Religious Extremism is No Virtue – Ever! by Greg Albrecht

Human history is a long record of individuals, societies and cultures living in the muck, mire and manure of their own swamp.   While there are countless religious extremes and un-Christ-like swamps in which we can find ourselves, we can simplify the metaphor by speaking of two ditches on the side of the road that we can visualize as the Jesus Way.  History tells us that when individuals, people-groups and nations grow tired of the smell of the ditch/swamp in which they exist, faced with the futility of their philosophy, values and stupidity, they/we rush across the road in a mad dash to jump into the other ditch.  

I remember seeing a compelling public television documentary about students at the very strict Bob Jones University.  Of course many students enrolled at this fundamentalist Bible college because they were indoctrinated by parents and grandparents … just like students who attend any other college, religious or not.  Some students were there because they believed it to be the only true college – other students attended because mom and dad insisted they attend.    But the documentary was specifically interested in those students who were attending the school but who had not been influenced by this brand of religious fundamentalism.  Why were they attending this conservative “holy huddle”?   The evidence presented suggested that many such students had rejected an extreme “liberal” upbringing where there were no rules other than narcissism – they came to Bob Jones U because of its unabashed, bold and brash allegations of “truth.” 

I believe the opposite happens as well – when fundamentalists revolt, seeing the bankruptcy of their past beliefs and practices, they are often intrigued by the most liberal and unrestrained atmospheres and environments.  

For example – consider the categorical, take-no-prisoners dogma on so many college campuses, with students who say they worship tolerance above all, all the while insisting that they be protected from anyone who disagrees with them and feeling justified in disallowing freedom of speech for all with whom they disagree.   It’s the flip side of intolerance of the right, same methodology, but now bowing down to the god on the extreme left.  

Humans desire certitude and dogma.  It really does not matter which ditch and type of manure they are existing in or come from, they (we) love absolutes.  Religion and politics know this so very well, and history proves how this intrinsic felt need to have pat answers has paved the way and allowed for abuse, in so many ways.   The world at large is and has been pimped out by the big institutions who manipulate, abuse, rape and pillage.   It’s exactly what Isis and radical Islam is pumping into the heads of young, disaffected Muslims who come to believe the Great Satan has denied them opportunities for comfort and wealth.  

Those wise souls, usually older, in any given society – who find themselves, as teachers, pastors, priests, authors, even some politicians – trying to convince those they serve that the world is more complex, and that there really is a wiser, middle way and ground, find that the task of convincing folks that there are issues that are not easily nailed down do so at their own peril.   It is a perilous path, a raging river to swim upstream against the tides of doctrine, canon, dogma and ex-cathedra (to use terms from the world of religion) – with the most difficult challenge being the all too real potential that one dispossessed and convinced against one set of dogmas will jump into the other ditch of absolutes.   It is the fear leap of “faith” from the frying pan into the fire. “Here is now my freedom, give me now my bread.” 

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