In our partner meeting this morning we were having an interesting discussion on a recent New York Times article.
The author states his insight came from…
….a 2015 pre-caucus stop in Pella by J. C. Watts, a Baptist minister raised in the small town of Eufaula, Okla., who was a Republican congressman from 1995 to 2003, to begin to understand my neighbors — and most likely other rural Americans as well.
“The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good,” said Mr. Watts, who was in the area to campaign for Senator Rand Paul. “We are born bad,” he said and added that children did not need to be taught to behave badly — they are born knowing how to do that.
“We teach them how to be good,” he said. “We become good by being reborn — born again.”
He continued: “Democrats believe that we are born good, that we create God, not that he created us. If we are our own God, as the Democrats say, then we need to look at something else to blame when things go wrong — not us.”
Watts’ statement, for me, was an odd construction.
Yes, many conservative religions believe in a fundamentally flawed human.
The generalization about Democrats was strange. Please let me know the religion that states we are born good and ‘create God’ (although I think a good bit of our societal interest in yoga practice is based upon a misconception about Eastern religions ‘creating God’…allowing American practitioners to interpret meditation as mind/body/spirit individualistic self-absorption).
The article goes on to discuss different conceptions of personal moral responsibility…or the lack of personal moral responsibility (blaming others for personal shortcomings).
Other than the article pointing out the author’s amazingly shallow knowledge of his neighbors, I found little insight.
What it did generate in our partner meeting was a discussion of Western religion’s preoccupation with good and bad, right and wrong.
There are certainly broad ‘truths’, and I admire certain conservative religious ministers/writers for their ability to sternly profess Biblical truths.
HOWEVER, we have a ‘hhhhuge’ social problem that results from our hyper-individualistic society. Professing Biblical truths (or for that manner any truths) meets resistance and belligerence with a selfish, thoughtless individualist.
We are not – in our present society – going to solve the enormous problem of thoughtlessness and personal amorality by ‘teaching the truth’.
Here is where agriculture becomes critical….we can use food, food preparation, nutrition as a ‘remedy’.
Two months ago I spent much of a day with the relatively new President of my undergraduate engineering school. For over 35 years I’ve been an alum agnostic…no involvement. Although I highly respected aspects of my undergraduate education I came to not respect the engineering ethic…so had never practiced engineering.
The meeting arose because I received an alumni magazine talking about the School’s interest in sustainability. A brief email exchange led me to campus.
I had wanted to talk about the ethic of the engineering curriculum, but found the President preoccupied with renovations to the Student Union and efforts to enhance the food program with both improved nutrition and a more green, sustainable operations plan.
It quickly became evident that he had determined that the most viable method to improve the ethic of the School was to improve the food program for students. I think it gave him a way to engage students, faculty, alumni, donors in an active discussion about ‘what the heck are we doing’ and ‘what the heck are we teaching’…without meeting the hyper-individualistic belligerence to ethical changes in the curriculum that arise from examining truths and repenting for past industrial engineering ‘sins’.
Agriculture and food are intellectual gateways to culture…and we sorely need a culture.