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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Toward a New Enlightenment

The Constitution, and constitutional systems of government have always had a weakness - one they share with every form of democratic government. It has been pointed out since Plato. Where authorities are chosen not on the basis of their ability to govern, but on their popularity, you will get leaders more concerned with their popularity - the source of their power - than with the proper governing of the state.
Plato saw Athens thrown into a series of ruinous wars by politicians who riled up the voters into a patriotic furor in order to advance their own careers. Sound familiar at all? Generals and leaders were selected at the will and whim of the people, who regularly replaced competent, but uncharismatic leaders with popular, but incompetent ones. The disaster of the Peloponnesian War resulted, and the democratic government of Athens fell to the "Rule of Thirty Tyrants," an oligarchistic faction installed by the victorious Spartans.
The founders of our country believed that the American people would avoid this fate by avoiding the dangers of political faction (Federalist 10,) which facilitates the elevation of electability over suitability, and by appealing to the civic spirit of the citizenry. Further, they designed a system in which competing centers of power would "check" individual ambition. They also wrote into the founding law a series of prohibitions to prevent the government from taking steps toward autocracy. It is not for nothing that the Bill of Rights begins with "Congress shall make no law..."
Good government requires a sufficient degree of knowledge and understanding, and democracy in particular presupposes a competent citizenry. The founders hoped that by practice and education, the voters could be elevated to be competent governors of their state. Benjamin Franklin, being immensely experienced (and also among the wisest observers of human nature and governance that ever lived) thought that such optimism was laudable, but questionable over the long term. This is the basis of his answer when asked what sort of government the new nation had been given, replied, "A republic. If you can keep it."
We have been coasting on the intellectual momentum of the Enlightenment for 300 years now. Our voting public is subject to emotional manipulation on a mass scale, and with expertise that our founders could not have envisioned. The speed of communication, and the factionalism that has been encouraged by those hungry for power has rendered our state largely ungovernable. The consequences - and the likely future - is plain to see for anyone with a grasp of history.
What is required is new thinking - an intellectual renaissance equal to that which brought us Voltaire, Diderot, D'Alembert, Montesquieu, Hume, Jefferson, Mendelssohn and Kant. We need new answers, and we need them now. The old answers are insufficient for our world. We must seek, find, and implement a new way of thinking. Now.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Gormless blatherskites and otherkin.

Three different people have now asked me about two words I used in an earlier post. Since they all were delightfully sincere in their intellectual curiosity, and since the dictionaries available online don't quite cut it, I here give you an introduction to the venerable, useful, and charming insults: "Gormless," and "Blatherskite":
Gormless and blatherskite are actual words, archaic but still in the lexicon. I use them because 1) I like them, and 2) They have precise meanings that are lost to modern English.
"Gormless" is a word that means, "Lacking understanding and wit." Someone who, if life was a knock-knock joke, would answer the "Knock knock" with "Come in! It's open!" Someone who just doesn't "get it," on a continual basis. Chronically clueless. Couldn't get a point from a cactus patch.
A "blatherskite" is someone who is not only stupid or uninformed, but also continually talks about irrelevant matters, or won't stop blithering (another unfairly neglected word) on about their misinformed opinions.
BONUS ROUND: Although you didn't ask, I also used the wonderfully obscure Saxon word "Otherkin." An "Otherkin" is someone to whom you have some distant relation by marriage, but to define it would be ungainly. "Third cousin twice removed by marriage" is a mouthful, and not really very useful. Better to say, "An otherkin of mine said..."
A third cousin twice removed, by the way, would be someone with whom you shared no closer relation than your great-great grandparents, but they were removed by two additional generations, perhaps children of your cousin's children.
See now why I say, "otherkin?"

Friday, May 12, 2017

My Campaign Platform

I have recently been harassed by those who seem to think that I am fit to run for public office. I did not shoot them for the insult, I'm sure they meant well.

I said I would agree to this only if my decisions regarding the campaign would be absolute. I would neither solicit, nor accept advice from any quarter. Here would be my campaign slogan.

"Vote for Kit. He'll do."

And herein my stump speech:

My fellow Americans, my condolences. Having been born into this second-rate clown show, some people seem to think I should be coerced into helping run it as a sort of punishment. Whether they intend to punish me, or you is unclear.

