On Liberty and Theocracy in Ohio
Alonzo Fyfe printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 10:17:42 AM EST
In reading and participating in this site, and with a deep interest in moral philosophy, I learned about a set of character traits being promoted by Ohio's Secretary of State.

I found that it includes a rather peculiar definition of the value of "liberty" -- one that basically translates into, "Do what your told so that we will not have to hurt you."

So, I wrote a short piece for my blog about a different view of liberty, which I would like to include here.

On Liberty and Theocracy in Ohio

I have recently encountered the most Owellian statement I have ever seen in a document called Uncommon Sense on the web site of Ohio's Secretary of State.

Many things get called Orwellian because they somewhat resemble the doublespeak that Orwell invented in his book 1984. However, this is not like Orwellian doublespeak. This is a pure example of Orwellian doublespeak.

The three primary examples of doublespeak that the state in Orwell's book 1984 employs are "War is peace", "freedom is slavery", and "ignorance is strength". The "Uncommon Sense" page seeks to promote the very idea that freedom is slavery.

The document lists 20 values that are supposed to be a part of good moral character. On this list of values, they mention "Liberty":

Liberty: High-character people preserve their public rights by fulfilling their personal responsibilities. In order to preserve public freedoms, every person must exercise private restraints. Therefore, free people embrace self-control so the need for public controls is minimized. As a result, high-character people communicate and live out character ethics and intentionally exhort others to do likewise as active act of preserving liberty for everyone. (Observable Virtues: temperance, self-control.)

The History of the Fight for Liberty

This definition suggests that I need to reinterpret much of what I thought I had learned about American history.

I did not realize that when the Founding Fathers declared that they were fighting for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that they were protesting King George's unwillingness to provide the American colonists with sufficient opportunity to exercise private restraint.

And, apparently, the soldiers who fought to end slavery in the Civil War were concerned that African Americans were being denied their inalienable right to temperance.

Also, some French apparently thought that this issue was so important that they built for us a large statue, the Statue of Liberty, with a plaque by which she says to the world, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning for self-control."

And that "Pledge of Allegiance" . . . apparently, what we are having these children pledge to each day is "self-control and justice for all."

I never knew that until now.

For some reason, my understanding of history made it far easier to imagine the colonists protesting the constraints King George sought to impose, not pleading for more. I can easily picture in my mind the southern slave owner teaching his slaves the Ohio definition of freedom. However, I do not think that these are the words that slaves would use in demanding their liberty from their owner. The Ohio definition represents something that those huddled masses yearning to breathe free were running from, not what they were running toward.

Liberty Means: "Submit or Suffer the Consequences"

I want to draw your attention to the explicit threat written into this definition of liberty -- the threat that says, "Do what you are told and you will not get hurt." The Ohio definition says that "self-restraint" is necessary to prevent "the need for public control."

These are the words of King George saying that the lack of restraint on the part of the colonists made it necessary for him to send the Red Coats to Boston.

These are the words of the slave owner who says that that the slave's 'uppity' nature made it necessary for him to bring out the whip.

These are the words of tyrants and dictators throughout history who have always defended their authoritarian power by appealing to a need to subdue an unruly people.

These are the words of those who have no use for liberty and no interest in preserving it. These are the words of people who want others to name them soveriegn and blindly obey their commands, and who are tired of silly conventions such as a love of liberty limiting what those in power may command of their subjects.

So, they preach a concept of liberty that says, 'Do as you are told' combined with the threat 'Or else we will make you suffer.' This way, if the subjects become restless and unruly and have to be put down, those with power can comfortably say, "This is your fault. If you had been more cooperative, passive, compliant, and obedient, then we would not have had to do this."

Liberty as Restraint of Government Excesses

There is an element of restraint associated with liberty. However, it is not "private restraint" or "self-control". It is a public restraint -- a restraint on the demands that those with power will make on those who do not share power. It is a command that those with authority, whether they are employers or project managers, or group leaders, or the majority in a democracy, will not abuse that power.

In my blog posting, "All Men Are Created Equal," I gave a 'rule of thumb' that can be used to determine whether those with power are abusing their authority instead of honoring the rights of others. It is a modification of the principle, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It also finds use in Social Contract Theories regarding political legitimacy.

