In the past 20-30 years, politics have been increasingly used to identify and separate us. We are no longer people who hold a variety of complex ideas that we believe could improve the human condition. We have been reduced to conservatives or liberals…Democrats, Republicans or…gasp… Independents. We cannot have nuanced views. We must join a tribe. And, according to our political leaders, we must support that tribe unconditionally. Our tribe can never be wrong.
In the immortal words of George W. Bush, “You’re either with us or against us.” There is no room for compromise. Indeed, the Speaker of the House – the man twice removed from the presidency – cannot even bring himself to say the word.
Similarly, religion has become more than a personal belief or a matter of faith. It has become a source of identity…an exclusionary club that shows our superiority. “Only my religion knows the true path to everlasting life and salvation. Unless you join us, you will be going to hell.” You can no longer be an individual. You cannot, as Jesus commanded, “… go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” You must join a club…the bigger the better.
You must share your beliefs with anyone who will listen and try to force them on everyone else. You must ask others to share the expense of your clubhouses by proclaiming them free of property taxes. You must accept the belief that God has chosen our nation, our party and our sports teams above all others. You must thank God for every touchdown, every goal and every victory. You must petition the government to create and protect monuments to your beliefs on public property. You must demand that the public pray as you would pray before and after any public event. And if they won’t, you must condemn the non-believers for waging a “war” on your faith.
Does it really have to be this way? Are we so uncertain of ourselves that we must rely upon organizations and others to define us? Is there no longer room for individualism? No room for a diversity of beliefs and attitudes? Can we not tolerate others who do not believe as we do? Must we try to force our beliefs on others? Must we victimize others through racism, sexism and a variety of other ‘isms?
Mere labels cannot, and should not, define us. Is it not enough to be defined as human?