Spirit Quest


The 4Fs are alive though under a different guise

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

“4 F” was the designation for someone who proved unfit for battle. My pacifist inclinations would probably make me wish, that upon conscription, I might be so classed and thus avoid the “killing fields.”.

However, 4 F sums up for me four negative character types: Fanatics, Fundamentalists, Fraudsters and the Fearfilled. 

Whenever I hear of fanaticism I have visions of what I experienced as a child in my brief exposure to Hitler’s regime. His ideologues were past masters of the power and art of persuasion and indoctrination. Goebbles, the Reich’s  Minister of Propaganda, had that psychology down cold.  I still marvel at their ability to stage theatrics of Wagnerian proportions.  Also they had institutions that  dealt with dissidents.

I recall the  marches, uniforms, the drum beats  and torchlight parades. Hitler was a powerful orator and his lieutenants were no slouches on the stage. The aim, of course, was to build a fanaticism that blinded the people to all reason. It was summed up in the slogan roared over and over until hoarse : “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuerer,” (One Folk, One Empire, One Leader). It was with this that many were duped to pledge their lives while their cities reaped the inferno.

Today the rock star ratchets up the decibel level that drowns out all other sound or thought except his own. Invariably, under the force of nature,  the main stage collapses and after the screams of panic there is silence broken only by the sirens’ wails. It seems like  the parable of our time. 

Fundamentalism is very much the handmaid of fanaticis. In religion whether Islamic, Christian or Jewish, it is a distortion and denial of the original message. Those, like Richard Dawkin, who blame religion for most world turmoil should only have fundamentlism to blame. 

The writings of the founders of the three monotheistic faiths  were not objective facts but parable, myth, legend and were communicated in poetic style. According to Northrop Frye in The Great Code, “Sacred stories illustrate a specific social concern,” that transcend their time.  I had a professor who claimed that all history prior to the American Civil War  (1861- 65) was mythology. This does not mean that they are untrue but are a different way of communicating  that truth. It is not for lazy minds or for those who “already know what they believe” and do not want to change. I am reminded of the fundamentalist who when confronted by different translations of the Bible said, “If the King James version was good enough for Jesus it is good enough for me.”

Ted Schmidt in his blog Theology in the Vinyard writes: “These fundamentalists come in many stripes. Unable to deal with modernity and a world shattered largely by right wing economic greedsters, Ayn Rand disciples like Greenspan and Friedman, they do not know where to turn to assuage their confusion and anger. The brown people will do as handy scapegoats if you please.

Catholicism is rife with these fundamentalists. Convinced that the centre is not holding, they grab on to the barque of Peter and engage in ‘popolatry’ so they will not have to think anymore. They are unable to cope with any ambiguity, any whiff of pluralism, a mult-hued world etc.”  I hasten to add that Schmidt is a Catholic and a “faithful” critic of his church.

Mega churches not only in the United States but in many other parts of the world proclaim a simplistic faith and an angry God ready to destroy creation. Faith becomes an escape route from armageddon rather than the way of love and justice.

Fraud is best defined as living a lie. The fraudster is often no longer cognizant of the truth but follows the way of least resistance.  They are afraid to speak the truth, but find comfort in standing on the side of “popular opinion.”  Truth is not merely factual correctness - a place for rogues to hide. As is popularly said, statistics don’t lie but you can sure as hell lie with statistics.... all the time. It was Pilate who upon concluding his interrogation of Jesus cynically remarked, “What is truth?” Do we know, do we care?.

Basic to all religions is the message of Love, which fundamentalists want to subvert and fanatics want to drown out. The fanatic is afraid of being alone and directionless. The fundamentalist is afraid of having to think outside the box, the fraudster fears who  he/she really is. And all are afraid of the power of Love. 

The 4 Fs are very much alive today. In each age they adopt a different guise but the dynamics remain the same. Though the alleged perpetrator of the Oslo massacre acted alone his ideals are not unknown in Europe. Xenophobia is in evidence in the Netherlands and Austria as elsewhere around the world.

The Taliban is resurging in Kandahar. In the United States the Tea Party movement is throwing its weight around in the debt debate refusing to  raise taxes which is the most equitable way of financing a country.  Global warming denial is alive in Australia. In the True North Strong and Free religious fundamentalists have, according to Marci McDonald in her book ”The Armageddon Factor,” found their way to influence and find  favour for their policies in the Conservative Party. 

All is not lost. Thankfully there is  evidence that acceptance of same sex relations is on the increase. Movements for freedom from dictatorships are alive in Africa. Humanitarian movements by NGOs is providing relief to the starving and medicines for the sick.  These are signs of hope. May they proliferate.

I believe that there is a spirit that seeks to combat fanaticism, fundamentalism, fraud and fear. It seeks to penetrate the facade  and bring to light the truly human.The spirit seeks to liberate the victim from delusions and false certainties.

That spirit is alive, albeit many fear that it might reveal that the emperor has no clothes and that we are human beings afterall. Therefore seek out that spirit and do not be afraid.

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