This "rule of thumb" invites people with power to evaluate the rules they adopt according to whether they would agree with those same rules if they found that they were in the weaker position. "Would you comfortably accept others imposing on you that which you impose on them?"

So, if Muslims were in the majority, and Christianity were a minority religion, would the Christians comfortably accept a rule that requires their children to read daily passages from the Koran at school, pray five times eash day while bowing to Mecca, and a pledge of allegiance to "one nation with only one God and Mohammed is its prophet"?

Or, would they accept an atheistic leadership that requires students to read and recite "The Case Against God" and pledge allegiance to "One nation with no God"?

If not, then they should know that it is wrong to impose these types of demands on others. They should be as reluctant to see schools turned into government funded Christian temples as they would be to have those same schools turned into government funded Mosques or Synagogues. Imposing those burdens on others would be to transgress the boundaries of liberty.

This is a test that England would not have passed in 1776. We can trust that if America had been the parent country, and it imposed taxes on England without allowing those living in England to have representation in Congress, that the English would not have accepted this. They should not have expected America to accept it.

It is a test that the slave owner could not have passed. I doubt there would be much luck finding a slave owner who would not protest being taken from his home and hauled to Africa to work without pay in a foreign country, bought and sold, separated from his family, and freely killed when it benefits his masters to do so.

It is a test the tyrant cannot pass, because he would not be content to live in a tyranny in which he was not the one in control.

Ohio's Defender of Liberty as Servitude

It is a test that J. Kenneth Blackwell, the current Ohio Secretary of State and Republican candidate for governor cannot pass, because he is advocating policies  that he would certainly protest if others, were to seek to impose similar policies on him.

Reverend Rod Parsley, mentioned in the article linked to in the preceding paragraph, is explicitly fighting to bring down American democracy, and replace it with a Christian Theocracy. To his congregation, he says that "Americans must be `Christocrats.'"

If Americans must be Christian, this can only be accomplished by revoking the citizenship of anybody who is not Christian. He also has said of this form of government, "...[it] is not democracy, [it] is theocracy. God is in control, and you are not."

These are not the words of somebody who has much use for liberty as it is typically understood. He is clearly somebody who only has use for liberty in terms of "doing what you are told so that you are not suffering the consequences that we will impose upon you otherwise."

Looking through the rest of the values described in "Uncommon Sense", there is a common theme. This is a recipe for how to be a perfect servant to a master in need of servants. In addition to the loss of true liberty, the person of 'high character' is also supposed to shun independence, willingly yield to authority, have no use for privacy, and even seek "the benefits of suffering."

Liberty is, on this definition, nothing other than servitude. It is as if the text were lifted straight out of George Orwell's book.

Alonzo Fyfe
The Atheist Ethicist




Display:
The story here - and it is a very important story - has not been told, in fact thus far I haven't even seen much of a start on it, except for this posting.

That story goes something like this: there is an ongoing effort underway, as I wrote 8 years ago, to change out the hardware in preparation to run new software. To change the underlying conceptual framework of how masses of people think, to run the new software of a totalist state, with Christianity being one of the vehicles that function to bring about and enforce that change.

This change goes far beyond the terminology and areas of concern, beyond defining "dominionist" or "theocrat" or "religious right" or naming the leaders or the organizations. This is a much more diffuse process, and perhaps the most disturbing (to some) and difficult to understand aspect of it is that it occurs far outside the realm of churches that can be identified using those terms.

What possibility do we have of preserving "freedom" or "liberty" if large masses of people lose the conceptual framework to understand, what those states are? Beyond, underneath the redefinition of the terms by people like Blackwell, is a fundamental shift in thinking, in the assumptions of how the world works and how individuals function in the world, that make this kind of redefinition possible.

Somewhere at the core of this shift is the corrosive notion that individuals are fundamentally not free, that each individual serves some corporate master, in the most cosmic sense that being God or Satan. The answer of "neither" in this worldview is not allowed. "Gotta serve someone," one or the other. "Choose this day whom you will serve."

