Sunday, January 30, 2011

Liberalism and Religion - We Should Talk

Liberalism's objections to mythic forms do not apply to formless awareness. Thus liberalism and authentic spirituality can walk hand in hand.There are two major dialogues in the modern world that I believe must take place, one between science and religion, and then one between religion and liberalism.

The way it is now, the modern world really is divided into two major and warring camps, science and liberalism on the one hand, and religion and conservatism on the other. And the key to getting these two camps together is first, to get religion past science, and then second, to get religion past liberalism, because both science and liberalism are deeply anti-spiritual. And it must occur in that order, because liberalism won’t even listen to spirituality unless it has first passed the scientific test. (Showing how that might happen was a major theme of my book, Sense and Soul.)

In one sense, of course, science and liberalism are right to be anti-spiritual, because most of what has historically served as spirituality is now prerational, magic or mythic, implicitly ethnocentric, fundamentalist dogma. Liberalism traditionally came into existence to fight the tyranny of prerational myth and that is one of its enduring and noble strengths (the freedom, liberty, and equality of individuals in the face of the often hostile or coercive collective). And this is why liberalism was always allied with science against fundamentalist, mythic, prerational religion (and the conservative politics that hung on to that religion).
But neither science nor liberalism is aware that in addition to prerational myth, there is transrational awareness. There are not two camps here: liberalism versus mythic religion. There are three: mythic religion, rational liberalism, and transrational spirituality.

The main strength of liberalism is its emphasis on individual human rights. The major weakness is its rabid fear of Spirit. Modern liberalism came into being, during the Enlightenment, largely as a counterforce to mythic religion, which was fine. But liberalism committed a classic pre/trans fallacy: it thought that all spirituality was nothing but prerational myth, and thus it tossed any and all transrational spirituality as well, which was absolutely catastrophic. (As Ronald Reagan would say, it tossed the baby with the dishes.) Liberalism attempted to kill God and replace transpersonal Spirit with egoic humanism, and as much as I am a liberal in many of my social values, that is its sorry downside, this horror of all things Divine. Liberalism can be rightfully distrustful of prerational myth, and yet still open itself to transrational awareness. Its objections to mythic forms do not apply to formless awareness, and thus liberalism and authentic spirituality can walk hand in hand into a greater tomorrow. If this can be demonstrated to them using terms they find acceptable, then we would have, I believe for the first time, the possibility of a postliberal spirituality, which combines the strengths of conservatism and liberalism but moves beyond both in a transrational, transpersonal integration. The trick is to take the best of both, individual rights plus a spiritual orientation, and to do so by finding liberal humanistic values plugged into a transrational, not prerational, Spirit. This spirituality is transliberal, evolutionary and progressive, not preliberal, reactionary and regressive. It is also political, in the very broadest sense, in that its single major motivation, compassion, is pressed into social action. However, a postconservative, postliberal spirituality is not pressed into service as public policy, transrational spirituality preserves the rational separation of church and state, as well as the liberal demand that the state will neither protect nor promote a favorite version of the good life. Those who would transform the world by having all of us embrace their new paradigm, or particular God or Goddess, or their version of Gaia, or their favorite mythology, these are all, by definition, reactionary and regressive in the worst of ways: preliberal, not transliberal, and thus their particular versions of the witch hunt are never far removed from their global agenda. A truly transliberal spirituality exists instead as a cultural encouragement, a background context that neither prevents nor coerces, but rather allows genuine spirituality to arise.

But one thing is absolutely certain: all the talk of a new spirituality in America is largely a waste of time unless those two central dialogues are engaged and answered. Unless spirituality can pass through the gate of science, then of liberalism, it will never be a significant force in the modern world, but will remain merely as the organizing power for the prerational levels of development around the world.

Material in this column appears in One Taste: The Journals of Ken Wilber, from Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston. © Ken Wilber, 1998.    Liberalism and Religion - We Should Talk, Ken Wilber, Shambhala Sun, July 1999.

Via JMG: Quote Of The Day - Dan Cathy

"In recent weeks, we have been accused of being anti-gay. We have no agenda against anyone. At the heart and soul of our company, we are a family business that serves and values all people regardless of their beliefs or opinions. We seek to treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect, and believe in the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself. We also believe in the need for civility in dialogue with others who may have different beliefs. While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees. [snip]

"Chick-fil-A's Corporate Purpose is 'To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us, and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.' As a result, we will not champion any political agendas on marriage and family. This decision has been made, and we understand the importance of it. At the same time, we will continue to offer resources to strengthen marriages and families. To do anything different would be inconsistent with our purpose and belief in Biblical principles." - Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy, claiming to have ended his company's support of the anti-gay marriage movement.

