A Nonfiction Book by O.G. Rose
Belonging Again (Part 6)
Identity Requires Allowances and Restrictions, but Restrictions Risk Injustice
To return to the main point of the last section — as hopefully the example of Christianity and LGBT marriage helped make clear — the doctrine of tolerance can be a threat to communal authority, for as the State demands tolerance of LGBT marriage, for example, Christian communities fragment and inflate, the validity of the Bible is questioned and undermined, and the State is increasingly viewed as a source of justice while small communities are viewed with skepticism as potential sources of bigotry, racism, and so on. ‘The idea of toleration, in the modern sense, [(unintentionally)] calls into question the validity and even the ethical appropriateness of attaching oneself too strongly to the kinds of loyalties and the kinds of transcendent convictions that are the very soul of the association.’¹
As nations are defined by borders, so communities are greatly defined by what they do and don’t do, whether it be the celebration of a certain festival or a prohibition against gluten. Conyers wrote:
‘Communities are bodies of people who live in some kind of dynamic relationship with one another because they pursue common goals and thus hold common values. In order to do that, they also exercise some discipline upon members of the group. Cities have regulations and laws. Clubs may require attendance and a certain level of participation. Labor unions may require loyalty, dues, and a level of competence in a field of work.’²
‘The more [a community] exists on the basis of a telos or purpose that transcends in significance the practical purposes of the [S]tate (or the ideological vision of the state), it becomes thereby an indigestible, alien, and resistant object.’³ Again, perhaps Christian communities against LGBT marriage should be “indigestible” — the point here is only to argue that as the authority, inevitably, and necessity of other social associations are ‘diminished in people’s consciousness, then the [S]tate proves to be the benefactor’ (for good or for bad).⁴
In a world where everything or nothing was permitted everywhere all the time, there wouldn’t be practically meaningful differences between groups. This isn’t to say there wouldn’t be distinctions (say in location, average height, etc.), but it is to say that those differences wouldn’t signify practical distinctions between peoples. Perhaps this “one world” would be a better place? Perhaps so — for now I only want to focus on how, for good or for bad, a world without borders (thanks to toleration) is a world without definitions. Arguably, such a world is also more inclusive. Definition can be traded for inclusion, but without definition, what standard would be present relative to which people would want inclusive? Justice? Unconditional acceptance? Good things, no doubt.
If the State holds authority over what communities can and cannot permit and exclude, then the State holds authority over the very ways communities define themselves, and especially when it exercises this authority (in the name of justice, inclusion, etc.), the State will gradually come to be seen as what controls communities (over the communal leaders). ‘Ever since Solomon attempted to reorganize Israel along administrative districts, cutting across the boundaries of tribal lands, it has been recognized that the organized [S]tate wishes to diminish the role of natural social bodies [(often for the best of reasons)].’⁵ But if to end slavery, racism, bigotry, and/or injustice, isn’t this a wonderful trade? Perhaps so, but it is indeed a trade, one that seems to make “the banality of evil” less likely (but perhaps also worse if it were to occur). And do keep in mind that it is doubtful the State usually if ever expands itself “over” communities for anything but “good reasons.”
‘Each association or group has about it its own goals and its own internal discipline[s], each linking by degrees and in its own way the individual with the whole world, including the [S]tate.’⁶ When the State has power over which goals and “internal disciplines” communities and associations are allowed to practice, the State has ultimate control (indirectly) over the ways people “link” with, are “toward,” and identify with, the world, social arrangements, and the State. Consequently and gradually, ‘[l]oyalties of individuals once distributed to a variety of informal and largely organic associations, are later absorbed into the reified [S]tate.’⁷ The State thus gains more authority while the authority of communities weakens, possibly antagonizing those communities and tempting them into a defensive posture, which could make the communities seem like they should lose their authority and possibly more (perhaps causing a vicious cycle). Gradually, the State will become the main focus of the citizenship, and the people will likely attempt to make the State the foundation of a “new community.” Can the State bear the weight? Perhaps.
‘That which makes a group into a strong community is its adherence to a commitment potent enough to hold the members together,’ but as the State increases its size and power to assure that tolerance spreads (and as tolerance justifies State growth, creating a feedback loop), for good or for bad, the potency of communal commitments necessarily diminishes (except perhaps, that is, commitments somehow involving the State).⁸ Yes, this diminishes the capacity of communities to discriminate, but it also diminishes the ability of communities to give us a sense of “belonging again.” For better or for worse, justice can contribute to rootlessness, and yet those who fight for justice can be those who long most for community and a place to belong.
Does this mean we shouldn’t have a State at all? No, but it is to stay the doctrine of tolerance does not help the State maintain a role of being an umpire, but instead pushes it in the direction of becoming a king. Perhaps a benevolent king? One can hope.
¹Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 224.
²Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 43.
³Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 223.
⁴Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 190.
⁵Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 119.
⁶Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 223.
⁷Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 191.
⁸Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 44.