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The lunatic fringe

It might be good to be familiar with this expression, because with the profusion of hot-button and wedge issues these days, we have to be more aware of groups that go ballistic and resort to all sorts of childish if not wild and violent antics, instead of engaging in serious discussion of the issues.

 The dictionary defines lunatic fringe as “political extremists, around the outer edges of any mainstream movement; the fanatical, extremist or irrational members of a society or group.” In the religious context, it can refer to fundamentalists who are prone to be rigid in their views and not averse to use violence to advance their cause.

 They usually engage in all types of juvenile misbehavior—taunting, name-calling, using gutter language, refusing to engage in sober debate and exchange of opinions, being driven more by personal preferences and biases, if not by unyielding ideological positions, not knowing how to disagree in an agreeable manner, etc.

 They are fond of slogans and other simplistic rhetorical means instead of nuanced, well-thought-out reasoning. Usually flaming in rage, they get more incensed when their fire is responded with fire. They tend to stereotype and brand people, to be quick to judge and to express it without much consideration to the sensitivities of others.

 Their understanding of rights and freedom is peculiar, one that is based more on human consensus than on metaphysical and much less on theological considerations. Their concept is more human generated than God-given rights, freedom and duties.

 Same with their idea of Church-state relations, or as they would prefer, Church-state separation, which is understood as total, absolute separation, with practically no point of convergence. 

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 For the government to give some assistance to the Church or any church and religion is automatically interpreted as a violation. The Church people now appear not anymore as citizens of the state. For the government to have anything to do with them is immediately viewed as suspect.

 Their idea of ethics and morality wallows in the waters of a gripping relativism, where absolute truths are systematically rejected and demonized. What is absolute to  them are the human laws as they understand them, and some more or less common or general social and cultural customs and practices, that in essence usually change with time.

 They give not only immediate but also ultimate adherence to our human legal, juridical and ideological systems, or to the fuzzy workings of politics. They seem to ignore that any human and earthly power and authority comes from and is always a sharing of divine power. They seem unable to make the connection.

 Obviously, dealing with these people requires more than just following certain rules set by human laws. It has to be guided by a higher law that is more abiding and more operative. I don’t think it can just be a matter of culture, though for sure culture plays a big part in it.

 For certain, it would help if people are taught good manners from childhood in their respective homes and schools. But now we can have a number of evidence pointing to the dysfunctionality of this ideal. Many families may have houses but not homes. And schools give a lot of information but not formation.

 This is truly unfortunate. Still, there is always hope. Let’s pray that the unfolding ugly drama of the “Pajero bishops” can alert families and schools of their responsibility in this area.

 What is needed here, over and above all our humane efforts, is a true conversion of heart. And this requires nothing less than a strong foundation of human virtues , and a vibrant spiritual life that feels at home both in the things of the world and the things of God. Absent this and we in for a rough ride in life.

 We should remind ourselves that our political life cannot be separated from our spiritual life and our need for religion, if it has to have its proper bearings and orientation. And this is specially so when it impacts on its relation to Church and religion which is unavoidable.

 How do you expect the state and politics in general to behave toward the Church if there is already an ingrained rejection of religion in state affairs, or when political leaders believe their power ultimately comes from the people, and not from God?

The big challenge we have in this area is how to inculcate in everyone of us, and especially in our political leaders, the crucial role of religion in politics, and therefore, of the due responsibility of religious leaders over politics and political leaders and, in fact, over everyone.

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