I don’t know exactly when it happened. I don’t know if there was an email, text message, or social media post which made us aware of the growing challenge. All I know is at some point, maybe the last fifteen years, we moved to a point where the State was becoming more significant in our lives.
I’ve read the important documents. I learned it was important to read the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. In the eighth grade, we memorized the Emancipation Proclamation. Now as an adult, I’ve read these associated documents and books which carried the general theme of freedom. It was H.L. Mencken who stated, “the most dangerous man to any government is a man who is able to think for himself.” So I began to put the pieces together and in the current context in which we no live, I feel like an outsider.
An outsider. An outsider typically recognizes he or she possess a different way of looking at life than the group existing in front of him or her. An outsider recognizes, especially in terms of beliefs and values, there are distinguishing features which places him or her on the outside.
As you surveyed the society there was this growing fervor to identify, demand a public confession, or face the walk of shame. It's interesting how history repeats itself in human societies. In less extreme cases, an individual was asked to leave the group. In more extreme cases Scarlett Letter A’s, tar and feathering, lynchings, and drownings were implemented because the in-group perceived the individual as such a threat, shame and death were the only remedy. Our society has looked at the mercy of God marking Cain as a way to exact alienation and in some cases death to protect itself.
I don’t think we realized many of us began to participate in a whole new religious movement. A religious movement marked by a clergy of academics, its religious institutions of universities, and of course, an evangelization which was not motivated by love, rather the threat of alienation, shame, and guilt.
If you stood back you could see this burgeoning religion expand. Now to use the word “religion” would not be socially appropriate. We have been told to move beyond the old patriarchal system of viewing our lives in the context of an overarching story, guided by universal principles, and accountable to a transcendent being. Yet when you stand back you should be able to see what has happened is the explosion of a new religion. A religion which has pervaded every aspect of our political, social, economic, and yes, religious life.
I anticipate as life continues to move forward. As the society continues to organize herself under this new religion, I will face more exclusion. Labels of selfishness, cultivation of shame, and loss I expect will come with the territory. A religion built on these actions is doomed to eventually consume itself.
I’ll be here on the outside…satisfied with my religion.