Hall of Supreme Harmony the emperor's throne.

What’s Your Tribe?

Throughout history there has been a tendency for religion and politics to be mixed together. Caesar was worshiped as a god. The emperor in China was the central figure in religion as well. The divine right of kings…Even here in the US with our separation of church and state religion is becoming more and more intertwined with politics. It seems to be one of the defining elements in being Red or Blue.

Discussions of politics and religion tend to fall into two categories

Yes-Yes

Yes-No

Depending on whether the people involved agree or disagree.

Yes-Yes conversations tend to be pretty smug. Yes-No conversations are either confrontations or attempts at conversion, but there is always a sense that people think they are right.

Media loves a good conflict so they play up these differences. The type of conversation where there is nuance: “yes, but…”, “no, but…” or an honest “I don’t know” met with thoughtful discussion does’t seem to happen anymore.

Political and religious questions are often posed by someone trying to determine if you are a member of his or her tribal group. The story of people being required to say “Shiboleth” in the biblical story (Judges chapter 12) is a record of a simpler approach: if you couldn’t pronounce the word properly you were assumed to be an Ephramite (enemy tribe in the story) and killed.

I avoid discussing politics and religion for that reason, I usually either don’t fit in the box properly or, more and more often these days, don’t want to be affiliated with the owners of the box. Frequently because of how they treat people who don’t agree. We don’t, for the most part kill people literally but character assassination happens pretty often.

While I avoid discussions for the reasons above I think that both religion and politics are areas where the deep conversations, ones without foregone “right” answers are needed. The world is more complex and interrelated than it used to be and people do not live in isolation any more. We need to be learning about each other, the values both shared and different, looking for solutions that aren’t simplistic party-line approaches or “the Bible or Koran or Sutras or Hindu teaching says this” so we don’t look further.

response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Polite Company.”

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