When I was still working, thousands of years ago, I used to have a sign hanging in my office that read as follows: ” NO AMOUNT OF HARD WORK OR CAREFUL PLANNING CAN EVER REPLACE SHEER DUMB LUCK.” It was, of course meant to convey the capriciousness of life, where through no effort of their own, some people seem to experience a constant stream of good fortune, while others appear to inherit a disproportionate boatload of bad luck. Just read through the obit column in your daily newspaper. There is the 26- year-old who just died of a brain tumor before her life had barely begun. Right next to the obituary of the 97-year- old who led a full and enjoyable life before simply dying of old age.
As we grow from childhood into becoming adults, we gain the experience to recognize the basic unfairness of the human condition. We accordingly adjust, learn to comprise, and recognize we won’t acquire everything we desire. That life is basically a game of give-and-take, and we mostly make pragmatic choices to get us through the day. As a child we may cry and scream or even throw a tantrum because Mommy won’t buy us the toy or candy bar we so desperately desire. But as we become adults, that type of behavior is shut down to us, and we have to make necessary compromises with our spouses, our families, friends, and even strangers in order to reasonably function on a daily basis within society. But for some people, the idea of compromise or pragmatism is beyond their comprehension. In their personal lives such behavior often leads to dysfunctional relationships, as well as dependency on drugs or alcohol. But when this type of uncompromising behavior enters the social and/or political arenas, it usually means death and misery for millions of people. Because more often than not, the persons perpetuating such hardcore, fundamentalist and uncompromising positions are “the true believers.” Those that believe that only their views of religion, or politics, or social behavior, is the right path, and those that deviate from that path must either be coerced into changing, or else, in extreme cases, be put to death. And unfortunately history is replete with such examples.
A good example, and certainly on the hit parade’s top ten list of man’s follies through the ages, is the Spanish Inquisition. When the Catholic Church became dominant in Spain in the late 15th century, the Inquisition was begun to convert all non-believers into becoming Catholics. By the way, this practice didn’t end until the mid-19th century, almost 400 years later. The non-believers that had to be converted into Catholicism included Jews, Muslims and eventually Protestants. The Inquisitors (true believers) stated that they didn’t have anything against these beliefs; it was just that the only way to save a person’s soul, and hence enable them to enter the kingdom of heaven, was through conversion to Catholicism. Some Jews and Muslims converted while others didn’t. Those that didn’t were either imprisoned for life, or burned at the stake. But it was for their own good. After all, the important thing was to save their souls. So went the mindset of the true believer.
In the 20th century we saw this type of rigid, true-believer mindset take hold in Europe and the Pacific, with both Communist and Fascist dictatorships causing the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. When the Bolsheviks took control of Russia, those that refused to become true believers in the merits of communism, were usually sent to slave labor camps in Siberia or simply put to death. In Germany, in 1925, Adolph Hitler got his autobiographical “Mien Kamf” published with its viciously anti-semitic diatribes. Most Germans at the time considered the book the ravings of a lunatic. After all, Germany was a well-educated, sophisticated country with a rich cultural history. But persistence and demagoguery began paying off, and slowly but surely, as more and more swastikas began appearing in the public square, Hitler’s lunatic ideas began taking hold, and the rest, as they say, is history. More than 60 million people died in in Europe, thanks to the fascist ideology of the true believer. In the Pacific, at the same time, the fascist and militaristic dictatorship of Japan was killing millions of more “non-believers.” After WWII, China came to be ruled by the truest of all believers in Marxism, Mao Zedong. Those that refused to follow or bow to Mao’s rigid beliefs were slaughtered by the millions. On a slightly smaller scale, we saw similar occurrences when Castro took over Cuba and the dictatorship that reigns over North Korea. Today, the most fundamentalist of all regimes controls Iran, which has also murdered tens of thousands of its people that refused to abide by the tenets of true belief in radical Islam, which holds that all non-believers in strict Sharia law should be put to death. And Iran is developing the nuclear capability that can make that happen.
What’s the lesson to be learned as far as this country is concerned, at this point in time? The lesson is that the true believers in our country are acquiring more and more power and influence, and will have a dominant role should the Republicans win the November election. Among the true believers are the anti-abortion fanatics, who will strive to outlaw all legal abortions, because, after-all, this is what Jesus would dictate. Also, gay rights would be denied and homosexuals would have to get way back in the closet, because such unbiblical behavior cannot be tolerated is a proper society. Government assistance to the poor, the sick and the elderly would be sharply curtailed because, although the New Testament stresses helping the poor, it’s somehow a bad thing if the Government does it. I could go on but you get the picture. The only question is whether the people will allow the true believers of today to really exert their rigid and fundamentalist beliefs on all of us.