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by on May 5, 2022

Religious and Political Arrogance

By Br. Mark Dohle

All men have an equal share of pride; the only difference is in their ways and means of showing it.” LA ROCHEFOUCAULD 1680 Maxims

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

Religious and Political Arrogance and Conceit

It is amazing how many people have the truth! Also how many trying to convince everyone else that they are wrong. Religious people have a tendency to believe that they are of the elect, and those who disagree with them, well, are not, and are dammed. In fact, if you are a Christian and belong to a denomination, or to an independent church, or just pray and worship at home, I can wager that in some Christian’s eyes, you are not of the elect, and are dammed.

Yes, it is wearisome.

It is the same in politics. While I believe that the vast majority of people do not identify with the extreme left or right, there is a large minority that does. They also damn each other along secular lines, which can be worse than being dammed by believers, at least in the United States, and Europe. Being canceled today in the ‘woke’ community is mercilessly allowing for no reconciliation.

I am not absenting myself from this human weakness and at times evil. Living in a society where church and state are one, while that arrangement can be troublesome, can also make it easier to live out one’s faith in peace since it is obvious to everyone who practices their faith what is true and right. The same goes for political beliefs, as long as no outside information or opinion is allowed. Today that is impossible for the most part.

The scriptures can help, but more often than not they can be troublesome since I believe we pick and choose what we are to quote and focus on. Mostly that which agrees with us in our preconceived beliefs.

Even the word ‘God’ can be problematic, loaded, and divisive. I do believe in ‘God’, in the revelation of Jesus Christ, but I have trouble when someone comes across saying that they ‘know’, and have the authority to judge and yes damn to outer darkness just about everyone.

When St. Paul talked about ‘Party Spirit’, it was not something good, and detrimental to the community. So believers and political pundits often get absorbed into this ‘Party Spirit’ which can lead to violence and even death. Perhaps the war in Ukraine can be called an extreme manifestation of that reality.

Paul lists the “fruit” (or offspring) of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. And while many of the behaviors listed in these verses are sexual sins (adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness), most of the behaviors listed are those that come from a sense of moral and religious superiority over others (hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders).”

Today, because of our ability to communicate instantly with so many on the internet, allows for contention to spread to thousands, even millions. In the past, while it caused harm, and serious problems, today it is magnified a hundredfold.

There is no way out of this quagmire, and it may lead to the ending of society as we know it, and the destruction of most of us living today. Too pessimistic? I wish it were. It is believed that we are guided by logic and rational thought. I see no proof of that, I see a world caught up in a whirlwind of emotions, and reactions, with just a touch of rational thought and logic to slow down our downward spiral to further chaos. We are however speeding towards a crash landing.

The best aspects of religion and politics can give us some light on this matter, but it is seldom followed, I believe that we are too short-sighted for that.

When we do not love, listen, or respect others, we sin. Whatever is not of love, is sin. Whatever leads to chaos, pain, and destruction is sin. Sin is short-sighted, wants a quick fix, and does not listen to others. I believe that we are all infected by this, I have met no exceptions. Those who know this, perhaps fight against it, and with grace progress is made. Those who do not, cannot face what is inside their souls, and cannot seek healing, redemption, responsibility, and most importantly, mercy and forgiveness. Mercy can only come with confession and self-knowledge. Without that, we are caught in an eternal wheel of pain, violence, and death.

People can’t afford an apartment even when they have jobs. People have jobs but still, live in their cars. Yet, in certain areas, they want to outlaw people from doing that. Yes, we do have a long way to go to live out what we proclaim we believe.

When faith becomes an ideology, it is doomed. Faith is open to the work of God in the world, and the humility to admit we do not have all the answers. Yet we are called to serve, love, and yes, to pray, and speak the truth in gentleness, respect, and love as the Scriptures counsel us to do (Ephesians 4:15). Ideologies are closed systems, and in the end they will die.

