As of May, 2003, I have decided to no longer run for this office. I am maintaining the website for several reasons, not the least of which is that the effort expended in developing the ideas was clearly worthy, and the work produced should therefore be preserved. My further reasons for no longer seeking elective office can be found in this essay - Saving America from Ourselves.
from the 2004 Presidential Campaign of Joel A. Wendt: working paper #3
The Fundamentalist Impulse
- the effect upon the future of those who want
to reanimate an imagined past -
People are well aware that religious fundamentalist impulses have taken over several governments in the Islamic World. The view of such governments is that the received wisdom of the Past is all that we need to know, and that such wisdom can clearly solve whatever modern social problems that exist.
Such approaches are authoritative in nature and ideological in substance. This means that they only know how to order, tell or demand that human beings behave in certain ways; and, that their understanding of the world is fixed and inflexible - the world is seen as how they expect it to be in accord with the ideology, and its true reality is ignored.
This fundamentalist impulse is an aspect of human nature and is not confined to the Islamic World. It currently is an aspect of the political power centers in the United States, and is partially responsible for the appearance of fascist tendencies in the Bush administration.
For a long time the Christian Right in America has considered modern culture to be on a degenerate path, with immorality widespread and ideologically assumed anti-Christian values becoming more and more prevalent. Their rhetoric has escalated over time, and their ability to seduce the leadership of the Republican Party has increased. What is happening here?
To some it may seem odd that we have to look at the political situation in America with our religious sensibilities wide awake, but this happens to be the case. A quite active impulse, of a fundamentalist nature , has entered America politics from the Christian Right, and is currently (in cooperation with the impulse to rule living in concentrated wealth, which we have previously discussed) seeking to enfold itself with great powers at the expense of our previously hard won liberties. The effort is to push back Time, something impossible at a social level.
This is the essential point to understand. The Fundamentalist religious impulse only fails when it tries to force the general society to accord with its Past oriented political ideology.
Religious impulses do not translate into political impulses, having their realities arise from quite different aspects and needs of the human soul. It is this aspect of the wisdom of our Founders that lives in the still misunderstood First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ... etc. As an aspect of human character, balanced religious training is without peer, but as a political ideology it will always fail in the end.
As this is an important point to understand, I will try to come to it from a slightly different direction, which necessarily is somewhat personal.
As a religious person, I have certain responsibilities in accord with my understanding of my religion. When I enter into political life, either as a candidate, an elected official or a citizen, my responsibilities are to the People. For me personally this is a choice I make, but I have taken my understanding from the contemplation of Christ's remarks in Matthew 22:21 "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are Gods".
I have studied this wisdom out of the Gospels for many years, and my conclusions concerning it can be found on my website in several places. Here is one: "Basic Conceptions: fundamentals of a new social view. " The rights and responsibilities that spring from our religious life are not the same as those rights and responsibilities that spring from our civil existence. What Christ calls "Caesar" was how the civil life was understood in His time, while in our time, and in American in particular, "Caesar" has been replaced with "the People". As a candidate, or a citizen enacting my civic responsiblities, I don't work for God, I work for the People.
Here we come to the root of the problem in the current situation of the political life of the American People (and elsewhere in the world). Just like we need a science of medicine in order to bring health to the physical body, we also need a social-political science in order to have a healthy social body. Without a common understanding of how societies actually work, people will naturally violate that organic and spiritual order, thereby producing frequently quite undesirable consequences. The Christian Right does not fail on a personal level as striving moral people. It fails because it seeks to apply its values in a realm where even Christ recognized these values do not belong.
If we look behind many of the political decisions of the Bush administration (see the term " axis of evil " in Bush's State of the Union speech - evil is not a political concept), we find there living aspects of the moral ideology of a fundamentalist Christianity- something turned inside out through being applied to a realm of human existence to which it does not belong. Coupled with the impulse to rule flowing from concentrated wealth, this fundamentalist impulse is eroding the central freedoms of our People - freedoms only won with a great deal of blood and heartache.
At the time of this writing, this power hungry and fundamentalist thinking, with its confused understanding of the nature of the America Spirit, has offered to the Congress the creation of a new government agency - the Homeland Security Agency. It is the intention of the administration that this agency be, in places, exempt from two hard won limitations on government power - the whistle blowers act and the freedom of information act.
Just the week before this, the administration through the office of the Attorney General, filed suit in Federal Court, in which in part they were insisting that they had the power to declare any American citizen an " enemy combatant ", and once having declared them so, can hold them without bail, or any other civil rights. Further, no court can review the judgment that this person is properly identified as an " enemy combatant ".
This, coupled with the Patriots Act, which was passed shortly after the World Trade Center tragedy, and during the anthrax crisis, would basically allow the administration to declare anyone sympathetic to what they define as " terrorist causes " an " enemy combatant " taking away all their civil rights without any recourse or review.
