December 5, 2020

Musings on Moral Theology (4)

Note from CM: This is our final meditation on Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.

Soon, we will take a look at Richard Beck’s book, Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality, as a complement to this series.

• • •

Musings on Moral Theology (4)

We evolved to live in groups. Our minds were designed not only to help us win the competition within our groups, but also to help us unite with those in our group to win competitions across groups.

• Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind

In the final section of Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind, he covers a lot of ground to focus on some important aspects of how people think morally.

The big point is that people have evolved to not only develop individual moral thinking, but also to come together in groups — humans “are products of multilevel selection, which turned us into Homo duplex” (p. 367). Or, metaphorically, we are a lot like chimps (autonomous, selfish individuals) who sometimes transcend our individualism and function like bees (cooperatively, with a hive mentality).

In this chapter I presented the hive hypothesis, which states that human beings are conditional hive creatures. We have the ability (under special circumstances) to transcend self-interest and lose ourselves (temporarily and ecstatically) in something larger than ourselves. I called this ability the hive switch. The hive switch is another way of stating Durkheim’s idea that we are Homo duplex; we live most of our lives in the ordinary (profane) world, but we achieve our greatest joys in those brief moments of transit to the sacred world, in which we become “simply a part of a whole.” (pp. 283-284)

This has impact on how we view such human realities as religion and politics. For example, Haidt is critical of the so-called New Atheists, who misunderstand religion primarily in terms of individual beliefs which must be answered, rather than as “social facts. Religion cannot be studied in lone individuals any more than hivishness can be studied in lone bees” (p. 287).

This “tribal” religious instinct is and has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, religion is “well suited to be the handmaiden of groupishness, tribalism, and nationalism” that can act violently to defend and advance its interests. On the other hand, Haidt quotes studies which show that: “By many different measures religiously observant Americans are better neighbors and better citizens than secular Americans—they are more generous with their time and money, especially in helping the needy, and they are more active in community life.”

In like manner, Haidt describes how we have developed political tribes, each with its own vision of “the good life” and what it takes to achieve that.

  • Some people, in modern politics, gravitate toward the “left” (valuing the first two moral foundations primarily, being more open and welcoming to change and innovation, and distrustful of institutions that have at times oppressed and marginalized people and groups).
  • Some find themselves on the “right” (valuing all six moral foundations — with some differences in definition — valuing order and stability, convinced that there are threats to moral capital from certain kinds of change).

This section is most interesting in that it reveals Haidt’s own personal transformation from a committed “liberal” to one who learned to appreciate the moral vision of conservatism.

The “groupishness” of human life leads Jonathan Haidt to develop his final point about morality:

Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.

…This book explained why people are divided by politics and religion. The answer is not, as Manichaeans would have it, because some people are good and others are evil. Instead, the explanation is that our minds were designed for groupish righteousness. We are deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive our strategic reasoning. This makes it difficult—but not impossible—to connect with those who live in other matrices, which are often built on different configurations of the available moral foundations. (pp. 366-367)

Learning to get along, then, is a rather monumental task. It involves recognizing our own individualistic and groupish tendencies to fight instinctively for our values and our team and to dismiss those from other teams. It also means learning to listen, beyond the rhetoric, to the underlying moral foundations and moral vision of others as they promote their way. It means seeing the “enemy’s” point of view, deeply, intuitively, even sympathetically.

As Tim Keller said in the video we posted yesterday, if we really embrace the teaching of our faith and the example of our Savior, Christians should be well-equipped to respectfully engage our neighbors with love, kindness, respect, and appreciation.

But I will be the first to acknowledge that log-removal surgery (Matt. 7:1-5) is a daunting prospect. It would be great if many of us would set aside our fears and sign up for the procedure.


  1. Adam Tauno Williams says

    “””but we achieve our greatest joys in those brief moments of transit to the sacred world, in which we become “simply a part of a whole.””””

    Does he touch on, in the book, the effect of isolation; when people are denied [or deny themselves] these experiences?

