December 27, 2007

Institutional evil

I remember someone positing that anytime an institution started spending energy defending its territory (as opposed to doing what it formed to do) it started to move towards malevolence. At the time, we were thinking about the Catholic church becoming so defensive of Church history or Church secrets that it spent so much time with lawyers and politicians rather than feeding the poor. But it could apply to any institution.

But recently, I have started thinking of something similar. What if an institution starts to act counter to its beliefs even as its rhetoric suggests a rededication to those beliefs? And this is not really aimed at Bush, though there are aspects. Does Bush really believe that the warrant-less wiretaps and signing statements make us more free? Or does he just say that?

But I am thinking of this more from a slow decline and almost a subconscious--the ability for humans to delude themselves. On a personal level, I am reminded of that every time SOF and I talk through an issue. We often find that the topic that sparks the discussion rarely is the root issue, and it takes some self-honesty to get to that truth.

This is perhaps why the conservative church vexes me so. Not to pick on them, but I fear that the last 7 years has revealed a certain disconnect between what they say they believe and their actions. I have suggested for a time that Bush doesn't actually reflect conservative Christian values. But with the language of the Church, he essentially won their endorsement for a whole host of policies that are completely counter to their beliefs. Torture, wiretapping, secrecy, etc. But the real danger appears that the conservative church still doesn't actually see this fraud. Making the church complicit in torture is kind of like Amnesty International turning over suspects to be tortured while speaking about human rights. Or Greenpeace funding their operations by hunting whales, but the rank and file continuing to support the organization.

It is a warning to all of us, of course. We are all more than capable of self-delusion.

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