It’s Right There in Black-and-White

“It’s right there in black and white,” folks say, citing some line in a religious text or political agenda to justify discrimination, persecution or prosecution of whomever they wish to prove their superiority.

A fundamentalist’s “Black/White” is a rigid world-view, a binary set of beliefs that lifts from its members the onerous task of thinking, sifting, or analyzing information coming from without their closed system. In a fundamentalist world, there are only two places to be: One of Us–or One of Them. We/Us are right and saved; They/Them are damned or at least consigned to a non-participatory status in the group. “Other” is a useful category in which to contain and control dissenters who become not just different or misguided, but Evil.

The religious right, and I include Christians, Muslims and Jews–few religions are exempt- and political parties are drifting further and further apart into intransigent camps, seeking only to gain control, to keep the other side from “winning.” The Mormons, already rigidly dichotomized, have their own further right wing fundamentalist splinter groups, while right wing Christians routinely and painstakingly cherry-pick a book written in a different age by non-Christians to prove without doubt (to themselves) that gays are an abomination, ignoring other Hebraic sanctions in the same chapters.

Parleys, meetings of minds, agreements, are secondary to gaining total power for the group. So why even write this essay? To fundamentalist adherents, my words are nugatory, lacking power to persuade. Black-and-white does not dialogue.

Frankly, I’m preaching to the choir, and my sermon is an exhortation to seek out the grays, the full spectrum of grays between the Black and the White bringing to light the nuances that will allow individuals of different religions, political views and sexual preferences to celebrate our likenesses and ties to our fellow beings.

Without firm ties to others we will continue to drift inevitably into a world of theocracies, oligarchies, and autocracies. Just how that can be done, I don’t know, but if inclusiveness is allowed to become exclusiveness, the few will create a smaller, meaner, more dangerous world.

As local author Jonathan Odell (“The View from Delphi,” “The Healing”) wrote recently, “Fundamentalism doesn’t work in government any better than it does in religion. Both are gifts to tyrants.”

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