drawing. They make it appear that there is something to fear. They can find all of the concerns that constituents possess and them amplify them to terrors that must be stopped. In Pat Buchanan's day, it was the Religious Right or Christian Coalition or Moral Majority. The politicians of those confederations identified all of the anxieties where the moral fabric of the nation was coming to pieces. They proclaimed loud and proud how the enemies of traditional family values or moral propriety were leading this nation away from its once proud heritage.
In our current political climate, the Religious Right is countered by the Anti-religious Secular movement. The Christian Coalition is at even pace with Secular Humanists. The Moral Majority isn't so major anymore. But as these countering voices have come to prominence, they have used all of the same tactics as the previous champions of political opinion.
Our current political climate is more one of sniping and barraging their opponents. They want to do anything and everything to lay waste to the resources that their opponent may be able to take advantage of. But neither side stops to consider for one moment that the only resource they or their opponent has are people. Who is in the crossfire? Who are the acceptable losses? Who are the collateral damage? It is not other politicians. It is not lobbyists. It will be the hearts and souls of the proletariat and average Joe.
And don't count corporate business into that lot. They are insulated. For all of the bluster that one party looks out for big business, both sides realize that they cannot function unless that cater to the economic role that large corporations play. The sides talk a really good game to energize the voting populous. But macroeconomics demands that, at this stage of our national existence, big business needs the favor of politicians and politicians need their influence.
The politicians who seized on the lawsuits that were growing out of the contention over same-sex marriage rushed to play on the emotional energy present. When everyone is clamoring that the law needs to be tweaked, that signatures will not be provided unless rewritten, that the law has to be clarified at every turn should tell us that the politician who brought it forward did not do their job. Their job is to represent all of the people of their constituency. If they are writing unclear legislation that represents only a portion of their ENTIRE district, then they have failed to show themselves capable of doing the job.
The RFRA legislation that needs a companion piece of legislation is a waste of time and money. It is a failure to understand the basic principles of what a representative government does. And it shows a fundamental lack of logical and critical thinking. Maybe I have just been too brainwashed to get this, but shouldn't the people we elect into offices of authority have the basic ability to critically think about the legislation they write? Shouldn't they be able to see the potential weaknesses and pitfalls? Or lets put it back into the cultural war analogy - shouldn't they have a strategist that helps them see the ambushes and the strong-points of the enemies defenses?
RFRA legislation (as well as any other bill) that is poorly written and does not represent the people who have entrusted politicians with the task of writing is a waste of the tax payers trust and votes.
And now the media.
I am sitting here, writing on the internet - media.
I can turn on television news at any hour of the day - media.
I have satellite radio and can listen to talk radio at any point, any where I am - media.
I don't buy newspapers or news magazines, but I hear they are still being printed - media.
The thing that all of them have in common is that they are driven by content. The internet needs people contributing new material in order to make it viable. We have networks (does anyone remember when CNN was the only 24 hour news service on t.v.?) that have to fill 24 hours with something so they can pay people and keep broadcasting. Radio chatter boxes fill the airwaves with what seems like endless streams of opinion. And what used to be the leading news source for people, is struggling to prove itself to a digital generation.
At one point, information was the primary content of these media sources. But if you haven't noticed it, try and step back from media. Information has been replaced with opinion. Newspapers would have a "letters to the editor" column. Then syndicated editorials filled the page. CNN provided news from around the world. Now we have CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and numerous other channels that have a block of time for news. The rest is commentary on news from experts. Radio chatter boxes are still opinionated voices. Instead of reporters or correspondents on the ground, the internet turns to bloggers (hi there!).
Media has found that news and information does not sell. But they can sell opinions. They can sell opinions because those stir emotions. So the more opinions they can shovel out, the more emotional response they engender in the consumers. And that is what we are - consumers. We feed off of the media.
The reality is that media that works in this way drives the culture wars. How do we know who to hate? How do we know what opinions are wrong? How do we decide what course we are going to follow? We have someone telling us what side we need to be on. And the side we agree the most with is the side we jump to.
The great thing about people is that, given a level playing field, everyone can get along. I have noticed that families and churches and schools and communities tend to have less strife on a person to person level. When we are confronted with a person, most of us are decent enough to accept them. But when we have a third party telling us that this person did "such-and-such" or they are "that kind" of person, then strife begins and we aren't decent to each other.
The lines drawn by the media, the sides of the culture wars, are all about what the other side does wrong or how bad they are or what kind of people they are. We, good people, are better than that.
So, shame on politicians who play on fear and emotion to bolster their position.
Shame on politicians who waste our trust and precious votes because they don't have the critical ability to do their job.
Shame on the media for giving up on the task of informing the people.
Shame on the media for driving wedges between good people who are better off without it.
Tomorrow I'm talking to my people - the church.