A Lack of Imagination May 16, 2012Posted by Jodi in Fundamentalism, Politics.
A week ago I regretfully attended my last French class for who knows how long. I plan to continue studying the language—probably majoring or minoring in it—but I’ve exhausted all the classes offered at my two-year college. The good news is that my professor offered to meet me at the end of the summer to discuss L’Étranger in French if I will puzzle it out over the next few months on my own. She also said I’m welcome to sit in on her classes anytime I want to. So I’m not completely left hanging.
Speaking of French literature, our class discussions this semester revolved around Le Petit Prince, a children’s book which is also well-known in its English translation. There’s plenty to learn from this story, but the line that’s been stuck in my head the past couple weeks is the little prince’s summary of his quest to understand adults: “Les hommes manquent d’imagination.”
Men lack imagination.
In the book, this deficit results in some tragicomical behavior. A businessman hunches over his desk, counting and adding the stars he “owns” but doesn’t appreciate. A king gives absurd and futile orders. A drunkard drowns the shame of his addiction with bottle after bottle of alcohol. I’m beginning to think, though, that a lack of imagination in America is fueling some political activity that is far from laughable. I’m talking about this and this.
Most of the rest of what I have to say today is directed at conservative Christians. I’m asking you to imagine that at 1:00 this morning the Virginia House rejected the nomination of a well-qualified Christian man because some legislators thought he would bring his religious beliefs to the judicial bench. What if a state representative had said the candidate in question isn’t qualified for the job because his past shows “a pattern of behavior that is just notorious for Christian advocacy”? What if voters in North Carolina had approved a constitutional amendment requiring Christians to marry only non-Christians?
I’m suggesting this exercise in imagination because, contrary to what many of you believe, we don’t live in a Christian nation. We never have. We live in a country founded by men, many of them Christian, who observed the great injustices that arise when government enforces the beliefs of a particular religion. They structured our government so that we are ruled by representatives elected by the majority. And for decades you have used your majority to try to require the rest of us to live according to the rules of your religion.
Let me remind you of something that will probably sound familiar to you—”A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have” (Gerald Ford). This idea is important, because it can work against you as well as it works for you. I predict that you who are conservative Christians will someday find yourself a powerless minority. When that happens, I won’t be surprised if the majority tries to enshrine in ordinances, statutes, and constitutions the buffer from you that they crave. In some places you already are, and they already have. You’ll probably call it persecution. There’s a good chance you’ll console yourself with Matthew 5:11. I’m asking you to consider another possibility—you might be experiencing a corollary of the Golden Rule: Others will do unto you what you have done unto them. You reap what you sow.
I also predict that someday people who care about the freedoms and rights of others will be speaking up for you. I hope I’ll be one of them, because that’s the kind of person I want to be. But it will be hard for me. I’ll defend you reluctantly because I am one of your casualties. I am a woman for whom you refused to imagine anything other than a box which I nearly killed myself trying to fit into.