Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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CounterPunch on "Moral Values"


This CounterPunch article on 'moral values' is subtitled "Code Words for Emerging Authoritarian Tendencies in Americans".

A small excerpt:

The belief that President Bush's "moral values" helped him to win re-election has led certain political and theological pundits to conclude that the Democrats must "get religion" and bridge the "God gap" if they are to regain the presidency. They are being told to get a grip on God and morality and, like the Republicans, let their light of faith shine for all religiously-motivated voters to see if they are ever to achieve a political resurrection. Those who interpret the presidential election in these terms appear to miss a critical point: rather than faith-based "moral values," the election appears to reveal a growing morality gap in America. We may not be witnessing the ascendancy of "moral values" but the rise of authoritarian tendencies in Americans. It is this apparent phenomenon, and the moral and spiritual crisis it represents, that need to be examined and addressed.

Following World War II, social scientists conducted a landmark study of how great masses of supposedly enlightened, Christian people willingly tolerated the systematic oppression and extermination of millions of their fellow citizens and others (Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Black persons, mentally and physically-impaired people, and political dissenters). A related concern was how masses of other people, who profess freedom as a God-given birthright, could stand by for so long and allow such religious, racial, ethnic, ideological and homophobic hatred to continue. The aim of the study was to employ the scientific method to understand what in an individual causes him to be prejudiced, and to use the findings to help in seeking solutions to inter-group prejudice and hatred. The study revealed that authoritarian tendencies in an individual's personality make him receptive to anti-democratic propaganda and policies that target out-groups for discrimination and destruction. (The Authoritarian Personality, Adorno, et al, pp v-viii, Harper and Brothers, New York, 1950).

The personality tendencies of the authoritarian-disposed individual were found to include:

--"Desire for a strong leader" [italics added] resulting in "submissive, uncritical attitude toward idealized moral authorities of the in-group" (Ibid, pp 231, 228);

--"Cultural narrowness" [italics added] seen in rigid acceptance of the conventional middle-class values of "the culturally 'alike'" and the tendency to reject and punish "the culturally 'unlike' . . . who violate conventional values." (Ibid, pp 102, 228);

--Unreflective ethnocentric patriotic conformity, rooted in the belief that one's own nation is superior and should rightly dominate and that other nations are inferior and threatening out-groups (Ibid, pp 107-109);

--Negative stereotyped perceptions of the members of "unlike" out-groups (Ibid, pp 228, 235, 236), rather than seeing them as individuals who also laugh and cry and love and hate, or who, in the words of Joseph Berger, "lived, laughed, cursed, fought, who did the things human beings do" ("At Holocaust Museum, Turning a Number into a Name," The New York Times, Nov. 21, 2004);

--Anti-introspection, i.e. resistance to self-understanding, to soul- searching, to cause-and-effect analysis of individual and group behavior, unable to tolerate ambiguity, belief in mystical, unexplainable phenomenon, disparaging intellectual attempts to perceive life's nuances and complexities (Ibid, pp 236, 235); and

--Aggression, involving "the ethnocentric need for an out-group" who represents "the intrinsic evil (aggressiveness, laziness, power-seeking, etc.) of human nature . . . [that] is unchangeable [and] must be attacked, stamped out, or segregated, wherever it is found, lest it contaminate the good." (Ibid, pages 232-234, 148).

This is a very in-depth and interesting article.

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