Strange Gods: The Idol of Ideas (Chap. 3)

NOTE: See my earlier posts in this series here and here.

Over the course of my life I have defined myself–sometimes with regretable pride and narrow-minded passion–as a New Yorker, an Irish woman, a liberal, a feminist, a Democrat, A Catholic, a mother, a student, a healer, a Yankee fan, a manager, a Christian, a post-feminist–the list goes on and on. (39)

Well, this Orioles fan was waiting for Elizabeth Scalia to put post-Yankees fan at some point on that list. Maybe it is in a later chapter because if there ever was a false idol…it is the Yankees.

Okay, back on task. Today, I want to share my thoughts related to chapter 3 (yeah, I am skipping a journal

entry about Chapter 2) of Elizabeth Scalia’s Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life. I should note that I think my reflections on this chapters may not do the chapter justice, but these are the thoughts that came to me after having read it.

Scalia writes that one “thing that can hinder growth is our willingness to attach labels to ourselves and adopt identifications, particularly with groups, to whose ideas we’ve become attached. In doing so, we cease to ponder, cease to wonder, cease to think.” Slam! (39)

Now, I love labels! Just this week, I have pondered about whether Mormons could be labeled Protestants and I wrote briefly about my bumper sticker which labels me as an LDS Democrat. Yet, while I find labels to be useful, we should not allow ourselves to be defined by those labels. They should be descriptives of our positions and beliefs…not prescriptive to us as to how we believe.

In other words, it defies reason to hold a position or belief merely on the basis that such a belief is the belief that Mormons, liberals, Rawlsians, Americans, socialists, conservatives, Catholics, Utah Utes fans, hold or are supposed to hold.

I some sense, as a liberal Mormon I relish the clash of my identities or labels. Now, my soul is not in tension with these identities, they are who I am, the paradox has more to do with the assumptions that others might make about these labels.

On my campaign for Congress, it was often assumed that I opposed gay marriage because I was Mormon. As a social scientist, I would say that such an assumption would not be an outrageous one to make. However, I support gay marriage. Why? Well, the long answer is for a separate post of series of posts. The short answer, is that I decided based on my own experience and ethical perspective. I did not approach the issue and say, “I am a Mormon, what am I supposed to think about gay marriage?” Now, surely my experience as a Mormon has influences how I have experienced that debate, but the process of reflection has led me to a position that is mine. Of course, we never make decisions or comes to beliefs or positions in isolation.

If we are going to use labels, as I do, we then must regularly define them for others as we engage in dialogue. If not, the labels will do the speaking…and I do not think any of us want that to be the case.

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Chris Henrichsen has moved Approaching Justice off of Patheos. Find his latest posts and the new Approaching Justice. Thanks!


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