Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sabbath's Over

My attention has been drawn away from the current media-darling issue: the economy. As I said to a friend, the economy isn't really touching me right now. It will soon enough when we're looking for jobs in (probably) academia. It will if our car conks out. It will as soon as we need a loan. I think it's worth knowing about the economy and policies and all that. But right now every argument about Keynesian vs Hayekish theories starts sounding like an argument about angels on the head of a pin. The only argument anyone's going to win is about the pronunciation of Keynes' name. (It sounds like canes.)

I don't mean to say that I don't care about people who are affected. I do care about the shit I see. I know people who have been screwed by their business connections. People who have trusted institutions but have been betrayed by the interests of a struggling provider. Banks. Corporations. A lot of weak baskets dropping all their vulnerable contents. And I feel bad seeing this crap happen to people I care about.

But my attention keeps moving to the intersection of religion and politics. And as I said to that same friend, that's probably where it's always been. I've long held on to a belief that government and religion can be separate, but often doubt that they ever will be. Of course they should be, but I also believe a perpetual motion machine would be a great boon to the energy grid. Just because it'd be awesome isn't going to make it happen.

The compromise comes because it's not up to a constitution or a law to separate the two modes. We are forced to trust individuals, and individuals are only occasionally trustworthy. It only takes a few committee members honestly believing that their religious views would survive a change of religious ideology, and a sufficient vote can be constitutionally upheld in this representational democracy.

What makes this troubling beyond pure principle is the evidence of intolerance that we've seen in recent votes and the patterns of thought that I see so often broadcast stridently by religious apologists. I'm not interested in pulling out the tired argument that religion is historically the thickest root of persecution. The Inquisitors are all dead. Responsibility calls only our current selves, and faith can rest only in those who are acting now and will act again.

What keeps me from completely giving up on the ideal is the ability we have to see what direction individuals give to their institutions. Many poor arguments are popular. Many excellent arguments are ignored. Why? What are these voices saying ex cathedra? What voices are necessary in anticipation and in response?

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