In addition, the Homeland Security Agency is seeking to form groups of citizens into informants - that is to encourge us to spy on each other. Whether it is the intention of this administration or not, these are the first steps on the road to fascism.
This is an extraordinary power that is being sought, for which there is no justification. That the administration has sought it betrays their complete lack of an appropriate moral compass, and what is perhaps worse, their total lack of any appreciation of the real nature of the American Nation, or the American People. What I mean by an appropriate moral compass is that the religious ideology confuses what should be a clear will to be of public service, and replaces that will with an attempt to contort our polity into that form which this ideology imagines is best.
The question the awakening citizen governance movement needs to ask itself is whether or not they want Christian fundamentalists and allies of concentrated wealth determining who is or is not allowed to keep their civil rights in the coming future, which gives all the signs of being quite intense and difficult.
In additional and most crucial question must be asked: Are these Christian fundamentalists, in their politics, as well as those who seek to rule believing they know better how to run the economy, are these bad people?
The world is full of ideological points of view, that by their very nature cannot accord with social reality. A person with an ideology already has an end in view, and has lost sight of the significance of the means . It is this act which cripples their social effectiveness. They seek to conform the world to their ideology, rather than meeting the world as it is. This can only cause conflict, which we see everywhere today.
Let these words remind us that the renewal groups, founded on the impulse of citizen governance, cannot exclude from their community any point of view. All must be entitled to contribute to the unfolding of the true means .
Only processes of inclusion can lead us to a sane and healthy social future.
This being the case, how do we include the fascination with the Past of the fundamentalist, and the mistrust of the economic judgment of ordinary people by concentrated wealth?
We can begin by recognizing that all people have some truth in their points of view. Human nature is generally not such that a person holds to views which are totally divorced from reality. The question then is how to discover what aspect of the truth these views have which needs to be understood, honored and included within the unfolding electoral processes of the future.
It helps to appreciate the history standing behind the arrival of these impulses in modern times.
The transfer of power from the old hereditary aristocracies to the the new aristocracies of concentrated wealth occurred in circumstances in which the older holders of power constantly placed their interests as higher then those of the emerging trading, banking and mercantile classes. As a result all manner of political decisions (the inauguration of wars, arrangement of marriages, etc.) made by kings and queens had other motives than management of the economy.
Thus, while the power is being transfered, the merchant princes now create institutions which impede the ability of governments (the successors of kings and queens) to interfere in what to them (the holders of concentrated wealth) is their field of expertise and interest. This judgment is correct, and we couldn't have had the arising of modern economies without this stabilizing influence.
Obviously, in a way we should not be surprised at, this leads to its own forms of excess. What this means is that while we can be weary of the yoke imposed on our social institutions by concentrated wealth, we need to understand that there was a time when their way of thinking was entirely valid. Now it has passed by its time. Now other matters have to be considered. For the citizen governance movement this means moving into the future without devaluing the past. And, for concentrated wealth it means accepting the appearance of a new partner in fashioning the nature of future social institutions.
In a like way the impulse of Christian Fundamentalism has its valid and necessary point of view.
The Christian Fundamentalist is oriented toward the family (thus the name frequently given to modern times - the family values crisis). Modern culture has unleashed a number of social forces quite inimical to the maintenance of family life in accord with traditional ideas. These forces include: music which encourages sexual movements in social dancing; basically free access to drugs,; all manner of sex and violence imagery supported in media for purely commercial reasons, whether television or film; and, a general decline in the ability of educational institutions to inculcate traditional community values.
This simple list does not exhaust what could be said here. Yet, this point needs to be made clear. At one level the accretion of power to concentrated wealth allowed for much of the social structure to fall under the influence of decisions being made purely for profit, with little or no thought given to the consequences for families and communities. Christian Fundamentalists, and others who felt that the wider society was destroying their way of life, were basically correct.
This capacity of modern social forces to be destructive of traditional social forms has been a subject of many years study for me, and my conclusions and research about this aspect of modern problems can be found on my website: Shapes in the Fire . For purposes of a healthy political dialog, the point here is to recognize that the threat perceived by Christian Fundamentalist religious people was entirely accurate. The only problem arose was when this perception then was allowed to fuel political activity. It then became an ideological principle, which attempted to control everyone's life, without regard to either social realities or the rights of other people to live in ways outside the traditions of the Christian political right.
Politics, as has been said, is about compromise; or, if we understood its ideal nature, is about equal rights for all, regardless of religious, scientific, political or any other orientation. The Christian right has no more right to control our public life than does concentrated wealth.
Yet, the imbalances they introduce will only find a proper equilibrium when citizen governance matures and takes its necessary place as the essential source from which all political power and all political ideals arise.