Thursday, August 6, 2009

Faith and the "Birthers"

On a whim today, I started taking a look at the "birther" movement. In the event that you've been intentionally hiding from CNN frothmeister Lou Dobbs, this is the group of right wing folk who are absolutely certain that Obama is not actually an American citizen. He's actually Kenyan. That his citizenship has been confirmed and reconfirmed is meaningless to the birthers, because all of those confirmations must be 1) fabricated or 2) evasions.

They have to be, because the "birthers" are completely convinced that they have discovered a great secret truth that has been suppressed since Obama was a baby by...well...someone. Most likely the Commie Fifth Columnists, working collaboratively with the Illuminati. It's also possible that both the K'taal Hive Mind and the surprisingly crafty Boise, Idaho chapter of the Kiwanis may be significant players.

One of the most interesting subthreads of this collective psychosis I've found...and there appear to be plenty of folks in the blogosphere who believe this...is that the birth certificate is being hidden because Obama is actually the son of Frank Marshall Davis, an influential African American progressive. According to this theory, his Kenyan father was a "beard," selected so that Davis wouldn't have to divorce his wife.

Of course, if this is true, then Obama would still be an American citizen, rendering this whole drama completely moot. Sure, but to birthers, that doesn't matter. Nothing matters. The folks who have grasped these "truths" are clinging to them with a presuppositional ferocity. Everything and anything they hear will be bent to validate what they already believe.

So...how is that different from faith? There are many folks of the neoatheist persuasion who would argue that belief in God is similar to being a "birther" or any other conspiracy theorist. If you believe in something, you'll fight to prove it's truth, bending the way you perceive reality so that reality accommodates that belief. For critics of religion like Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, that willingness to disregard empirical evidence in favor of defending doctrine is the greatest danger of faith.

There, I think, it helps if we understand faith not as the desperate defense of a rigid system of closely-held thought, but as something that orients us outside of the frameworks in which we find ourselves. Faith in God, if it is authentic, does not harden us against truth. It causes us to realize that truth with a Capital Tee is something that transcends us. To come closer to that truth, we must allow it to shatter our preconceptions, not just once, but over and over again.

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