RELATED: The New York Times covers the controversy.

reposted from Joe

Via SacBee: Gay rights activists blast fast-food chain

  By Kim Severson New York Times 
     ATLANTA – The Chick-fil-A sandwich – a hand-breaded chicken breast and a couple of pickles squished into a steamy, white buttered bun – is a staple of some Southern diets and a must-have for people who collect regional food experiences the way some people collect baseball cards.    New Yorkers have sprinted through the Atlanta airport to grab one between flights. College students returning home stop for one even before they say hello to their parents.    But never on Sunday, when the chain is closed.     

Nicknamed “Jesus chicken” by jaded secular fans and embraced by evangelical Christians, Chick-fil-A is among only a handful of large American companies with conservative religion built into its corporate ethos.       

But recently its ethos has run smack into the gay rights movement. A Pennsylvania outlet’s sponsorship of a February marriage seminar by one of that state’s most outspoken groups against homosexuality lit up gay blogs around the country. Students at some universities also have begun trying to get the chain removed from campuses.    
“If you’re eating Chick-fil-A, you’re eating anti-gay,” one headline read. The issue spread into Christian media circles, too.     

The outcry moved the company’s president, Dan Cathy, to post a video on the company’s Facebook fan page to “communicate from the heart that we serve and value all people and treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect,” said a company spokesman, Don Perry. 

Providing sandwiches and brownies for a local seminar is not an endorsement or a political stance, Cathy   said in the video. But he added that marriage has long been a focus of the chain, which S. Truett Cathy, his deeply religious father, began in 1967.    

The donation has some fans cheering and others forcing themselves to balance their food desires against their personal beliefs.    
“Does loving Chick-fil-A make you a bad gay?” asked Rachel Anderson of Berkeley.     

Anderson has been with her partner for 15 years. They married in California during the brief period when same-sex marriage was legal in 2008. They have 7-year-old twins. A visit to her spouse’s family in North Carolina always includes a trip to the chicken chain. But as she learns more about the company, Anderson is wavering about where to eat when they travel to Charlotte in April.      On the other hand, Rhonda Cline, a dental hygienist in Atlanta and a devout Christian, has gotten more outspoken in her support. She was one of nearly a thousand people who logged onto the Chick-fil-A Face-book page to comment on the issue.    

“I applaud a company that in this climate today will step out on a limb the way the Constitution allows them to,” Cline said.    

Chick-fil-A runs 1,530 restaurants in 39 states, but it still feels like a hometown restaurant to fans in Georgia, which has 189 outlets. Sales figures for 2010 will most likely be over $3.5 billion, a spokesman said.    

S. Truett Cathy, the founder, is an 89-year-old, Harley-riding Southern Baptist who opened a small diner near the Atlanta airport in 1946.    Because the company remains privately held – his two sons run it – it can easily keep its faith-based principles intact. The company’s corporate purpose is, in part, “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”     

With its near-national reach and   its transparent conservative Christian underpinnings, Chick-fil-A is a trailblazer of sorts, said Lake Lambert, the author of “Spirituality, Inc.” and dean of the college of liberal arts at Mercer University, where he teaches Christianity.     

“They’re going in a direction we haven’t seen in faith-based businesses before, and that is to a much broader marketing of themselves and their products,” he said.    The sandwiches that will feed people who attend a February seminar, called “The Art of Marriage: Getting to the Heart of God’s Design,” in Harrisburg, Pa., are but a tiny donation.     

Over the years, the company’s operators, its WinShape Foundation and the Cathy family have given millions of dollars to a variety of causes and programs, including scholarships that require a pledge to follow Christian values, a string of Christian-based foster homes and groups working to defeat same-sex marriage initiatives.       

For organizations like Georgia Equality, the state’s largest advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues, the free sandwiches offer an opportunity for organizing.     

On a petition posted on the website , it asks the company to stop supporting groups perceived as anti-gay, including Focus on the Family, an international nonprofit that teamed up with Chick-fil-A a few years ago to give away CDs of its Bible-based “Adventures in Odyssey” radio show with every kid’s meal.     
As of early Saturday, it had 25,000 signatures.   
     “If you’re eating Chick-fil-A, you’re eating anti-gay.”    – headline on a gay blog “We serve and value all people and treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect.”    – Don Perry, spokesman for Chick-fil-A

Today's WTF?: The Nazi's Met in a Gay Bar?