This is, of course, a tragedy and colossal inconvenience; the former for you, the latter for me. The fact that a substantial number of people, some of which are actually offering to spend money to make this a reality, are convinced this is a good idea is a clear signal, written in letters of fire on a field of sheep manure that the American political system has gone utterly bughouse. It can do naught but harm in its current state. It is a drunken man trying to do origami with his elbows.

Therefore, I am prepared to make my only campaign promise. Unlike other campaign promises, I can say with absolute certainty that it will be kept, for it is second nature to me, and that, only by half a length from my first nature. That promise is: If elected by some horrific mischance, I promise not to show up. I will do as little as possible. I will be almost totally inert in office. Although I will take your phone calls, and read your emails as fast as the National Security Agency can get them to me, I will do nothing at all as a result. I will accept no moneys, cast no votes, make no public statements of any kind.

By this one, firm resolution, I intend to do less harm, and cause less annoyance and embarrassment to my constituents than over 99% of the current officeholders. I will have been one of the most benignant officials in the history of governance, and can retire, as soon as you all come to your senses, with my conscience clear; a singular achievement in the history of American politics.

Thank you, and good luck.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Friends, Allies, and Acquaintances

This is a dangerous confusion of categories. Friends - those who you would sacrifice something significant for, and that you would expect to sacrifice for you, are rare in the extreme - as they must be. You cannot be intimately involved in the lives of a dozen people. A friend is someone you would take great risk for - your lives are intertwined in such a way that good and bad fortune are shared. Pity the man who does not have a single such friend - pity more the man who has more than four.

The skill is distinguishing friends from allies, to whom you owe your best efforts towards a mutual goal, but to whom you have no duty outside that common goal. You should not expect allies to sacrifice their interests for yours. You may have many allies, but they are limited by your finite attention and resources.

Acquaintances are people with whom you have social bonds. You owe them courtesy and society. You do not owe them self-sacrifice, nor should you presume upon them. You can comfortably have HUNDREDS of acquaintances.

You owe strangers courtesy, and the duty you owe all human beings - to rescue them from imminent danger, and to refrain from harming them. Nothing more.

If you watch the actions of those around you (and discount their words,) you will discover who belongs in which category. People will change, you will change. But do not blame them, blame only yourself if you fail to realize that someone does not put the same value on a relationship that you do. People have their reasons, that seem good and justified to them. You need not judge them, but you do need to know who your friends really are.

I do think there is a danger, a profound one, in not recognizing the distinction between Friends, Allies, and Acquaintances. The danger is in the ambiguity in the obligations of each party. If you rely on an ally to do something that is not in his interest, he may very well "fail" you, leaving you in a vulnerable position. You will feel betrayed, and he will feel that you have been unfair or foolish.

Also, the demands that can be placed on you, and that you have a moral duty to meet are quite different. If a friend asks me to take a substantial risk on his behalf, I am obligated to do so, since I have learned through my association with him that he would do the same for me. If an ally makes such a request, I am free to do as he asks, or not, depending on my obligation to our common interest.

You make promises to allies, too, but they are of a different nature than those made to a friend - they are related to a specific goal or interest. A client at law is an example - I am obligated to act in our common interest, I am not obligated to act in such a way as to put my life or happiness in peril. If I mistake this relationship, say, by asking a client to suffer a disadvantage for my sake, unrelated to our professional relationship, he might rightly feel that I am exceeding the bounds of our relationship. If I am working on any sort of a project with someone, they have the right to expect that I will hold up my end, and meet my commitments. They are not correct in thinking that I have a moral obligation to look after their welfare otherwise, any more so than I am obligated to refrain from treating them unfairly (an obligation that extends even to strangers.)

As for relatives, I treat them exactly the same way that I treat everyone else. Blood counts for little in the real world. My son is a friend - he has shown that he will suffer some inconvenience, and go out of his way for my sake, even when he has nothing to gain by doing so. I have done likewise for him, and therefore, that bond is well-established. Other relatives have asked for my help, I have given it, and they felt free to deny me even common courtesy in return. They are strangers to me.

I've heard an interesting definition of what constitutes real friendship - let's assume that you have had a terrible misfortune, say, your ex has turned up in chunks on your living room floor. We are going to assume that you are completely innocent of the crime, and have no idea what happened, but you are absolutely certain that you will be accused and likely convicted unjustly. You decide, after careful deliberation, that you must dispose of the body quietly, and clean up the mess. We will assume that the person you call believes your claim of innocence, and in the likelihood of your conviction.