    • I would think that the high levels of addiction in our society(ies) indicate that many people in fact are not having these experiences. Which is not to deny that there is a significant genetic/physiological component to addiction, but only that there must also be significant social causes that are triggering these existing biological tendencies (which are not fait accomplis).

      • I agree: Congress should never have given into those Indians who wanted to take peyote in order to have religious visions/hallucinations. RFRA was a mistake: People should not be permitted to opt-out of laws just because they (or some person 3,000 years ago who wrote a book) had a hallucination of god telling them they should.

        • Comments that plainly show that you have not read the post, or gotten its point at all, do nothing to help make your case. Of course, if you’re just here to troll and insult, I guess that doesn’t really matter, does it?

        • What? I don’t see that you are agreeing with anything.

          You are of course aware that the careful religious ritual use of psychedelics, and the habitual and habituated use of addictive substances of all kinds, are not in any way similar? I hope?

          • No, I’m pretty sure use of psychedelics is the same whether you happen to be religious or not. I see no distinction between them at all. The biological mechanism of action is the same either way.

            • Addiction makes a big difference. There is nothing to suggest the in tribal religious use of psychedelics addiction was common.

              • Really? Religion just acts as a magic spell that neutralizes the harmful effects of psychedelic drugs? Or is it that Indians are genetically immune to them?

                • This thread is not really following the focus of the post. Let’s get back on track, please.

                  • No problem, I’m used to it: moderators always stomp on me, NEVER on right-wing, superstitionist posters. Nothing I haven’t experienced before.

                    • Not “stomping” on you J. The entire thread is missing the point.

                    • –> “…NEVER on right-wing, superstitionist posters.”

                      If you think the majority of the iMonk community are “right-wing, superstitionist posters,” you clearly never really read anything anyone posts but rather come here with preconceived notions, and about the only people I HAVE seen Chaplain Mike shut down (other than you) ARE those people (and I can count them on two fingers).

                    • Rick: yes, and I also find it highly ironic seeing as following IMonk if anything has made me “less” right winged

            • Everything I’ve read indicates that addicts process the effects of the chemicals differently. But perhaps you have sources for your assertions?

    • To answer your question, Adam, no that is really not Haidt’s focus. He is engaging in a debate which is apparently ongoing among those studying evolution, as to whether human evolution is an individualistic matter or whether there is a “groupishness” aspect to it as well. Haidt defends the latter and is merely trying to talk about how that works — through various human experiences when people felt part of something bigger than themselves.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says


        • Dana Ames says

          Adam, I’d also like to say that if one views reality as One Thing and not bifurcated between the “mundane” and the “sacred”, it’s not a huge step at all to “the sacred world.” We can be open to the Transcendant all the time, if we believe it’s all around us, and even in us. Doesn’t require an ecstatic experience to access.


  2. I’m not sure I agree with the bifurcation that Haidt says exists in human experience between the ordinary, profane and the transcendent, sacred worlds. It seems to me that the two types of experience interpenetrate each other, rather than existing at separate poles of a continuum. When the first-responders were running up the stair wells into the burning towers of the World Trade Center, were they losing themselves, their sense of individuality and self-interest, in the service of an altruistic, self-transcending experience of being “simply a part of a whole”? Or were they focused in the most intense way possible on the profane moment and task at hand, trying their utmost to limit the damage and death of the catastrophe unfolding around them?

    I don’t see this as a duplex phenomenon. The individual is most fully realized, and finds transcendence as an individual and with her individuality, in meeting the demands and exigencies of the profane moment. I think the sense of individuality, and the awareness of the importance and possibilities of individual choice, would be heightened in such moments. The individuality is not left behind, but expands and is realized. Or, if you prefer, the narrow narcissism that seems to be an innate quality of human consciousness becomes a wide, inclusive narcissism that recognizes its own interests far beyond the small circle it has hitherto or usually seen it in. You could almost call it a supernatural transformation of the experience of self, if you were religiously inclined.

