Friday, February 18, 2011

Fidelity to principle is not necessarily laudable.

I will give Joel Northrup a smidgen of respect for sticking to his principles—but a very small smidgen at most.

Joel is a "home schooled" Christian, and a fundamentalist Pentecostal. His father is a minister. He is a 16-year-old wrestler in Iowa who was in the state tournament and forfeited his match because his opponent was female. He said it was a "matter of faith" for him and that it was not "appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner." His father says it is immoral to "touch" in a "familiar way" which presumable includes wrestling.

Now, lots of people said they respected him. I have only a small amount of respect. Fidelity to a bad idea is not something I applaud. Fidelity, in and of itself, is of little importance to me. The question for me always concerns itself with what it is that someone is being faithful to.

Pol Pot had some very faithful followers but I would NOT applaud them for being faithful to the idea of harming others. Don't get me wrong, I'm not equating Northrup to Pol Pot by any means. I'm just illustrating the point that being true to one's principles are only meritorious if the principles themselves are good ones.

Northrup's principles are not necessarily ones I share. And they illustrate deeper beliefs that I do think are actually harmful and the cause of a great deal of human misery. But, in the surface beliefs he is stating, I find them rather inconsequential. Yes, as I said, there are deeper principles that are problematic but I can't assume that this boy understands that, or is clearly making that connection.

But here is what I do appreciate this example of fundamentalist fidelity. In this case, being true to his principles hurts no one but Northrup.

I don't mind when people are faithful to their principles when they, and they alone pay the price.

What bothers me about fundamentalism, a faith I know well after having escaped their clutches many years ago, after tw0 and half years of seminary, is that too often they wish to have others pay the price for their religion.

When a fundamentalist refuses to attend an "immoral Hollywood movie" they are only impacting their own life. When they wish to impose censorship, in order to prevent others from watching movies, they are hurting others.

A fundamentalists who marries according to his religion, may or may not be hurting him self, but they alone pay the price of their decision. When they wish to ban gay people from marrying they are harming others.

Unfortunately, most fundamentalists are of the view that, given the power to do so, they will impose their beliefs on others. And by "impose" I mean the word literally. I don't just mean dressing badly and going door-to-door trying to convert others. That is their right. I don't mean preaching their antiquated gospel and their primitive, superstitious view of the world. That too is their right.

My resentment for their agenda begins when they attempt to gain political power in order to force others to live by their standards.