Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Faith of Sandy Hook "Truthers"

Human beings are great at coming up with reasons why things are.  We see patterns in things, connections and linkages and interweavings, and in some ways, that's our strength as beings.  Creation is a fabulously knit thing, and the insights of both faith and science show that those threads bind us up with each other and all of being in marvelous and inscrutable ways.

But sometimes, that ability is our curse.  Out of that same mystic inclination, we create false connections that do not deepen, but that tear apart.  We imagine connections that rise out of our pride or our desire for power, casting a web of dark and hateful fantasy over our perception.  

Those things allow us to see others not as they are, but as projections of our own shadow selves.  We see political opponents through these lenses, imputing intentionality that isn't there.  We see estranged lovers and friends through those eyes, assuming their actions to be governed by malices that are simply the hissing of our own unresolved anger and bitterness.

The latest burst of conspiracist whispering about Sandy Hook is a perfect illustration of this form of human hubris.  A certain wing of paleolibertarian thought works under the assumption that any and every event that speaks against libertarian assumptions about firearms and weaponry must have been planned and plotted.  This was true in Aurora, and after the shooting of Gabby Giffords, and it's been doubly and deeply true after Sandy Hook.    Bombings?  Mass shootings?  They can't be what they are.  What they must be instead is part of some vast dark plot to take away the killing implements that are the foundation of human coercive power over others.   Odd, that those who fetishize freedom understand so poorly the real foundation of our liberty.

And so the complex reality of this horrible tragedy is swept aside.   All data that disconfirms an existing understanding is ignored.  Every possible interpretation and carefully spun datapoint that can be found to reinforce what is believed is found, and then woven into an impenetrable veil.

It's important to name this phenomenon.  

This is not faith.  Faith is that which allows us to see connections that bind us closer to our neighbor.  Faith breaks down the existential barriers we'd build around our souls, and calls us deeper into an ever growing and loving relationship with both creation and Creator.  It is the transformative aspect of the Deep Real.  We know it by its fruit, or so a dear friend once told me.

This is idolatry, which is the the shadow of faith.   Idolatry comes when we worship the creation of our own hands and minds.  Idols can be little hunks of wood or stone, but they are now more often culture or tribe or nation or political ideology.  These idolatrous patterns of thought are the totems worshipped by our demons, those dark and gibbering semi-beings that live and grow in the shadows of our selfishness and isolation.

And that is the source and heart of all human brokenness.   It is the root of Evil, assuming that we're allowed to use that word these days.