Schubart: Orthodoxy

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Commentator Bill Schubart is dismayed by the persistence of orthodoxy
in our churches, legislatures, and schools. He believes that we invest
these orthodoxies with powers they don’t really have.

Orthodoxy has never served mankind well. Like an angry Gorgon, it
periodically emerges from its cave and breaths fire into religion,
academia or politics, and then retreats in order to replenish its toxic
supply of absolutism, anger, and self-righteousness for its next

Orthodoxy serves its own ends and should not be
confused with intellectual exploration, which is continually informed by
what it learns.

We live in a period of countless orthodoxies
and they are not serving us well. But then again we humans often create
paper tigers and invest them with power they don’t have themselves. It
takes a courageous leader like Edward R. Murrow to call the bluff of a
mental tyrant like McCarthy, as he did in 1954.

The best that
religion has to offer us, often called "works" in Christianity,
exemplifies the intrinsic goodness and beauty of the world’s great
religions and spiritual philosophies. "Good works" enrich our
communities by doing what government cannot or will not do for those who
cannot do for themselves. Good works also take us outside our
narcissistic selves, as they are rooted in empathy for others.

religions also often fall prey to orthodoxy: the Taliban and Wahhabist
sects in Islam, the Catholic Church’s ultra-conservative leadership,
Protestantism’s countless fundamentalist branches, and Judaism’s Zionist
or Haredi movements. These persistent orthodoxies deviate from the
founding tenets of their own religions in their common efforts to
subvert the rights and roles of women, gays, other races, and those with
differing religious views. They routinely rewrite history and undermine
the goals of education, the arts, and healthcare.

invariably leads to strife … the Crusades or the more recent ethical
implosion within the Vatican , the 1400 years of violence between Shia
and Sunni sects in Islam and the murderous Taliban assaults, and the
discord within Judaism between ultra-orthodox and conservative Jews.

there’s domestic politics. A minority of orthodox conservatives have
cowed their peers into bringing the legislative process to a standstill
and may signal the end of the party of Lincoln … and the party that ran
Vermont more or less successfully for a century.

If there is a
God, he or she must have a sense of humor because those who are willing
to persecute and vilify relentlessly anyone who does not adhere to their
particular beliefs, are as subject to the temptations of the flesh and
material corruption as the rest of us. There’s always a dash of public
schadenfreude when one of them succumbs to the carnal temptations or
illicit gains he has vilified.

Homophobic congressman and
cardinals caught soliciting gay dalliances should really remind us of
our complex humanity and how distant the absolutism of orthodoxy is from
human nature. Whether Gods or prophets, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and
Buddha walked the earth, teaching love, empathy, and forgiveness, while
fully understanding our human imperfection.

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