    • I think Haidt would be ok with the way you’ve formulated it, Robert. The overall point is that there is a “groupishness” involved in human evolution and moral thinking. And that groupishness developed out of experiences when people felt a part of something bigger than themselves. As for 9/11, Haidt illustrates not by evoking the feelings of the first responders, but of ordinary citizens like himself, who, in contrast to his own perceived character, suddenly wanted to put an American flag sticker on his car, feeling a sense of connection to his “tribe.”

      • I don’t see how putting an American flag sticker on ones car is an indicator of the transcendence of self. Rather, it seems to me that doing so means that what was in the background of ones own sense of self, and perhaps even suppressed and unrecognized, now has been brought into the foreground. Based on the quote above, where Haidt says that human beings are “conditional hive creatures”, and then links that conditional hivishness with the occasional transcendence of self in the experience of the sacred, he seems to think that the hivishness is not the usual mode of operation of human consciousness. I disagree with that. I think that hivishness is the usual mode of operation of human consciousness, since we are preeminently social creatures; even when we are unaware of it, as we so often are, hivishness lurks beneath our sense of our own individuality.

        But the transcendence of the hive mind into a fully aware and focused human consciousness, aware of itself and of its relationship to all around it, is the occasion when mere hivishness expands into the possibility of recognizing the “ethical imperative”, if I may put it so, of our belonging to a wider world. Yes, I owe loyalty to my tribe or family, and must protect it as best I can; but I also owe a human loyalty to those beyond my tribe or family, which may mean that on certain occasions I’m willing to sacrifice my life for a complete stranger. It is only in the latter state of consciousness, that recognizes the wide circumference of relationality, that the she can transcend the limitations of hivishness. This is where she moves into the world of more heightened awareness of individuality, which makes her more individual even as it draws her out of the socially given transcendence of hivish belonging and ethics into a wider world of belonging and responsibility, and a more thorough self-transcendence.

        • Have you read the book, Robert? I think you’re arguing against a misunderstanding of what Haidt is saying and also dealing with issues that go far beyond the points he is trying to make.

          In this series we are simply dealing with this question: how can people learn to get along when they differ in the the way they reason morally? And why do they differ like they do?

          • I’ve not read the book. I have a limited budget for new book purchases, with zero dollars in it, meaning that I haven’t purchased a book in a number of years. Perhaps I could borrow it from the library, but that is not likely in a timely enough manner to comment on this series. I was basing my comments on the excerpts from the book provided in the post; my apologies if they went far afield. In the future I’ll refrain from commenting on excerpts from books I’ve not read in their entirety.

            • Robert, I hope you don’t think I was picking on you. Perhaps I did not make myself clear enough in the post. And I don’t mean to denigrate yours or anyone’s thoughts about the things you are asking or saying. I just want us to stay a bit more focused on the subject at hand.

              • I appreciate that, CM, and understand your reasons perfectly. But there is no way that I can read the books being discussed in their entirety, and if having done so is a prerequisite of full participation in the conversation, then I have to refrain from the part of the dialog here that involves the subject matter of the book. That doesn’t mean I won’t respond to the general observations made by other commenters, as I’ve done below.

                • Thanks Robert. Readers are certainly not required to read the books. I hope I will be clear enough in my postings about them that you can respond to the points I’m trying to emphasize and not feel like you are left out.

  3. Seems clear to me. You claimed use of drugs was diminishing religious visions. I agreed with you.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      But agreed with an attached slam on You Iditots with Your Imaginary Friend in the Sky(TM).

      Like Chuck Smith and Star Wars, can’t pass up any opportunity to slam The Other, even if you have to make the opportunity yourself.

    • I didn’t use the word drugs until just this minute. Addiction, and how it relates to the matter at hand, was the subject of my initial reply to Adam. Now the threads completely off track. Nice work.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    It also means learning to listen, beyond the rhetoric, to the underlying moral foundations and moral vision of others as they promote their way. It means seeing the “enemy’s” point of view, deeply, intuitively, even sympathetically.

    But it’s simpler and easier to just crush and destroy The Enemy.

    And claim Moral Fury by Divine Right (or whatever other Cosmic-level Authority can be cited for justification).

    • Burro [Mule] says

      And far more satisfying.

