Choose Your Own God, But One That Expresses Your Most Solid Values
Values voters have decided all of the recent election outcomes, but more than ever we are split on what those values are.
It is often said that if God did not exist, humanity would have to invent Him. So, obviously, with over four thousand religions worldwide, someone, somewhere has to be that creator. Most, if not all, of these religions stress that their God is a good deity, often perfect, in fact. Most suggest that with just a little faith, we too can learn to be compassionate, unselfish, honest, non-murderous, respectful, merciful, humble and generous.
Yet, although most people, religious or not, profess to strive for these traits, where exactly is so much divisiveness coming from? Why is everyone at one another’s throats? Why is there a huge and growing gap between men and women, tradition and progress, black and white, native and immigrant, the haves versus the have nots?
Be Best, and Offer Your Two Cents
What are the values of a democracy? What are the values of best behavior? Be Best. That is a pretty simple directive, almost too simplistic to stand up to any scrutiny at all. If we already have our values sorted through, and we behave –so far as we can — to be our best, how are we supposed to be best differently? What is new, or useful, about such advice?
The answer is not too complex given a few minutes to contemplate it. Being our best is a simple, non-committed, and non-controversial way to say two words short of nothing. It is the cop out “two cents” worth of wisdom. It tells people to honor their values, their country and their faith. It says nothing about what those values should be (except that they should be best) and it says nothing that should offend anyone.
As just one example, someone who thinks a full human should have health care and choice will be pro-choice. Someone who believes abortion, or even contraception, is murder, will be against abortion. Both individuals will vote by those values. They will not seek the common value that states that humans make mistakes and every baby should be wanted. There is a majority of people wanting to keep women’s healthcare private, accessible and safe, but to hear the vitriol over the issue, you would not know that.
“Be Best” is almost the rhetorical equivalent of our ride saying “Fly safe,” when someone drops you off at the airport. Okay. I will sit here on this plane as safely as I can. But, if we do not consider our best values, we cannot expect to ever find common ground, support and encourage one another, agree on big or small government, learn whether or not sexual mores and roles matter, find a way to communicate with one another, and tackle the most pressing issues of our day.
We have to find our shared values. For many people their values center around their faith. That is why, in a world that is still largely protective of male hierarchy, God is a male. His sons and prophets are male, and the leaders of both church and state are male. But, even given this, there are plenty of religions that see male and female as equals. Most of these tend to be the ‘spiritually’ driven faiths that are relatively new to the altar in the last few centuries. And then there are the self-declared ‘None of the aboves’, or Nones, as they are now called. Among these are agnostics, atheists, and for the most part, people who just don’t find patience or even think about faith. They see this world as being more real, for whatever reason, than the ultimate prize of a paradise when they leave this world behind. To paraphrase Jesus Christ, they don’t see living for heaven, so much as they agree that here is all we have: “The Kingdom of God is Within You (and me).”
The traditional carrot and stick binary system of reward and punishment is upended by having values concerning this world. And it is this world that is in trouble with climate change, racism, sexism and hate. If we find our common values, sharing, loving, helping, fighting injustice, recognizing the destructive greed for power and money, honoring humility and more, then we can project these values onto our God— or we must honor that as their origin — but recognize they are useful for humanity at large.
Empowerment over Fear
Fear is the great motivation for values voters. It should not be. We should learn to identify useful scapegoats who tend to be the marginalized people of color and/or poverty. We must learn to identify courage and empowerment as a better guide than fear. We can each make a decision today to be less polluting, or help someone less fortunate. This kind of values-based stand is empowering, and not based on fear.
Values voters are those people who care enough about their own in-group that they will vote to defend against an out-group. We need to recognize shared values, and our shared biology, our shared interdependent world, and our total failure to protect values at all if we defer to another authority who claims to speak for us. That is, God helps those who help themselves.