How will religion influence national and world affairs in 2009?
1…..In high winds, trees and people need deep roots in the fundament. High winds of insecurity and instability – financial, political, cultural, interpersonal – will blow locally, nationally, globally throughout 2009. In such a time, actual “religion” is reliance on whatever one believes is fundamental, providing inner security and stability, order against chaos, faith against fear, hope against despair, something worth living and fighting and dying for.
2…..A “fundamentalist,” in this sense, is a protagonist whose life is passionately grounded in some fundament under attack. When a fundament is challenged, its devotees rage out like bees from a hit hive. “Gay marriage” proponents swarmed out when California’s referendum, Proposition 8, decisively made gay marriage illegal; and they swarmed out again when President-elect Obama chose Rev. Rick Warren (an opponent of gay marriage) to give the opening inaugural prayer.
3…..In 2009, all the old and new fundamentalisms will continue heating up. In the high winds of global anxieties, even the trees whose roots hold will strike one another; inter-fundament conflicts will increase and intensify at home and abroad. We are living simultaneously in a secular and a spiritual age.
4…..In 1968, the Kerner Report said “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white.” Forty years later, our nation is split into two societies, one religious (in the usual sense: God-oriented) and the other secularist (anti-God). As fundamentalist, the former can be dated to 1912-15, the publication of “The Fundamentals,” twelve pamphlets spelling out the fundament of American Protestantism; and the later can be dated to 1933, the publication of the Humanist Manifesto, the stated aim of which was to eliminate God from recognition in American public education.
5…..Thirty years after the Manifesto, its aim was realized. The U.S. Supreme Court eliminated school-sponsored prayer and devotional reading of the Bible from our public schools. During those thirty years, a sister of mine began each day of her third-grade classes with Bible reading and prayer. “It had a quieting and ordering effect.” God was the fundament, as in the historic American mind. In the subsequent three years, said she, “I was unable to control my classes, and finally gave up teaching.”
6…..Since 1963, what has been the fundament of American public education? All can agree that education should be grounded in what is most important in human life. Well, what is it (God not being an option)? No longer “in God we trust,” but “with liberty and freedom for all” individuals: egalitarianism. For 45 years, our schools have been producing egalitarians (believers in equality) rather than theists (believers in God). The “separation of church and state” is for the freedom of each institution from the other; but the separation of religion and school has set up an alienation and increasing warfare between the two fundaments. This alienation and warfare will deepen in 2009.
7…..As America’s children have had decreasing contact with “church” (religious institutions), Americans have decreased literacy in religion and increased belief in their inherent human dignity and independence, with all the alleged “rights” imagined as pertaining thereto. Invited to teach at Esalen Institute in 1968, I found that one of those rights was the right of “the second dessert,” the choice of a bed-partner for the night (now called, in our colleges, “hooking up”). Public-school-produced children are more like marbles in a bag than cells in a body: each marble has its holy “dignity” and sacred “rights.” Why wouldn’t they be enraged at society’s denial of any “right,” such as the so-called “constitutional right to gay marriage”?
8…..Being both religious (but not old-fundamentalist) and secular (but not new-fundamentalist), Obama is a disappointment to America’s extremists right and left. But he will persist in calling us Americans to unity, and we shall see more of his fundament.