Posted by: Ali Davis | August 23, 2009

The Puzzle of Making Softness Seem Bad-Ass

I took a weekend of qi gong classes a few months ago.

We learned a tiny bit about the philosophy of yin and yang. One of the things that stuck with me was that, while yang is the aggressive, striking-out force, the instructor said that yin is stronger in the long run.

Yin is the trickle of water that, over years and years, wears away the rock.

I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve finally gotten a copy of The Family and it’s scaring the hell out of me.

The Family is a group of — well, not “Christians” according to their own terminology, but followers of Christ. An odd Christ, different than the one I’d heard about.

Their Jesus is all about consolidating power. Indeed, he’s all about favoring the powerful. The meek may inherit the earth, but only after the powerful have sucked it dry and are finished with it.

I’m a huge fan of freedom of religion, both as an anthropology nerd and a freedom nerd, but The Family is testing that for me. Their ultimate goal is not a democracy. It’s a kingdom, and a theocratic one at that.

They are actively working to place members and gain influence in high levels of government all over the world. In fact, author Jeff Sharlet points out that they may be violating the Logan Act, not that anyone bothers to enforce it.

Other, more traditionally Christian Evangelical groups have projects that frighten me too: Getting evolution out of the science  curriculum in schools. Getting The Gays the hell back in the closet to better pretend they don’t exist. Restricting access to birth control for women. Not even “just” abortions, mind you – the pill too. Even for adults. Even for married adults. (Why isn’t that frightening to more people? And why is the fact that they’re after the pill but not condoms even more frightening?)

And a huge chunk of the politicized Evangelicals – and there are surprising numbers of them – see changing our country’s laws to fit their narrow interpretation of the Bible (or, really, the second half of it) as not only an appropriate goal, but an urgent one. Even though our Deist founding fathers really hoped we wouldn’t do that.

What scares me the most is I don’t know how to defend against that kind of fervor.

What I want to do, deeply enough to creep myself out, is to start my own multi-armed secret society dedicated to fighting them, to spreading reason, education, fair secular laws, and true religious and cultural tolerance.

We can boost the appeal by setting up enough secrecy,  passwords, symbolism, and grades of initiation to make people feel special and in the know.

What we can’t do is replicate the fervor.

The people in The Family believe they are warriors of God. They have adrenaline. They have marching orders – what the marketing people I used to work with referred to as a “call to action”.

And they have the kind of hard, black-and-white certainty that makes rushing ahead and fighting so much easier: We have a perfect understanding of the mind of God. This is what Jesus would definitely do. GO!

They have yang.

Other philosophies, other religions, and other brands of Christianity that respect other points of view as valid paths or tend not to do as much charging around. Or international manipulating.

How do you get people as fired up about uncertainty?

No one will be able to tell which religion – if any – is correct until after death, so let’s fight to give the other guys some breathing room!

This is a WAR to make sure that everyone can worship quietly and privately! Or not!

I am a SOLDIER of cultural relativism!

But there has to be a way, because we need the recruits.

And also a graphic designer to make some really cool symbols.



  1. You should know about this guy: Josh McDowell; his website is here:

    In Christian evangelical circles McDowell is hugely influential — on a level with James Dobson — and is a key element for the fundamentalist fervor adopted by so many traditional/fundamentalist/evangelical Christians in their fight against the culture’s negative creep into their religious values. He is seen as the godfather, if you will, of the current crop of adult youth pastors in America.

    In particular, read his speech on tolerance:

    He’s written a book on tolerance, or I should say against tolerance:

    If you don’t know the biblical story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho, you should read it. Why? Because you’re a kind of female Joshua. NIV version:

    Explained on wiki

    Wonderful piece.

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