Saturday, May 3, 2014

the landmines of sincerity

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore
Based on the video clip a friend sent along in email yesterday, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore appears to be a clean, well-dressed, articulate and sincere man. In the clip, Moore is speaking at the recent Pastor for Life Luncheon, sponsored by Pro-Life Mississippi.

My friend sent the clip along, I suspect, because of the apparent disconnect between Moore's judicial position and his suggestion that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution only applies to Christians because, "Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures" who created us.

The First Amendment prohibits the government from making any law abridging the establishment of religion, impeding the exercise of religion, free speech, freedom of the press, etc.

Liberals may wring their hands in delighted dismay at Moore's remarks. I suspect, but don't know, that he might be up for re-election, but even if he isn't, still it wasn't the predictable liberal railing and wailing that interested me in Moore's delivery.

Here was a man, if I got it correctly, who attended West Point, went to and was graduated from law school and now was chief justice in Alabama. He was well-dressed and well-coiffed like a lot of other public figures. And like a lot of other public figures he was -- what caught my attention -- sincere ... or anyway sincere-ish. If I had to guess, I'd say his outlook was everything the parsimonious foundations of the Republican Party could want.

But leaving all that aside, it was his sincerity that caught my mental eye. Moore, like the audience that can be heard issuing an occasional "amen!" on the video, was committed to and invested in the arguments he was making. He was sincere. He believed what he was saying or at least was doing his damnedest to convince a largely-convinced audience that he did ... and they should too.


In the spiritual effort I 'grew up' in -- Zen Buddhism -- you could hear the occasional encouragement to be whole-hearted and sincere. Don't shilly-shally and dabble and wander through the convenient intellectual and emotional waters. Go for broke! Go for the gold! Throw yourself into it! Nothing half-assed! Quit fucking around! Stop being a sissy! Enlightenment or bust!

You know the drill ... be sincere. And, if others are anything like what I have been, the word "sincere" was a ribbon to pin on your breast with the other Boy Scout badges of spiritual accumulation ... I'm serious about this, I'm not kidding about spiritual endeavor, I am ... wait for it! ... oh, so ... sincere!

But there are problems with sincerity.

First of all, sincerity is not a blanket excuse for being stupid ... for suggesting implicitly or explicitly that as long as I'm sincere, I am free to spread as much bullshit (heavenly or otherwise) as I like. The next time anyone uses the word "God" or "compassion" or "enlightenment" or "emptiness," check it out.

Second, there is something half-baked and self-serving about imagining that my own sincerity is based on what others agree is a sincere effort. True, the agreement of others may encourage my sincere effort, but that's not the same as saying their agreement forms the basis or definition of my sincerity.

And third, perhaps, sincerity of effort or application seems to reside in a realm where no one else can either know or care. In order to make a sincere effort, the effort must be completely mine -- a warts-and-all affair, unblemished by the fingerprints of 'authenticity.'

"Warts-and-all" means that even though the effort reeks of insincerity, I will do it anyway ... and pray like a bandit that this time I will keep an eye skinned for the sirens of "sincerity."



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