What Is “Real”

“No true Scotsman.” That logical fallacy seems increasingly in vogue these days. If someone in our broad group deviates from what we find acceptable behavior or modes of thinking, we rush to toss them from that broad group, insisting we get to define what it means to be Christian, American, conservative, progressive, Democrat, or Republican. We do this to ostracize those we disagree with, and often in progressive circles, cover up the fact that our beliefs are open to interpretations that go against our values.

We see this in the bickering back and forth between conservative Christians and their liberal brethren. Each denies the Christianity of the other rather than be open to discussion about how the Bible is to be interpreted.  Both groups want to claim the mantle for themselves without equivocation. They brook no deviation in what it means to say what is Christian. Never mind that the tent of that faith is so large, with so many tables that it is sill to do so. Orthodox Christians, are not Catholics, are not mainstream Protestants, are not Evangelicals. Heck, even the Evangelicals are not unified in their views, but all are willing to kick everyone else out, and grab the prize of “true Christendom.”

This holds true when it comes to our nationality as well. Never mind debates over birthplace. If someone holds one Amendment in the Bill of Rights higher than your favorite one, too often you question their commitment to the ideas of the Founding Fathers. Leaving aside that these were flawed men merely doing the best with what they had, what makes you think they held any of what they wrote down as absolutely sacrosanct? They are called “amendments” because they were seeking to improve on what they already had done. They left it open to change because they knew they missed stuff. They encouraged us think about what it means to be an American, and which freedoms we hold dear. They did not give us a score card, letting us know this right or that was more important. It doesn’t read “in order to create a perfect union,” but rather “a more perfect union.” They new perfection was out of reach but hoped we would do the best with what we have.

I could go on and on. Democrats blasting either “blue dogs” from one side, or “knee jerk liberals” on the other. Republicans calling each other Tea Baggers or RINOs. It really can be applied to any large group and it is sad and if we want to move forward, to make the world a place we can all share, we ought to stop. We ought to stop for the sake of those ideas we hold dear, because when we push people out, we no longer have them around to discuss, debate, and grow with. We no longer can transmit our ideas, or learn new ideas from others. I do hold one Amendment above others, the freedom of speech, even speech that offends me (though I hope you know my views on that are fairly nuanced) because with out the exchange of ideas we learn nothing. If we tell our fellow Americans they are not real Americans, why should they listen to or speak to us? By all means, get outraged, do not hold back from ideas you hold dear, and if someone is really a toxic influence, then cut them lose. To leave out an entire segment of your community though, to name them enemy, is self-destructive, and a little self-indulgent. I  would hope all of us, conservative, liberal, Christian, and non-believer, could all outgrow that.

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