Who do you call for help? And what would you expect them to do?

An acquaintance will hang up on you, and may or may not call the police. It is unreasonable to expect that person to risk a felony conviction on your behalf.

An ally will do likewise, unless there was some mutual reason that he would be willing to take such a risk.

A friend shows up with a tarp, a bucket, a mop, a shovel, and a bag of quicklime.

Now ask yourself, what if it’s your phone that rings? For whom would you take such a risk? If there is anyone that you would take that risk for, but that you are not sure they would take that risk for you (or visa versa,) then you have identified a dangerously unbalanced relationship.

What we haven't yet touched on is what lies beyond the field of regard, namely Strangers, and Enemies. You still have duties to both, even at that extreme. But that, perhaps, is for another time.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Necessity of Cutting Ties

To all those who have been forced to break contact with their families due to a history of abuse:
The decision to break contact with your parents isn't one you make on a whim. Most of us spent years trying to reconnect with abusive parents, only to see the same dynamic play out again and again, as if you were still a frightened child. Worse, you regress in their presence, falling back into the victim role.
I tried for years to rebuild a relationship, but every time I visited it was only a few minutes before the belittling remarks, the criticisms, the recriminations started. I was 35 years old before I realized that I'd never really had parents, and I never would.
If your parents won't acknowledge what happened, if they lie to your face about things they did to you, things will never, ever get better. Denial is not just a river in Africa, folks.
And even Jesus can't forgive things that aren't repented of.
Accept that they will never change, but you must. It isn't fair, but you have to be much stronger, much more self-reliant than most people to live without family to fall back on. You have to be brave to trust when your earliest experiences with trust were toxic. Make the pain a forge in which you became tempered and strong.
Contact with abusive, unrepentant parents will not help you do anything positive. They cared little for you when you were a child and they were obligated to do so. They will care less about your pain now. Accept it. And build a life that all will envy out of a start that nobody would want.

Science and Religion

When you ask me whether I "believe" in science or religion, you're asking a bad question.
Religious beliefs and science don't properly deal in the same questions. When religion attempts to attribute causes to phenomena, it exceeds its warrant, which is to deal with the spiritual life of believers. The rub comes when religious believers insist on counterfeiting religion's own coin by insisting that religious teachings are scientific facts. Religion properly has nothing to sayabout how the world and its phenomena came to be. It has much to say about what the world MEANS, and how to live in it.
When religion attempts to apply "faith" to matters better analyzed by facts and data, it sets its followers up to choose between evidence and faith. An intelligent person should not have to believe in the literal existence of miracles that defy evidence, or Bronze Age creation myths to be faithful. When religious authorities insist on it, they drive away the most intelligent and insightful, and leave only the credulous.
Let's call the inverse error "Sciencism," to distinguish it from the practice of science. Sciencism is the attempt to use data and the facts of the physical world to ascribe meaning to human existence. Matter is not meaning. The mere biological and anthropological fact of human existence does not, in itself, tell us how we should live, and what we should aspire to. Religion CAN do this - well or poorly - and it is not the only way of understanding human life, but it has the substantial advantages of tradition, community and ritual, which are not to be lightly cast aside. We are social creatures, after all.
Each tool to its task, and the tool must fit the worker. To use religion for science, or science for religion does violence to both.

The Power of Metaphor

To call something metaphorical is not to degrade it. Metaphors are powerful. They shape thinking, and behavior. I cannot weigh you out a pound of Justice, nor measure a yard of kindness - they are abstracts - things that have meaning only when they are applied to understanding and action.
A people's stories, objectively true or not, are the shared soul of the culture. No one has to think the events of Hamlet actually happened to allow the story to have a powerful impact on how we think of things like friendship, virtue, vengeance and familial love. And how we think about those things shapes how we behave when confronted with a decision.
Those who insist on the literal truth of a religious story do the true power of that story violence. It ceases being a representation of a truth, and becomes a mere data point to be proven or disproven.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Failure of "Centrism."

There is a current rage in some circles for "centrism," that is to say, a political position that is neither left nor right, liberal nor conservative. But the basic premise is deeply flawed.