      I wish there were more people like Finn; basically ascetic, asexual policy wonks. At the least the Catholic Church has the good sense to dress them is special clothes. We would be better off if they were in charge. Bolivia is governed by such a one, and thus has been abel to avoid most of the excesses of Chavez’ “Bolivaran Revolution”

      But that is not how the War Monkey came to be the most successful mammal [with the possible exception of rattus norvegicus] on the planet.

      • We would be better off if they were in charge

        Pfft, no. I like my kids un-molested, thank you.

        • If you had something to say beyond snark and insults, you might have less trouble with moderators. Just sayin’.

          • No, again: I’ve determined from long experience that snark and insults are fine as long as they are theist and conservative snark and insults.

            • So funny. Last week we got accused of just the opposite. Maybe we’re doing something right.

              At any rate, can we just deal with the topic? If not, I’m going to shut down comments today.

  5. Okay so how about this: How are we supposed to feel about all the overlapping tribes we are ‘conscripted’ into? That we weren’t really asked, at least not as ‘consenting adults’, about whether we wanted to join, that upon reflection we don’t really like or agree with, and that also we’re not really free in any way to leave?

    It’s easy enough to leave a family or religious tribe behind–at least in the west; in the moslem world, there are capital-C Consequences–but what about nations? I don’t really like my country. I *didn’t* feel much urge to put a flag sticker on my car after 9/11. And contrary to what everyone’s about to post in response to this, I don’t really have the freedom to ‘just leave’: other countries don’t really step up with offers of citizenship if you happen not to like the one you were born with.

    • Once again, you’re misunderstanding the point of the book and of the series. This is a book about moral psychology — why people do moral reasoning like they do, why people differ in the way they do it, and how that may help explain why it is so hard for us to get along with regard to matters like religion and politics.

      Being part of a “tribe” has a specific focus within this overall theme. You are asking questions that do not pertain to the focus of the book and the series.

      • Okay I think we’re just at a complete communications impasse here because I don’t see why my comment *doesn’t* have to do with the content of the book (which I’ve read, thanks). I don’t know what sort of comment you’re fishing for but maybe it would just save time if you posted it yourself.

        • My point is, Haidt is not talking about “tribes we’re conscripted into” or “tribes in which we feel like we don’t belong.” He’s not talking about “tribes” as nations or other such entities at all. He’s talking about “moral tribes” that we belong to because we think like them; we reason morally the same way they do, and therefore share a “tribal” sense of kinship with them which both binds us to that “tribe” and blinds us to the way other “tribes” reason.

          I’m not “fishing” for a comment. I just would like it if someone would actually respond to the post at hand and not go off on so many rabbit trails.

          • J, in his periodic appearances here at iMonk, strikes me as a semi-anarchist. I think it would be interesting to approach the idea of “moral tribes” with someone who is anti-tribe (of any sort). My guess is that even anarchists collect into a “moral tribe” who’s goal is essentially anti-tribe.

            I think my head just exploded.

            • Yeah, that sounds about right. The formulation, “Well, we have to have governments/churches/laws/ courts/etc. Otherwise it’ll be barbarism” doesn’t really fly with me because it seems like we have those things and plenty of barbarism anyway, just ornamented with all the appropriate wax seals and shiny gold shoulder epaulets.

              Tolstoy supposedly became something of an anarchist after watching a public execution. I admire that.

              • Reading between the lines…

                Your ideology, then, revolves around making sure no one has power, because power is often abused. Fair statement?

                • Certainly I think it would be better if everyone had less coercive power over others than they presently do. And no, I don’t cleave to libertarians, who strike me as being just as blindly worshipful of privately-held power as, say, communists or nationalists are of publicly-held power.

                  • The irony is that to make sure no one had power, someone would have to be in power to enforce it. In essence it becomes more of a statement “I want people in power who have the same anarchist ideology.” There’s where anarchy falls apart: you become that which you fight.

                    • I don’t agree.

                    • Then how does anyone assure that no one has enough power to abuse it? Unless maybe we all become like the Borg…?

