Most of our problems today boil down to one root cause. Far too many people consider themselves, their ideas, their beliefs, their faith to be the one and only Truth. This fundamentalist way of thinking creates in our social discourse a false dualism – I am right and you are wrong. The middle ground gets obliterated and compromise means catastrophic failure.
Sadly, this disease is spreading. Some oppose anything a president does because he or she is from the wrong party. Any attempt to impose limits on access to guns is labeled by some as violating the core tenets of our Constitution. Some seek to ban all abortion, even when the fetus is brain dead and threatening the life of the mother.
American poet and artist Ezra Pound once said, “The technique of infamy is to invent two lies and get people arguing heatedly over which one of them is true.” Two of the largest infamous lies facing this nation today are White supremacy and religious infallibility.
White supremacy is insidious because it preys upon our passive acceptance of privilege granted merely because of skin color. White supremacy whispers in your ear that Black and Latino cultures are inferior; that Jews are Untermenschen (subhuman); that social engineers have orchestrated the demise of White people; and that the history of North America began when White Europeans arrived to clear the land of savages. Cloaked in the disguise of love of family, White supremacy today still wears the hood and sheet that made yesterday’s murderers anonymous. Embracing discredited science and social paranoia, White supremacy proclaims that those artificially forcing the different races together are the true enemy.
Religious infallibility is the doctrine that nothing you do in life matters unless you meet some precondition of faith. Salvation rests on accepting without question the literal words of some ancient document, regardless of its context or linguistic devices. Religious infallibility preaches from the rooftops that all Muslims are engaged in a holy war against you; Jews killed Jesus so they deserve any punishment God doles out to them; and Christians sit in judgment damning all others to eternal hell fire. Cloaked in the perceived purity of self-righteousness, religious infallibility brands gay people abominations unworthy of marriage equality or the ability to adopt children. Religious infallibility clings to political control like a bloated leech, seeking to turn every nation into a theocracy of injustice and intolerance.
Both of these lies are the product of small fanatical groups. Most people with light skin color do not hate those with darker skin. Most religious people are open to learning about other religions and participating in interfaith dialogue and works of charity. But the strength of these fanatics derives from an irrational conviction that they are incapable of error, and that anyone who views the world through a different lens is blinding themselves to their Truth.
That is why I am a Unitarian Universalist. We embrace fallibility. We acknowledge fallibility as a human trait. By affirming the infallibility of our fallibility, we are free to question, to search for truth and meaning wherever that search leads us. By believing that no one group has a monopoly on the Truth, we find value in all religions and philosophies. And by using our gifts of reason and compassion, we separate the freedom to believe from the freedom to oppress. By applying our gifts to the cause of justice and equality, we challenge those who would use their beliefs to discriminate, to cause harm to others.
Affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and respecting the spiritual growth of others requires that we label White supremacy and religious infallibility as the lies they truly are. For the only infallible attribute of humankind is its fallibility – its susceptibility to the lies of the infamous.