That depends. You didn’t seriously think this was gonna be easy did you? Okay, the issue today arises, as do many of my blogging inspirations, from CAF, (Catholic Answers Forum) and a thread I’ve been participating on for some time. It’s about voting and the CAF list of non-negotiables. Now what this means is that some folks at CAF believe that the rule of the Church is that some issues are non-negotiable, meaning that if a candidate is on the wrong side on that issue, he/she may not under any circumstances be voted for. Of course, others do not agree with this assessment, and one member raised some pretty good evidence to the contrary. I believe that poster is correct. What is odd about this, is that this person is a staunch conservative and I am, without question a staunch liberal. Yet we agree on this issue, much to the chagrin of the “regulars.”
What got me to thinking, and dominated my thoughts over last evening and into this morning was part of a post that was directed to me by “X” the conservative. (I see no need to refer to him by name.) I quote here:
If it is any consolation, what is happening here is very common. Even though I am an extremely conservative Catholic, I often find that I can communicate and relate more easily with so-called “liberal” Catholics than folks who expouse a very narrow brand of “true” conservatism.
Why exactly is it that a conservative can relate better to me, a liberal, better than he can to others whom he should naturally be in tune with? I think I have at least a partial answer. I think it depends largely on how one approaches the world, or how one processes new facts into one’s worldview. This may be but the bare bones of a theory, but here goes. I believe that largely we are divided into two main groups, those that process through a rational, logical intellectual frame, and those who process through a emotional, visceral feeling motif.
Now immediately it might appear that the first is preferred and laudable and the second is, well, for the more mentally challenged. Nothing could be further from the truth. It does not refer to actual intelligence or actual emotions at all. It refers to the Way we process. Let me explain if I can. When I lay out this dichotomy, it really isn’t a dichotomy at all. There is a broad spectrum and we all lie someone along its length, but even at the most extremes, neither is devoid of the complimentary attribute be it logic/reason or emotions/feelings.
The person who uses the intellectual filter receives information and processes it through this filter of reason and logic. Such a person places a great deal of “faith” in what can be defined in the world by common sense, logic, reason, and all the things that flow from it, such as science and technology.
The person who uses the emotional filter tends to process information through a filter of, does it make me feel happy, sad, secure, fearful, compassionate, hateful, etc. Such a person places great “faith” in the mystery of the world, and suspects that man is wasting a fair amount of time studying things that don’t ultimately matter. It is not a matter of not being smart, its a matter of other feelings superseding what the intellect may say. They are suspicious of intellect, finding it the playground of the devil, leading to a lot of bad things. What are these?
The intellectually motivated person, depending on how deeply they espouse it, can end in some very bad results. It can lead to a overreaching, which concludes that human intellect is unlimited and can handle all problems. This is the “mini-god” syndrome. It can lead to agnosticism, and ultimately atheism if it becomes the paramount force in one’s life. Those positions, I suggest are limiting and self-defeating in the end. Yet properly developed and used, the intellectually centered, produce some of our finest thinkers and doers.
The emotionally motivated, when properly reined in, give us our compassionate and empathic citizens, those who volunteer and are some of our best role models. They blend their lives well, and can be the most balanced group of all. The “gut” is a good barometer of what’s right or wrong if handled properly. The dangers here are severe as well. One can fall into “feel good” religion or “religiotainment” churches, where little of real substance seems to be taught or practiced, but people enjoy themselves and feel good. Yet these are basically very good people. The real threat is those who fall into fundamentalism, wherein the need to feel free from fear is paramount and can lead to some bizarre and exotic belief systems designed to provide security at any and all costs.
Let me explain. Fear is the most important emotion we have. By that I mean, it is how we relate and handle fear that determines, I believe where we fall on this spectrum of intellect versus emotion. Fear of what? Fear of what is unknown mostly and that would be mostly the future. Fear that we are unable and ill prepared to cope in a world that seems to most crazy, unstable, and not working for all too many people world wide. Some people handle fear by seeking information, some handle it by seeking “security.” Religion can become that security and some people seek a religion or a religious interpretation that gives them security by seemingly giving answers to all of life’s major questions. In other words, if you believe this series of tenets completely, without question, your basic future is safe and secure, if you waffle on even one, even a bit, you are back to being insecure again.
This is why the conservative and liberal who see the world through the intellectual frame can talk to one another. The many not agree on many things, but they will agree on some, since they accept the value and import of each other’s evidence. They test it and re-examine it, but they accept it “as” evidence. Neither can talk to the fundamentalist, since that person cannot deviate from the total package of belief; evidence that seems to conflict with one or many of these beliefs is and must be rejected out of hand. In fact, their only response at all is to search out “evidence” for “our” side. Remember the devil must be at work in these challenges. Somehow the “evidence” no matter how compelling on its face, must be wrong, because if it is not, faith itself is severely threatened, and that they cannot allow.
The Catholic Church stands at an interesting apex between these two, for in fact it offers to both what they seek. To the intellectual, the Church offers an amazing 2000 year history replete with tons of writings and interpretations, all rationally, and to a reasonable degree, integrated. To be sure, the serious student will find plenty of fudge factor when the Church deemed it necessary, but the Church does admittedly go to a serious degree to appear cohesive and logically oriented within herself. Many are drawn to Catholicism simply because it offers a very comprehensive and cohesive doctrine. I think this is basically true for a lot of the “high” churches of Christendom such as Lutheranism, Episcopalianism, Methodism, etc.
On the other hand, the Church also espouses that She was designated specifically by Christ to lead His people in his earthly absence. The Holy Spirit according to Church teaching, prevents the Church from erring in matters of faith and salvation. One can consider Her teachings as if they were Jesus’ himself. Thus the fundamentalist finds a home here too.
Some believe, incorrectly, that fundamentalism is merely another word for sola scriptura, a Protestant concept and view. But this is not accurate. Fundamentalism is not a product of any one religion as we have seen, but a mind set. It can find a home virtually anywhere, and I suppose need not have any truck with religion whatsoever. True, religious fundamentalists do give an idolatry like concept to a religious document, but that does not have to mean only the bible. Catholics who also include both Tradition and Dogma as part of the package, have just enlarged the “sacred” arena to include those things beyond the bible. So the phenomenon of the Fundamentalist Catholic is indeed rare but all too real. Some are cradle Catholics, but most I suggest are old baptists, who have merely enlarged their arena of sacred and holy direction.
Having said all this, the question remains, is there a way for these two groups to meet and interact in a positive and mutually advantageous way? I don’t know. So far, I have not found a way. We talk past one another, grabbing at any and all minor and major points of contention. We are not even civil most of the time, but enjoy taking shots and scoring points. We develop new ways to “win” arguments, we constantly claim “strawman” and “dissembling” tactics. We look for ways to embarrass and make fun of. We snicker and talk “behind the other’s back” knowing they will read what we said. We fail and we both look disgusting to outsiders, we look disgusting to ourselves, yet we cannot find another way. My evidence won’t be listened to, their impassioned gut-wrenching displays are ignored. I imagine God is more than disgusted by our display, and Jesus and Mary weep as we all but ignore HIM.
I place small emphasis on this phenomenon of the forum. It is an artificial place, everyone is to one degree or another anonymous. We can spew at each other and not fear a punch in the face. Such would clearly not occur in the same way face to face. But it is indicative, none the less of our rank inability to talk to teach other and to exchange views rather than rhetoric. I am not at all sure that there is an answer to this problem. If you think you have one, please let me know. I’m tired of talking at people. So much for my rant today. What is your beef?