                    • Welcome, my son, to the Machine…

                    • Klasie Kraalogies says

                      You are quite right. One must have very rosy, uninformed view of humanity to imagine that a total anarchic society won’t fall into the same trap – some will seize power. Just look at our primate cousins – there are always those that enforce discipline in the group. From Cape Baboons to Chimpanzees to bonobos – although the later often does it by sexual means – withholding from those who won’t cooperate. But passive power is still power.

                    • Right now our tribe’s head human baboon is threatening another militarily powerful tribe’s head human baboon with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”. Oh, that humans had no more power than baboons!

                    • Things are heating up quickly. Our president is not man with either a cool head or wisdom, and he is merely reacting off of the provocations of North Korea, which in turn ratchets up the paranoia of their leader. Pray that calmer voices break this quickly developing cycle of escalation. Pray that nuclear war will be avoided. We are at a fatally pivotal moment with a fool making the command decisions for us. Pray.

                    • Spellcasting doesn’t work.

                    • If the only thing it does is serve as a placebo by calming me and my heart rate down, it works.

    • Well, I don’t know how “helpful” this is, but in my estimation it’s just part and parcel of the whole “being human” package. Yes, we have innate tendencies and personalities, but we are also highly contingent on the familial and social environment we are born into and raised in. The Cartesian ideal of the wholly detached unaffected observing self is an illusion.

      That said, *I* think (others’ opinions here may vary) that , in its ideal form, Christian faith should point towards a transcending from that. We are children of God, not just members of our family/clan/culture/nation – and certainly we should NOT conflate the two. That’s why a lot of us here get really uncomfortable when our fellow American Christians so blithely mix the two together. It’s a natural tendency to want to do so –
      but that path leads to all manner of ugly unpleasantness.

      • And with that, I’m done. Night shift means I have to sleep during the day, and it’s time for my beauty rest.

    • I don’t know. It feels like gods and kings still determine what each us are and get to be to a large extent in life. I don’t know if if I would have ever chosen to be an American if I was given a choice. Or a Christian. One of those is largely still within my control however. It’s extremely difficult to change what you are.

      • >It’s extremely difficult to change what you are.

        You can’t do it without changing who you are…

        • Yeah no this is exactly what I reject. “Your being [XYZ]ish is part and parcel of who you are!”

          No, it isn’t.

          • You don’t agree that there is a lot of givenness in your identity? You don’t think that moral understanding is an essential part of identity? That most or all of your moral positions are formed by accidents of birth and belonging, and that, even where you reject your inherited “tribal” values, you do so in reaction rather than freely (whatever freely might mean in such a context)?

            • If identity is given then how would it even be possible to reject it?

              If rejecting it isn’t a problem then why the extremely negative reaction when one does so? Why are, say, a couple dozen ‘apostates’ currently awaiting the headsman in Saudi Arabia?

              • It can’t be changed. We can no more change our own identity, and the values that we inherit with it, than we can find a lever to move the planet. Don’t mistake reacting against the values we inherit with changing them, or our identity; it’s not. That doesn’t mean that the application of many of our inherited values, or the reaction to them, isn’t incredibly elastic, with narrowness and stridency at one end, and wideness and compromise at the other.

                • I am absolutely sure you are wrong.

                  • Cite your sources!

                    Just kidding.

                    • I refuse to stand for the pledge of allegiance or even to recite the pledge itself. I use a sharpie to cross out “in god we trust” from my money. I do not recognize the constitution as being a particularly good, wise or well-functioning basis for our government. I will not ‘honor the troops’ nor do I accept the formulation that they are ‘protecting our freedom.’

                      Now: You counterpost “You are 100% American.” Full stop.

                      Go on. I want to see if you can do it. If you do, I’ll admit I was wrong in this case.

                    • J, this is another example of what I’ve been saying. This has nothing to do with today’s post. You are talking about whether or not you belong to the “tribe” called America. That has nothing to do with Jonathan Haidt or this book. He’s talking about how you think, how you reason morally, and how you differ in that from others.

                    • You are 100% American.

                      Gee, that was easy. Not that being 100% American is a terribly praiseworthy thing, in my view. I may have just offered you a terrible insult, given my ambivalent-to-negative views of Americanism.

