James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Problem is Nationalism

Morality is the status quo, modified to accommodate the wants and needs of you, the individual.

Immorality is changes to the system that seem weird and dangerous to you.

That's another way of saying that everyone has their own prejudices. On an email list, I'm acquainted with a trans-gendered male-to-female who advocates gay marriage, but thinks polygamy is ridiculous. But then there are those who divorce and remarry, yet condemn sex-change operations and homosexuality, even though divorce and remarriage was considered scandalous before no-fault divorce was put into law just one generation ago. Abortion is still resisted in most conservative and moderate Christian quarters, but birth control? Of course it's acceptable and "Biblical," even though the first denomination that proclaimed it acceptable was the Episcopal Church as recently as the 1930's. Sodomy? Heterosexual Christians practice forms of it all the time; for them, only homosexuals are barred. Morality is what I like, not what you like.

Of course, these prejudices in Christians (and many others) don't apply just to sexuality. Every day I read some diatribe from one source or another about the necessity of the "separation of Church and State," usually by someone with an ax to grind with Christianity, not the State. I think they're somewhat confused. I would put it this way: the problem with the secularists is nationalism, and the problem with the Christian Church in America these days is . . . nationalism.

What do I mean by nationalism? That all decisions of right and wrong, and good and bad, and just and unjust, must stem from the federal government in Washington, D.C. Some would say that the seed of this nationalism came in 1933 and the New Deal. Others would say 1913 and the creation of the Federal Reserve. Others might say 1898 and the rise of American Imperialism in the Spanish-American War. And others may cite the surrender at Appomattox in 1865. Yet others may attribute Alexander Hamilton's influence in George Washington's Presidency, or the Constitutional Convention itself. For our purposes, it doesn't matter; for generations now, we've known that The State emanates from D.C.; it is what we know and are accustomed to. It is part of our morality. Nationalism is belief in The State, and The State is not your state, but the federal government.

I would rather live in a society dominated by individuals who believed in a six-day creation but who would leave each other alone, than a society that didn't believe in God but valued "democracy" more than liberty. But the crisis facing us is that the prevailing contest, the "Culture War," the issue dividing liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, is about differing views of The State, i.e., the national government in Washington, D.C. Their disagreements are not about the rights and freedoms of the individual, but rather, the ways in which the individual ought to be subordinate to The State.

And that's because nationalism is part of our "morality." Growing up, we were taught values like democracy and equality and liberty. But nationalism transformed democracy from the town hall meeting and elections for several different offices, to votes for one Representative of Districts with 700,000 residents, two Senators in states averaging six million people, and one Executive for a nation of over 300 million people, who possesses the bulk of the power. Democracy has been transformed into a system in which your vote counts far less than the margin of error.

Equality once meant that the rich guy couldn't be favored over the poor guy, or the white over the black, or the male over the female, in legal disputes. Now it means that a wisecrack at a workplace causes a federal lawsuit. Now it means that if you're black you can sue for discrimination if you don't get what you want, and if you're white, you can sue for "reverse discrimination" for the same reason.

And liberty used to mean that you could do what you please as long as you didn't harm others without their informed consent. Now it means you can do whatever the federal government thinks is good for you, because if you do bad things to yourself, that will, directly or indirectly, affect "interstate commerce" which the federal government has the right to regulate.

Both religious and secular nationalists believe they have every right to kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in other countries to advance their ideals and values across the globe.

What religious people should realize is the degree in which nationalist political beliefs have infected their theology and moral thinking. And secularists should realize that it isn't the Religious Right, but the all-powerful State, that threatens their values. The State is the means of oppression. The more we weaken The State, the more oppression will cease.

Morality and ethics is about individuals, not politics. If the Religious Right would imprison the homosexual, that must be vigorously opposed and condemned. But if the Secular Left would imprison the critic of homosexuality, that must be also be opposed and condemned with equal vehemence. A genuinely liberal society oppresses no one; it does not criminalize non- aggressive behavior, nor does it subsidize anyone else's behavior, or save people from their own irresponsiblity. It favors neither the religious nor the secular.

A free society leaves people alone.

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