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David Dalrymple: Stereotypical political divisions obsolete

April 11, 2018 GMT

I question Mark Caserta’s column published Feb. 16 on “God’s plan is beyond our questioning.” His columns predictably use a literalistic evangelical faith to assail liberals and progressives. As a theologian, I find it dangerous to mix the symbols and images of our religions with those of politics.

Caserta is inferring that the will of God is synonymous with the will of the nation. That kind of faith provides mental images to justify conflicts at home and abroad. Its false moral narrative masks the slaughter in global wars and cruel injustices at home. The myth he offers can dummy us down with the dangers of becoming naive, arrogant and complacent citizens.

Caserta suggests that we need to believe rather than to question. That trust is shattered by the injustices of our national behaviors in the name of God. Such belief creates a narrative which masks the ugly truth of our bankrupting wars and economic injustices. It may blind us to our capacity for evil. It may foster a turning away from God when the Bible is taken literally to rationalize self-serving politics. This yields a staggering hypocrisy in our sacred institutions as well as houses of worship. Unquestioning faith can seduce us into naively trusting the political elite whose interests are to support unrestrained corporate America when resistive social response is needed.

As a psychoanalyst, I see the “projection of shadow” in castigations such as Caserta’s defaming of liberals. Projection is a defense against anxiety. We see difficult parts of ourselves in others. We feel temporary relief when scapegoating “the other” who is fantasized as unpatriotic or unfaithful. The shadow is “all that we are that we do not want to be.” The result of projection is the dehumanizing of the other and an impoverishment of our personality,. Projection makes civic dialogue more difficult as it reduces our capacity to respect others.

Caserta’s portrayal of liberals is poisonous trash-talking concealed under the banner of unquestioning faith. His characterizations reveal insecurities and fears in the face of our changing society. This banalizes and trivializes our religious and political conversations.

Liberals support federal law prohibiting houses of worship from intervening in elections. Liberals ensure that all people are treated with respect and dignity, their civil rights respected no matter their preferences. Liberals honor laws which removed compulsory school-sponsored prayer but allowed engagement in freely chosen and non-disruptive activities. Federal and state courts have challenged compulsory public practices that promote conservative Christian activities to protect religious neutrality in our public sector.

Caserta does not see that old stereotypic divisions between liberals and conservatives are now meaningless and obsolete. Democrats and Republicans, the left and the right are compromised by their dependency upon corporate contributions of influence, accessibility and money. All support a permanent war economy, bailouts for Wall Street robbers, avoidance of reasonable gun restrictions, perpetuation of trillions in budget deficits. All do little to help our permanent underclass trapped in unemployment and reduced social services. All are in complete or partial denial about the crisis of global overheating.

Our founding fathers enshrined that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The separation of church and state protects us from those who unquestionably believe that God is on their side and who can easily undermine our liberal democracy. Many citizens want their “freedom from a religion” which has misused religious scriptures and idolized a God that is all controlling and omniscient. The Christian theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, cautioned: “Beware of the children of light,” the well intended who do not acknowledge their shadow, especially unquestioning theocratic political forces.

David J. Dalrymple, Ph.D., is an affiliate minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, a pastoral psychotherapist and Jungian psychoanalyst.