                      See? It’s not so terrible to admit you’re wrong once in a while. Good show, old boy!

                    • Fair enough: You were right on this point and I was wrong.

  6. “… it’s like a big fist breaking down my door,
    I never felt such a love before,
    maybe to those who love it’s given to hear,
    music too high for the human ear…” After the Rain. Bruce Cockburn

    As Keller said in yesterday’s video, there is no empirical ground for proving these things or quantifying the rightness of a moral position in a secular society that doesn’t have an agreed upon text such as the Bible as its foundation. Love is a common denominator. Where love is present, mystical perceptions occur and grow and there ain’t no asplainin’ it. Love will seek the betterment of the other and by loving our consciousness is expanded to see things we would not have otherwise seen. A moral sense is felt as well as rationally perceived. Love is the essential basis of morality. I don’t know which comes first the chicken or the egg. It’s probably a little of both. We learn the rules as children but without love we may not pay attention to those rules. As we experience love we are convinced of the rightness or utility of those rules in the service of that love. We also begin to discard rules that may have been driven into the super ego but have no further use. Love is the continual beacon.

  7. Ronald Avra says

    The task of attempting to view issues from the perspective of the other consumes significant amounts of time and energy; it does not fit well in a day planner. If you are stressed, tired, sick, or hungry you are probably going to have increased difficulty coming to grips with the perspective of the other in an empathetic manner. Likewise, if the other that you are attempting to understand is stressed, tired, sick, or hungry, you are most likely inviting a flood of invective. (preceding list of conditions reads like a warning list from an AA meeting) Understanding is not something accomplished on the fly. Deliberation, patience, and resilience are necessary; it may very much resemble taking up your cross daily.

    • Yes. And since, as Keller says, people are going to want to eventually legislate on these unproveable, mutually incompatible beliefs if theirs, it really, really, really begs the question why we should ‘dialog’ about them.

      Like, what exactly do we do about this chain of events:

      1.) Two respectful, patient people with different perspectives engage in dialog, representing Group A and Group B
      2.) The dialog is scintillating, illuminating, fascinating, delightful
      3.) Then in the next legislative session, Group A passes it’s views fully into law because it’s the majority (or, very often, the gerrymandered or properly geographically-distributed *minority*)

      Doesn’t really require a whole lot of cynicism to make one question what the value of events 1 and 2 was, does it?

      • You mean that we shouldn’t dialog about them, but go straight to fighting about them?

        • Again: if Step 3 is going to be the final event–and Keller says that it is–then it doesn’t really require a whole lot of cynicism to make one question what the value of events 1 and 2 was.

          And as for fighting, well we fight about a lot of things. And I do mean fight: Shoot each other, bomb each other. We shot the British to form the United States. We shot the Confederates to preserve the union (and yeah, free the slaves).

          • How do anarchists approach this? Peacefully?

            • I have no idea.

            • The most powerful anarchist sets up a dictatorship, and appoints himself dictator. Tolstoy did it himself, in his own little world; just see what his wife had to say about how that turned out.

              • Yeah I agree: Celibacy doesn’t work.

                • His servant girls could also attest to that. He made a lot of women miserable by his repeated failed attempts to remain celibate, that’s for sure; they paid the price for the eventual venting of his pent-up lust.

                • But it wasn’t just a matter of his failed attempts at celibacy. He viewed the whole world, his whole world, as nothing more than a place to practice the moral values he saw as the basis for a revolution in human affairs. The result: misery for those in his immediate circle. Nothing mattered more to him than achieving personal moral perfection at any cost, not even the happiness and peace of the people around him. It was a like a miniature, pacifist practice session for, or portent of, the violent society-wide Communist Revolution that followed soon after his death, with similar results. So much for Tolstoyan anarchism.

                  • Except he was self-reflective enough to recognize how his own anarchism was a.) proving impossible and b.) driving him crazy. He tried to free his serfs and they basically refused to be freed, tried to give away his money, tried to stop writing and become a teacher, tried to give up drinking, tried to stop wearing shoes and just become a starets in a monastery. None of it really ‘worked’.

