Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Taking One for the Team

A few years ago, a workplace friend of mine was engaged to get married. Her parents' best friend was United Church clergy, so she and her fiance had decided that they would ask her to do the ceremony, but they'd hold it at the the fiance's Lutheran Church, to be fair. So everybody was happy.

Until the next day. Said fiance returned and told my friend, Sorry. No can do. He'd checked with his Lutheran church and got a big thumbs down for the whole idea. "We don't believe in women clergy," was his explanation.

Um, "we" don't believe in women clergy? A mere twenty-four hours earlier, "we" believed in it just fine! Obviously, he didn't believe women couldn't be clergy, or it would have figured more prominently in his mind when he and my friend were deciding on their wedding the day before.

Setting aside issues of abuse of language, especially the lobotomies done on words like believe, let's focus on the motivation.

I think, in short, it's safe to say that my friend's fiance didn't believe in anything in this situation. He was just taking one for the team. Taking one for the team is a kind of religious "us-guys" loyalty that makes people put the group's thoughts ahead of their own, no matter how much dissonance this causes.

This is the only way I can explain to myself the strange loyalties of people to their religions' most extreme and least defendable parts. I think of it when I hear Muslim feminists explaining why their wear a veil (or a burka!). Or when Catholics describe the roundabout, metaphorical, diagonal-sideways way that gee whiz papal infalliability makes sense. Or when fundamentalist Mormon women appear on TV extolling the virtues and benefits of their cattle-call "marriages" to one old man and how really it's wonderful for them.

I'm sure you can think of examples of Quakers straining to defend outdated or extreme ideas without my assistance.

They're all trying really, really hard.

Human beings are masters of rationalization when it comes to home teams. We find justifications for unpleasantness or just plain wrongness if it means we have to scrape the bottom of the barrel of our brains. Sometimes we do it unconsciously, out of an unspoken desire to pretend that it all still works for us.

Are we afraid it will all unravel if we admit that this or that about our religion is wrong?

Are we afraid of group censure? Being sicc'ed with a committee of care?

Sure, some people have to do it in order to survive. Women especially often don't have choices about their religion, so they have to make do. Nobody wants to believe that the extreme efforts they have made in a religion for 20 or 30 years have been pointless.

Some people, when they can't put up with their own rationalizations anymore, say so and then just leave. The people around them call it "losing the faith" and rally more strongly to the defence of their doctrines and customs.

In baseball logic, taking one for the team means the team is stronger because individuals are willing to set their own needs aside. In political logic, taking one for the team means the party can more easily defeat the opposition, even if these are not issues that individual party members approve of. For both, it's about consolidating power.

In religion, what's the logic of taking one for the team?


At 6:00 PM, Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

-- Could it be the logic of the cross?


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