Last week I heard about the “Horseshoe Theory”. Compelled by the term, I went to the source of all truth, Wikipedia (ha), and found this simple but provocative idea: the far right and the far left are actually quite similar. Or said another way, fundamentalism is alive and well in both conservative and liberal circles.
Fundamentalism is a strict literalism applied to certain beliefs that seeks to maintain clear in-group and out-group distinctions. Fundamentalists often believe that they are 100% right while those who disagree with them are 100% wrong. They are the good guys protecting The Truth from the bad guys.
Fundamentalists have the gift of certainty.
And when you’re always certain, you don’t listen.
And if you don’t listen, you can never learn.
And if you can never learn, you are unable to be a part of the solution. Even if you’re technically right. Fr Ron Rolheiser makes the brilliant observation that “throughout history, many movements based in truth failed because the energy powering them was ugly.” Wow.
Which helps explain why the extreme tolerance folks can often sound really intolerant. And the extreme religious liberty folks can often trample on other people’s liberties. Whether conservative or liberal, we are all capable of letting a beautiful truth harden into an ugly ideology.
(If you had to name one way that you can most easily fall into fundamentalism, what would it be? A political viewpoint? A religious theology? A cultural issue?)
So friends, may we hold onto our beliefs passionately, courageously, and humbly. May we keep listening and learning, even as we diligently pursue the truth. Be brave! Be bold! But never stop seeing “the other” as a deeply loved brother or sister who might be holding part of the solution.
The world is buckling underneath the weight of toxic fundamentalism from the left and right. But we can help bring healing through a more excellent way…
“And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Corinthians 12-13)