                    But as it happens, he *did* accurately nail the order of his day on its’ cruelty, greed, venality(viz. “Divine and Human”). Hell, he had the Global War on Terrorism’s number about 100 years early (“Hadji Murat”, “The Cossacks”).

      • Burro [Mule] says

        Bending the knee has always been, and always will be, a useful survival tool in the evolutionary toolkit.

        #1 and #2 are useful in that Group B is allowed to pass on their genes.

        • “We have given them our oath by the Lord, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them.” They continued, “Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers in the service of the whole assembly.” So the leaders’ promise to them was kept….You are now under a curse: You will never be released from service as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.”

      • One questions the value only if one thinks the short-term “loss” in point 3 is the end of the story. How about an alternative scenario that we’ve seen played out in the past seven or eight years:

        1. Two opposing sides refuse to talk to each other and one side unilaterally passes a huge healthcare bill, the Affordable Care Act.
        2. The “losing” side seethes for seven years, refuses to engage in serious discussion, works at every level it can to sabotage the ACA as it exists, promises and attempts to overthrow it at every turn.
        3. The losing side becomes the majority and finally tries to repeal and replace the ACA, but finds that within its own ranks it has different “tribes” who can’t agree and who can’t talk to each other.
        4. The new majority can’t get anything done and ends up looking utterly foolish.
        5. The country they claim to represent is left hanging in the balance wondering what’s going to happen to help them access affordable health care in the future.

        I’ll take your scenario as more hopeful for long term benefit for everyone any day.

      • He answered that very question toward the end of the video. What keeps the majority from dominating the minority? Essentially he said it was the continuing innate sense of human rights which propelled the dialogue from the start. Respect for rights and, I may add, the knowledge that the tables can turn.

  8. Ronald Avra says

    I did finally watch the video last evening; it was well work the invested time.

  9. Loved this paragraph, CM:

    –> “Learning to get along, then, is a rather monumental task. It involves recognizing our own individualistic and groupish tendencies to fight instinctively for our values and our team and to dismiss those from other teams. It also means learning to listen, beyond the rhetoric, to the underlying moral foundations and moral vision of others as they promote their way. It means seeing the ‘enemy’s’ point of view, deeply, intuitively, even sympathetically.”

    That’s packed with excellent points, with the potential for digging deeper and seeing if we can help the world around us become better, live together better. I think it also touches upon a topic a few of us discussed last week, the difference between tribe (which, most of us thought, was okay) and tribalism (which, most of us thought, wasn’t good). I think viewing ourselves as part of a tribe (a part of MANY tribes, actually) but avoiding “tribalism” allows us to do what you say, CM: to listen beyond the rhetoric and see the enemy point of view. If EVERYONE did this – which is what I believe Jesus calls us to do – then the world would indeed be a better place.

  10. Burro [Mule] says

    Points made on Haidt and Keller’s video that I took away with me:

    1) We re deceiving ourselves if we believe we have,as a species, ample experience in constructing just, diverse societies.
    2) Morality is not a social construct, but it is an ongoing social project
    3) Log-removal is a harder project than even the best of us imagines it to be.
    4) How civil “Jon” and Tim were to each other.
    5) The idea that, even though centrifugal forces in 1968 were so much more powerful than they are now, our peril of societal decomposition is actually higher now than in 1968 because centripetal forces are also much weaker now than they were in 1968.

    • –> “3) Log-removal is a harder project than even the best of us imagines it to be.”

      There it is. To me, if there’s one “sub-message” to the whole Good News of the Gospel, that’s it.

      And no one, from the left-wing liberal to the fascist right-winger to even the anarchist J’s among us, does log-removal very well at all.

    • Re, 5: So how about we go our separate ways? Re-institute the Articles of Confederation, break up the “United” states. Seriously.

      I think in the end the Roman Empire didn’t really fall because it was invaded by barbarians or became too unequal or exhausted their cropland or that it’s bureaucracy was too corrupt or because weirdo religious questions distracted them. All of that happened and it didn’t help matters at all but it wasn’t the real reason: I think Rome fell because Romans had become sick of it.