A "centrist" defines their position not by what they ARE, but by what they ARE NOT. Using "left-right" or "liberal-conservative" as guideposts does not answer the basic question - what do you want to do with the power you seek? Rather than putting forth a philosophy of governing, the centrist seeks, rather, to create their position by referencing the positions of others, so as to appeal to both. Usually, this results in paralysis, since taking any consistent stand moves one "left" or "right" when the frame of reference moves. If one seeks to remain a "centrist," they will have to constantly recalibrate their position, creating the impression that they have no true vision of governance.

A useful concept here is the "Overton Window," that is to say the policies that are considered "legitimate" or "mainstream" in the current frame. That window has been moving steadily towards authoritarian nationalism since around 1978. A "centrist" now would find himself well to the "right" of Dwight Eisenhower.

It is more honest, and, I think more effective in attracting support to ask the question, "What sort of government do I want? What is government FOR? What do I want to accomplish, and what policies will bring that about?" And may the devil take "left-right" and "liberal-conservative."

The failure of "centrism" is seen in the Clinton and Obama administrations. Sure, certain "incremental" changes were possible, but the basic questions of late capitalist governance remain unanswered, and the problems facing the majority of Americans remain unaddressed. When a candidate came along that was not "centrist," the fearful and the suffering flocked to him because he actually addressed (in rhetoric, not in fact) their fears and concerns.

If the 2016 election means anything, it is the failure of "centrism" and "triangulation." The problems are too big now, and too systemic for "incrementalist" policies designed to appeal to everyone to make a significant impact. The flaws of the ACA are largely flaws of centrism, the desire to create a policy that appealed to almost everyone.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cowboy Wisdom

The old bit of cowboy wisdom, "Always drink upstream from the herd," is a practical bit of advice, but it also applies to philosophy, values, and art. If something has become "accepted wisdom," or commonplace, it's probably contaminated by parasites, waste, and the mud churned up by the crowd.

Thoughts For Grim Times

The times are grim. But historically, it has always been necessary to touch bottom before the new climb can begin. We have been coasting on the intellectual and moral momentum of the Enlightenment for over 300 years. It is time for something new. True, our generation may not be around to see the new dawn, but if we can manage to keep them from damaging the planet beyond repair, or nuking us all to ashes, the dawn WILL come when the madness has run its course.
In the meantime, keep your feet light. The signs are not good. History suggests that those who survived did not hesitate to face an exile's fate, and those who got out did so early. The Brownshirts are already in the streets, and constitutional government is deteriorating with frightening speed. Get ready.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Are 62 million Americans idiots?

Are 62 million Americans idiots? It's tempting to think so. To vote for a political novice with a long history of failure in business, immoral, boorish behavior, and a complete, demonstrated lack of self-control - to vote to put him into the most powerful office in the history of the world - would seem to be textbook idiocy.

Some of them are willfully stupid, racist, or authoritarian. But most of them aren't. They're fearful - both because the media is designed to make them so, feeding them a constant diet of low-grade emergency, and because their economic situations are so precarious. Sure, they bought into the "debt culture," bought too much house, too many toys and now if anything sets them back - a medical crisis, a layoff, plain bad luck - they have no reserve. But they were constantly, relentlessly pressured to do so - they've been taught to value themselves - and others - by how much they own since they were children.

Add to this political leaders who preach the Grievance Gospel constantly, advertising that is constantly telling them they would be socially acceptable if they only bought THIS, and rapid social change - what was a hilarious joke five years ago is a disastrous social gaffe today - and the average Jane or Joe feels as if danger and unpredictability are on every side.

Of course, this is the ideal mental state for an advertiser of a demagogue to create in their audience. Create a need - fill a need. But it is also a situation in which people look for targets to blame, and lash out irrationally. Anyone who can be turned into the "other" can become an object of hate and fear. Hate crimes, bigot-pleasing social legislation, and militancy are predictably rising.