Lord, teach us to seek mercy and to give it-Br.MD

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  1. Mike Stamm permalink

    I think you’ve hit on the central problem. Communication is a two-way process; in the online world, the “two-way” aspect is optional and increasingly ignored. Otherwise we’re all just speaking (or, more often, shouting or screaming) like a shotgun into a void that’s 360 degrees in every plane. We thought we had discovered the ultimate weapon when we invented the atomic bomb, and then the hydrogen bomb…but I suspect that for humanity the ultimate weapon is the online world. It is metastasizing every day, and it is incapable of discrimination or focus. And it is so wide open that it has returned us all to the days of bitter, to-the-death tribalism, every man and woman for him- and herself and each tribe against every single one of the others. If we don’t get past this, and I see few signs that we can, let alone will, we’re all in mortal danger.


  2. mkdohle permalink

    Thanks, Mike. As I age and look back on the ups and downs of my life, I believe that the main struggle at least for me is to not allow bitterness, or cynicism to get the upper hand. Which is not always an easy process. Communication is much for more difficult than often understood.

    We use language differently and start from many different perspectives. We need limitations in order to be able to communicate anything at all. Depth and narrow-mindedness can be confused. The more we seek answers, we do become more focused and perhaps more compassionate towards others, because we have found a path and walk it. It is the struggle that leads me to see how difficult it is to do that and leads me to be able to make jumps for others, who have the same struggle. However, the frustration is reoccurring and wearies me.

    As a Christian, I try to find ways to help me deal with life, others, and our current cultural issues which are troubling.

    Funny how life can seem such a long journey, and at the same time it all goes by in a blink.



  3. Dana permalink

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom here, Br. Mark. You are one of several individuals who helped me as a survivor of severely damaging child/adolescent religious abuse in a cult. You probably didn’t know that. The realization there are some faith-based people who are open-minded and compassionate was enlightening and life-altering. Some are even mystics as I am, but aren’t all humans mystics? Perhaps accepting this as a core truth about our species would help us as a collective. No one is born with belief in a deity or a specific religion. Those propensities later on are often just products of nurture and geography.

    Some time ago I realized how rigid thinking and inward hatred wasn’t helping me. That leads to behaving in an arrogant and obnoxious manner, which has never been my friend. I’m kind to myself as someone with a lot of insecurities. Who doesn’t have those? Years ago Marco suggested this to me, “See humans for who they are, not who you want them to be.” That can be one of my greatest challenges, but essential if I want to have healthy relationships with other people.

    We can be angry without reacting in a mean-spirited manner. Anger is just an emotion just like any other, and it can either harm or help us. Channeling it into something productive (such as activism that benefits society) is helpful. There is nothing wrong with feeling the range of human emotion, and suppressing some of them may hinder development. I know I have felt all of them at some point. How we express and manage certain ones is what matters.

    In my early twenties I lived in rural Cherokee Co. and had a bumper sticker stating, “God doesn’t believe in me either; things even out.” I removed it when I realized it might target my vehicle for vandalism. That’s unfortunately how society can operate. There is so much rage.
    Eight months as a rideshare driver in Atlanta was even more enlightening. People use their vehicles as a medium for expressing anger and stress about everything else going on. They’re even willing to risk permanent injuries and death.

    In 2020 opinions about masks found me just steps away from a customer physical altercation. Nine months of full-time retail work in one of Atlanta’s busiest hardware stores nears the top of my list of stressful circumstances to date. And I’ve lived a lifetime of those. Human contact with strangers seemed to be all or nothing, whether the trite “We’re all in this together” or arrogance, entitlement and anger. I had a conversation with an acquaintance who is a retired APD homicide detective. His wise suggestion was, “Don’t even mentally police mask-wearing.” It was easy to forget some are unable to wear a mask for reasons other than being stupid or willfully ignorant.

