We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

In a Different World

Castellano & Maddow on "Meet the Press"
This past Sunday, April 29th, speaking together on the news program "Meet the Press,"  Rachel Maddow of MSNBC exchanged words with Republican strategist Alex Castellanos on the subject of equal pay for men and women in the workforce.  Maddow made the point that women on average make substantially less than men doing comparable work with comparable qualifications and experience.  Castellanos immediately denied the truth of the statement.  It is a liberal myth based on a misunderstanding of the facts.  Last night, Maddow invested a considerable amount of time laying out the data in detail, all of which shows beyond any reasonable doubt that across virtually all major occupations women do not receive comparable compensation for comparable work done with comparable skills and experience.  The data comes from multiple sources, mostly federal government labor and commerce statistics.  The case is air-tight so far as the data goes.

It is clearly not air-tight, however, once ideology is factored in.  Castellanos approached the whole question as a matter of belief.  He does not believe the slant given the data by "liberals".  In his universe, women don't receive equal pay because they don't do comparable work.  Now, the hard data analyzed statistically does not allow that conclusion, and this is not a matter of belief.  But, he turned it into one.   To hear Maddow go through this, it seems that she is stunned by the discovery that she and Castellanos are not living in the same world of fact.  Since she is 39 year's old, we have to assume that she actually did already know that, but maybe she was surprised to have the fact reaffirmed with such painful clarity.

I mention this in Rom Phra Khun because Maddow has bumped up against a reality that we live with in the church constantly.  People chose to believe things that are simply not true.  At the top of the list is the denial of evolution and the findings of the whole science of modern biology.  We evolve.  Life evolves.  This is not a matter of belief but of simple fact.  As I've pointed out here many times before, the science is overwhelming and the mountain of data is so incredibly huge that no reasonable person should be able to reject it.  Yet, tens of millions of American Christians do reject the data as being merely "bogus".  They maintain their rejection, indeed bolster it, by living in a world of people, institutions, and beliefs that all reinforce their denial—make that denial plausible and sustainable.  They are not crazy, and they are not dumb.  They live in a different world, one in which the age of the world is a mere 6,000-plus years.  In their world, any so-called fact that contradicts that conclusion is bogus and, more to the point, a denial of God and God's "Word," the Bible.  There is no arguing with the truths they know to be true because they exist in a different universe and living in that universe they demonstrate one of the most important insights of modern sociology.  We socially construct reality.  We establish truths together and together uphold the truth of those truths even when they are not true.

One of our failures in American politics today and in the church today is that we are not able to dialogue across our ideologies.  That failure is poisoning our politics and it leads Christians to treat each other in ways that are far from Christ-like.  Our ideological differences are a threat to church, nation, and the globe.