It is also the condition in which vast numbers of people turn toward a "strong" leader who never questions, always acts, and never takes no for an answer. Donald J. Trump is not the disease, he's a dangerous symptom. The disease is fear.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fundamentalism and the Death of the Republic

Fundamentalism and the Death of the Republic (Part I):
When I was a kid, I was told that one should distrust scientists and intellectuals because their worldview wasn't "biblical," or "spirit-filled." Comic books were distributed, and even a musical staged showing a dictatorial "professor" confounded by an earnest, Bible-quoting student who stood firm in his faith, responding to scientific fact (often mistaken, and often dogmatically stated without a hint of irony) with endless scriptural references and homey "examples" of the absurdity of scientific "belief."
The anti-intellectual, anti-knowledge strain in this country has always been closely affiliated with evangelical religious institutions, since the great awakening of the 1840's. The "Jocko-Homo" of the 1920's, the Jack Chick tracts of the 1960's-70's, to the nonsense of Ray Comfort, Ben Stein and the Creation Museum today have all had this in common - they reject scientific inquiry and attempt to substitute some sort of "faith-reasoning" in its place.
The reasons for this are not hard to suss out. The fundamentalists institutions are in the business of selling certainty. What their "flock" is looking for is absolute statements of comfort and assurance, and an identity to belong to with a leader to follow. Science is not about certainty, or comfort, or obedience. Insofar as you are a good scientist, you are a bad fundamentalist; insofar as you are a good fundamentalist, you are a bad scientist. Science and intellectual inquiry are their natural enemy.
It is a short step from discarding all the science to believe in Noah's Ark, to believing in trickle-down economics. If you are already in the habit of discarding evidence and ignoring data so you can believe that early men ploughed with dinosaurs, then it's easy to disregard statistics showing that violent crime is down, not up, or that most people on public assistance are either children, aged, or disabled. It's easy to disregard statistics showing that immigrants are a net gain to our economy, and less likely to engage in violent crime than the general population when you are willing to believe that the sun stood still for Joshua. If you can believe that the world was made in six days, it's easy to discount the science on climate change. God could fix it by Tuesday, if that's His will.
Fundamentalism is a totalizing movement - it seeks to control everything about its followers' lives - the music they listen to (remember "Christian Rock?") the books they read, the news sources they get, even their schools and colleges. It is, at its root, as unamerican and undemocratic a movement as we have ever seen here since the fall of the German-American Bund. It has done immense damage to the lives of millions, to women and children especially, to the nation, and to Christianity itself.

Fundamentalism and the Death of the Republic (Part II):
In the end, the damage that Christian fundamentalism does to the Republic will not be via its rejection of science or reason. It will do it's damage by discrediting the very concept of faith and belief. Science will not fall because of yahoos like Ben Stein and Ray Comfort, it is Christianity that will be damaged. The very idea of faith will suffer.
By making religion a matter of rejecting reason, and by making religion an "identity movement" that paints anyone who doesn't subscribe to its dictates as the enemy, the religious institutions of the Republic lose their ability to act as social hubs - as places where common civic experiences can be celebrated, or common griefs can be shared. These are not functions to be lightly cast aside. They are the mortar that holds a society together.
And republics need faith - not religious faith, but a willingness to temporarily forgo personal advantage for the possibility of building a better world. By damaging the very concept of faith, deligitimatizing it in the eyes of the educated to serve their insular and self-isolated "flock," the fundamentalist movement damages the Republic as a whole in its very essence.
A republic is aspirational. It hopes and strives against history to create something better that what the majority of history has produced. Take away faith, you take away the motivation for a Republic, or even a better society.

