Thursday, April 28, 2011

Birthers and Faith

Yesterday's news was chock full of crazy, but perhaps the craziest event of all was the release of the President's birth certificate.  Not the short form legal document, which has been out there for a while, but the original full length long form.

The reason for this is simple:  there's a significant sub-set of the American right wing that just can't bring itself to believe that Barack Hussein Obama is actually a citizen.  They're called the "Birthers," because they're utterly convinced that Obama was born in Kenya.  It's the name, of course, coupled the fact that he's kinda not Caucasian, which just doesn't process.

After years of suffering through these accusations, most recently stirred by potential Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump...gah...did I really say that...yes, I did, God help us all...the "long form" that has been demanded as proof of Obama's citizenship was finally released by the state of Hawaii.

Which, of course, isn't going to do a single thing to change the minds of Birthers.   Not a thing.  Why would it?  In this era of choose-your-own-reality, those who fervently believe Obama is not American will find places that affirm that belief.  Nothing, not no way, not no-how, is going to get the folks over at WorldNetDaily to admit that Obama has the right to be president.  Ever.

There's no amount of evidence you can produce, no carefully supported tack of argumentation, no appeal to reason, nothing that will change their perspective.  Honestly, these folks will still be going on about this issue well after Obama has finished his second term...just like the leftist "Truthers" can't seem to just freakin' let Occam's Razor deal with 9/11 already, or how some folks still can't bring themselves to believe that human beings on the moon, no matter how hard you hit 'em.

Why?  Because that belief...odd though it may be...defines them.  It provides them with their sense of identity.  It's not peripheral to their sense of self, but is, instead, central.  They orient and structure their lives around it.  And as such, it is akin to faith.

Which leads, conceptually, to something every person of faith needs to think honestly about.   My faith in God, and in the life/teachings/death/resurrection of Jesus, and in the transforming power of the Spirit, that faith is a bulwark.  It's a backstop when all other defining features are dashed against the unpleasant realities of being.  It's a defining and central characteristic of my adult identity.  It is, as existentialist theologian Paul Tillich would put it, my "ultimate concern," meaning that which defines the entirety of my being.  It is the narrative lens through which I understand existence, and from which I derive my purpose and sense of self.

But what faith isn't is negotiable.  Real and robust faith shifts, lives, and breathes, and integrates new concepts into itself.  It grows, and changes, but the essence, purpose, and direction of it does not.

Which is why having faith in things that are not...well...ultimate...leads to a delusional and/or destructive sense of self.  And a delusional and destructive sense of what is real, true, and meaningful.  But really, that's not faith at all.  It's idolatry.

And idolatry is perhaps the most robust and pernicious of human failings.