      • Christiane says

        “So how about we go our separate ways? Re-institute the Articles of Confederation, break up the “United” states. Seriously.”

        well, maybe for the ‘Russia is our friend’ people, I suppose, but the truth is that our American DNA was forged by people leaving places like Russia.

        No, we are not a banana republic yet. Our democratic systems of checks and balances are working and holding. And we know who wants to see our country implode, and why. It may be coming that a certain ‘base’ will not ‘like it’ when people are found to be law-breakers and called to account, if that happens, but I don’t think that ‘base’ has the integrity to attempt to pull the whole country down, no. We are a nation of laws. And in that we are very strong indeed.

        And there IS the phenomenon that when those who serve our system are attacked, we all pull together, as when the Republican representatives were wounded at the baseball practice, the whole country was unified in support of them and, for a while, ‘American’ became who we were AGAIN, as I think will always happen when we are attacked,
        either from the outside, as in 9/11;
        or from the inside, as on that baseball field . . . . .

        my bet is that the folks who want our nation divided up are from stock that never served their country in battle, or suffered the loss of a family member in the military, or even visited in a place like Arlington National Cemetery.

        The old sayings still ring true: ‘out of many, one’ (E pluribus unum)

        I look at my son, whose father’s family had a soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War, whose mother’s family fought in the Civil War AND who has an ancestor who came to this country aboard the Furtherance in the 1600’s and whose grandfather came here from Canada speaking no English;
        I look at him in his military uniform and I see all those forebears looking back at me and I know as long as my son lives, our nation will have a friend in him whose DNA was forged by trial and by fire. He is one of this nation’s guardians and the guardians outnumber the ‘Russia is our friend’ people and will for a very long time.

        • No, I’m sorry but I don’t respond to military-service-shaming. I get to have an opinion same as anyone.

          And Russia is not our friend.

  11. senecagriggs says

    Musings on Moral Theology (4)
    We evolved to live in groups. —

    As I mentioned before , I’m a tribalist; I suspect you are too.

    TRIBES to which I SUBSCRIBE:

    Conservative Evangelicals
    The Lakers
    UCLA Basketball
    Southern based middle-class
    Worker bees
    Humor afficianados
    Taco Bell-ites
    political conservatives [ not to be confused with the Republican Party }

    I’m sure there’s more but that’s a start

    • I see your different tribes share you. How do they decide who gets you on which days and for how long?

      Oh, that’s right: they don’t decide; you do. How decidedly un-tribal of them, and you.

    • Yes. And to the point of the difference between belonging to a tribe (which, in my opinion, is okay) and tribalism (which, in my opinion, is NOT okay)…

      Do you view people who are NOT Laker fans as less human because they don’t root for the Lakers? Do you view Taco Time-ists as inferior? If so, you’ve drifted into tribalism.

      • Of course, when we use the word tribe in this way, it’s only in the loosest sense. We might just as easily, and perhaps more accurately, have talked about associations of like-minded people, or associations of people with similar interests. In no sense has this anything to do with an actual tribe, which is utterly different from a voluntary association of any kind.

        • I would disagree. A tribe is a tribe, whether voluntary (Mariners, anyone?) or not (any Caucasians here?). Human nature tends to cause us to drift into tribalism whether our tribe was voluntarily entered or not. I know a few Husky folks (UW) who truly do think Cougars (WSU) are inferior. And I’m sure the reverse is true, too.

          • Let’s disagree, then.

          • I see that according to Merriam-Webster, you are correct. I had always been of the opinion that the word tribe had a more restricted social definition; I see now that tribe may describe anything from the most loosely affiliated voluntary association, to one of blood-and-soil. I stand corrected.

            • No problemo. I wasn’t trying to “win,” just providing my viewpoint which happened to be different than yours…LOL…

    • senecagriggs says

      It’s been stressful to be a Laker’s tribalist for the last few years. There’s no healing on the horizon and we of the Laker’s tribe have had to put up with the constant yahooing of the genetically inferior Golden State Warriors fans.