Fundamentalism and the Death of the Republic (Part III of IV)
I was present at two events that signaled a significant change in how fundamentalist evangelical protestants saw their role in politics: the 1974 Kanawha County Textbook Protests, and the 1976 commendation of Anita Bryant's "firm stand" against homosexuality at the Southern Baptist Convention.
Prior to 1974, fundamentalist evangelicals were quite varied on their political stances, but they were generally firm on the idea that the church was no place for secular politics. Politics was considered "of this world," and something "rendered unto Caesar." I remember my father, who was the minister of a small, fervently Biblical literalist and fundamentalist church standing firmly against political speeches or endorsements being made at, or through the church.
Less than one year later he was marching on the Board of Education alongside the Ku Klux Klan, demanding the resignation of elected officials for "ungodliness" from his pulpit, and attending rallies with people who endorsed, and carried out the firebombing of an elementary school.
Why this radical change? A new organization, not yet prominent, called the "Heritage Foundation," targeted the Kanawha Valley for a political campaign designed to turn these nominally independent churches into footsoldiers for the GOP. Their tool in doing this was a slide show portraying "new" textbooks, (they had actually been in use for years) as endorsing and encouraging homosexuality, Communism and Satan worship. By selective quotations, and often outright lies about what was contained in those textbooks, they outraged the members of these churches, who were largely uneducated and politically unsophisticated (even today, Southern Baptists have one of the lowest percentages of college graduates of any large denomination at 19%. The national average is 26%.) They provided organizers and arranged rallies to whip up these people into a righteous rage.
It succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. I was held out of school for the better part of a year, in defiance of the truancy laws, people were shot not a half-mile from my home, and an elementary school was firebombed. Thousands of children were sent to unequipped and unaccredited "church schools" in the basements of churches where the curriculum consisted of the memorization of Bible verses, and the study of "historical" and "scientific" pamphlets supplied by - you guessed it - the Heritage Foundation.
In 1976, Anita Bryant, a former Miss America, revived her flagging celebrity by taking very public stands and crusading around the country denouncing homosexuality, and claiming that homosexuals were using the schools to "recruit" children into their "lifestyle." At the 1976 Southern Baptist Convention, (I was present with my father who was sent by our church as a "messenger") a resolution was passed to support her crusade. This resolution was used as a tool to propagandize and spread misinformation about the homosexual community, and to purge the seminaries of "liberals" who refused to denounce homosexuality publicly. This removed every "moderate," and anyone who opposed using the church as a political tool from Southern Baptist institutions. It also established the precedent of using the church as an arm of right-wing "values" crusades.
The insistence on "values voting" meant that the fundamentalists became a "faith based" arm of the GOP. They have remained so. This allowed the turning of the formerly Democratic South, over time, to a Republican stronghold, unreachable by argument or appeal to fact by anyone who did not cater to their intolerant agenda.

Fundamentalism and the Death of the Republic (Part IV of IV):

To recap: Christian fundamentalism has become a political, totalizing movement that is, at its root, an exclusive, anti-science, anti-intellectual, identity-based, supremacist, socially intolerant "base" used by the corporatist, pro-capitalist faction of the Republican party as "footsoldiers" who are, due to their self-imposed social and intellectual isolation unreachable by factual or logical persuasion. They are thus perfectly content to vote and agitate against their own social, economic or political interests if their language and symbols are adeptly co-opted by the demagogues of the right. There is no analogous movement on the left to speak of, although their intolerance and "buzzword" based process is rivaled by the much less politically significant "politically correct" faction of the Democratic Party.

There has been much hand-wringing by certain thinkers on the moderate left as to why the Christian fundamentalist movement has gone "all-in" with Trumpism, when the leaders of the Trumpist junta are not, in terms of their lifestyle, much like them. Trump and his circle are irreligious, licentious - the photographs that exist of the First Lady posing in lingerie in seductive photos would have been considered utterly unacceptable by an earlier generation of fundamentalists, and Trump's divorces would have disqualified him. My father said many times that a man who had been divorced would not be acceptable as President since, "If he can't run his own home, how can he lead the country?"

This was, of course, before the apotheosis of Saint Reagan, which was made possible by the 1970's politicization of the movement.

People who find this shift incomprehensible badly misread the modern fundamentalist movement, which is tribal and identity based rather than based in any real conviction about righteousness or personal purity. Homosexuality is loathed and feared not for reasons of sexual purity (note the willingness of the movement to welcome back "repentant" sinners - leaders who "stray" from their marriages or who even engage in homosexual behavior) but because homosexuals, in their eyes represent a rival "tribe," who are perceived as representing a "lifestyle" that is secular, and incompatible with their own.

Christian fundamentalism sees pluralistic, secular democracy with its emphasis on dialogue and science-based policy as a threat to their carefully manicured reality tunnel. They see secular education as an attempt to recruit their children away from their lifestyle. There will be no reconciliation with them; compromise is impossible, since serious inquiry is taken as a "lack of faith." Since the social life of a Christian fundamentalist centers around the church, which is liturgically centered around the figure of the "preacher," rather than around a hierarchy and the sacraments, it is, by its nature compatible with authoritarianism.

Modern Christian fundamentalism is a threat to the Republic, and its pluralistic principles. It will always be so, and those who value pluralism and a healthy, multicultural society must seek to limit its power and scope. To do otherwise is to abandon the power of faith and moral aspiration to an authoritarian religious sect that is "fundamentally" incompatible with "E Pluribus Unum," and Constitutional governance and that has abandoned the social message of the Gospels. It is not only a threat to the Republic, it is the most puissant threat to the proper social role of Christianity, and to the concept of faith itself.