From there it's just a few short steps to believing that everyone is just a pawn, or a slave to someone, and that slavery is just fundamental to individual existence. When Bill Bright brags about he and his wife  vowed to become "slaves" to Jesus, when you go to a massive Christian youth event and the participants in the altar call are told they've just committed themselves to be "slaves," these are just evidence of an underlying shift in thinking, that freedom, as an individual experience, is simply impossible, and that those who propose that it is possible are to be feared.  

The point being, again, that this underlying inversion of a very basic conceptual understanding of an individuals' place on earth is somewhere around the root cause of all the phenomena we see, from the individual pharmacist tearing up prescriptions for birth control to the latest blathering that New Orleans deserved its destruction by God, to the political fallout at every level, to the aggressive stance this country takes and will continue to take toward the rest of the world. And the means by which this change in individuals' conceptual understanding occurs is, at least, twofold: one, a culture in which corporations gain privileges and status over (and at the expense of) individuals, and two, churches and other corporations that work to legitimize that status, and to place individuals, in their own thinking, as without rights and subservient to (and/or in formal reciprocal relationships with) those corporations, whether they be Starbucks, Panera, their church and its leaders, or the state. Also somewhere in there is the legitimization of marketing and legitimization through marketing, that marketing is itself truthful and that the truth is supported by its marketing.

Lately I have taken to reading the blogs of individual Christians, since I think that is where the cutting edge of these changes can be best seen. In the past few days I've found a few passages worth quoting.

This, from the marketing manager of a Kansas City church that is in the forefront of the "24/7 prayer" movement. My emphasis in italics:

Tom Brokaw asked similar questions a few years back in his best seller,  The Greatest Generation. He wrote of the heroism of the WWII generation that seemed commonplace at the time. To be honorable and to do great deeds was the order of the day, and people rose to fill it.

I'm coming to the belief that people are not different - but seasons of time are. It would seem that periods of history demand greatness from people and God gives grace for them to rise to the demands.

I look into the future and realize we are coming into one of those seasons. While not there yet...I believe we will see it in our lifetime. The developments of this age - all pawns in the grand reality of good versus evil - will force us to step up to be who we are destined to be. Will we walk in meekness and power, or go down raging about our own rights?

Something tells me that this guy, in American Revolutionary times, would have been complaining about how his fellow colonists were "raging" about their own rights.  Like so many others, he soundbites historical events, twisting their meaning to justify his present subservience to a corporate enterprise.

This, from the wife of a youth ministry leader at my local megachurch:

Now, about this wiretapping thing. Are we to honestly believe, as Americans, that this proposal was meant to strip our freedom away? Well, maybe if you are an international terrorist, or you support them, then maybe you have a point. As a law abiding citizen, with no apparent connection to anything involving terrorism, I trust that my phones will not be tapped, even living only miles from NSA. Truth be told, if my phones were ever tapped, the guy on the other end listening would be snoring away! Now, I don't know all the little intricate details about this particular case, but I do know that if there's a wrong it will be made right but it won't be done by trying to claim that you never supported such a dastardly thing - as is common practice on both sides of the political fence. Fix what's wrong and stop playing the blame game. Find the terrorists in the fastest, most effective way possible instead of spending months arguing about how you are going to do it.

Again, there's that underlying redefinition of freedom, that always seems to come joined to the notion that if one has nothing to hide, that one need not fear when the government is working to take your freedom away. An underlying false, reciprocal assumption, that freedom is always guaranteed for those who simply believe themselves to be innocent. There always seems to be this underlying naivete', the complete lack of street smarts, the inability to believe that corporations, even the ones you like, might actually lie to you.

As for what you do about all this, I have few suggestions, other than it is important, when dealing with people who think this way, that you make it very clear to them that you did hear and understand what they said and you disagree with it, since so many of them cling to the false notion that what they're selling is simply irresistable if it is only properly sold.  I'm kind of hunkering down and preparing for the upcoming Blackwell and Brownback administrations, since they will be speaking to these underlying conceptual shifts that are being accepted by millions of people, most of whom can't be tagged as "dominionist" or "theocrat" or even "right-wing."
--
Acquire the Evidence: on Ron Luce, Teen Mania Ministries and the "BattleCry" campaign. acquiretheevidence.com

by Mike Doughney on Thu Jan 19, 2006 at 11:31:14 AM EST



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