    As for social media, it can be possible to endanger oneself with our opinions and arguments with total strangers. There are so many identifiers even if the risk is minimal. I was hesitant to acceot the offer as administrator for Andrew Yang’s Atlanta Facebook page. That’s when I fully realized the potential for harm since we had local events. I was cautious and courteous online, wondering why anyone wanted vitriol in their lives. Perhaps some of it is a need to be “heard.” I can empathize with the need to connect. As a part of the “Yang Gang” I observed fellow campaign volunteers leading by example. They eschewed mud-slinging or even private jokes about other candidates from any party. We can oppose without being complete jerks.

    You often speak about forgiveness and compassion. I’m capable of those, but sometimes I wish I could also forget. The pandemic helped with perspective, and I began to see more decency others. But it will be a lifelong challenge regardless, significantly because former abusers never acknowledged or accepted responsibility for their actions. It seems probable few want to accept that their religious “truth” can cause incurable disorders (such as PTSD) in others. Sadly, that’s what human-made religion can do, especially with children. Some used to claim it was so “cute” I memorized and would quote Matthew chapter 28 (resurrection story) in the second grade. I reminded them that was only a coping mechanism for exposure to the grisly horror of the crucifixion story. Someone else’s “truth” may cause another’s lifelong suffering.

    I laughed out loud at your opening statement, “It is amazing how many people have the truth!” Well, I wrote another comment that is more of an entry itself. I know you understand how mucn stream-of-thought writing can help us. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, and for inspiring my own.



    • mkdohle permalink

      Dana, some non-theist I believe reject all theories of “God” which is truly a loaded term. Yet know that there is ‘something’. I feel that people like you are closer to the reality of the deep mystery of life, who we are, and God. Below is a quote from Raimon Pannikar, a Christian writer who while of the faith, is on the edge moving outwards towards the mystery. It is from the book, “The Experience of God”. Many Christians do not like him, because they do not understand that the mystery of the divine will always be there, it is part of our journey to delve into that mystery.

      “The experience of God, in as much as it is experience of the divine, is for Panikkar an experience “not only possible, but also necessary in order that all human beings might become aware of their proper identity.” Because “human beings are fully human if they have the experience of the divine; if not, they have not yet come to integrate themselves in the human.” This experience of God, however, cannot be “monopolized by any religion, by any culture, or by any system of thought.”
      The experience of God “is not an experience of anything, nor an experience of anyone; it is not a special experience nor a specialized one: it is pure experience, it is precisely the contingency of being with, of living with, because I am not, I cannot be an isolated being.” Therefore, it is “experience in depth of each and every human experience … the deepest root of all experience” and thus “without the bonds that unite us with all of Reality I cannot have the experience of God.” It is the experience of “contingency”: cum tangere, touching the tangent, the recognition of the limits themselves, where one perceives that there is something “more,” “beyond, something that rises above, that escapes from the limits themselves, and that transcends all limitation.
      In this respect, it is necessary to distinguish between faith, act of faith and belief, the set of beliefs that articulate a religion.

      In all, there are favored places for this experience of God that Panikkar ends by elaborating in nine points: love, thou, happiness, suffering, evil, forgiveness, crucial moments of life, nature and silence. The Christian experience of Go is characterized by the encounter with Christ and the Trinity, through the experience of Jesus of Nazareth.

      The book ends with an expressive chapter on speaking about God, in another set of nine extremely suggestive sutras: Speaking that assumes interior silence and purity of heart. “Sui generis” speech. Speech from all of our being. Speech that is not confined to any Church, religion or belief. But necessarily mediated by some belief. Speech about a symbol, not about a concept. Polysemic speech. God is not the only symbol of the divine. Speech that necessarily returns to a new silence.”


  4. I am so amazed at the quality and depth of the post and the exchange it has inspired. I find myself with little to say, and just wanting to spend time appreciating the thoughts that have been brought to me.


    • mkdohle permalink

      Your gift to to others is to get them (me) to think along lines that might not be considered. Your joy is to see it happen. You are a true teacher, an honor knowing you.



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