Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Conversion

Written by: on April 8, 2019

The title of Haidt’s book,  The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion gave me pause due to the current polarization of politics and religion in America today. Politics and religion is an area in which in recent years I have strayed away from entertaining for my sanity. Politics often shows the ugliest side of the human character in the United States and unwilling to admit but, it exposes hidden character flaws in the Christian brothers and sisters called to walk alongside us in this journey.

Every election a deliberation occurs to what is the acceptable allowance of negative and abusive verbiage, policies and who holds the most religious values from my fellow Christians in conversation and social media. In my mindset, politics in the United States is neither religious, spiritual or moralistic; it is about power and wealth.

I digress; let us get to the content of the book even though after reading the first two pages of Chapter One of Haidt’s book, a mental Rolodex scan of the book “How to Talk About a Book You Haven’t Read”, quickly occurred to see if I could avoid subjecting myself to this type of rhetoric. I understand that in higher education and especially in global studies we have to be knowledgeable of all aspects of religion, schools of thought, and politics; however, do we have been plunged into it?

Well, guess we should not “throw out the baby with the bathwater.”[1]

Haidt identifies six innate moral foundations from his moral theory. The six are care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. It stated that this theory could be used to explain cross-cultural and political differences. According to Haidt, “liberals tend to endorse primarily the care and equality foundations, whereas conservatives tend to endorse all six foundations more equally.”[2] In response, I decided to take Haidt and his collaborator’s moral foundation test at YourMorals.org to determine if I am genuinely a conservative according to his research. The results came back, and at the tender age of 42, I am now considered liberal yet I still hold conservative moral foundations.

There is a quote which states, “If you are not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain”.[3] If this is the case, I am doing things completely backward.

What would make this once conservative now a liberal in Haidt study? Could my moral foundation have shifted from the innate to an adaptive moral judgment construct? Adaptive in a sense that as the world changes the moral construct of that foundation is shaken and experienced life-altering situations that call for adaption to occur.

Moral judgment may differ among cultures; what is right in one culture could be wrong in another. Anthropologist Richard Schweder developed a set of theories emphasizing the cultural variability of moral judgments but argued that different cultural forms of morality drew on “three distinct but coherent clusters of moral concerns,” which he labeled as the ethics of autonomy, community, and divinity.[4]

For instance, I chose not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. I am aware it may be offensive to some. However, I adopted this stance in my early teenage years knowing that the freedom that my father and countless family members fought in the military for was not forthem. They return home to a place that did not treat them equally. Instead of being honored for their sacrifice, they were still treated as a second class citizen and at times less than human. They were always derogatory names in uniforms with stripes and patches. Some may say that times have changed, but has it? Just turn on the local news or entertain an election debate and it will be clear things are still racial, volatile, and we are looking for a glimpse of light amongst the darkness. Forgive me if I offend you for supporting the fact that there is not “liberty and justice for all” and that we are not a nation “under God,” we have forgotten Him.

Though Haidt’s test places me as liberal, I still hold conservative values as well. After further research, I discovered my moral foundation politically equated to the following:

  • Care: cherishing and protecting others is essential; opposite of harm
    • Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating, integrity it vital
    • Loyalty: standing with your group and family; opposite of betrayal
    • Authority or respect: respect authority but not complete submission in tradition sense; opposite of subversion
    • Sanctity or purity: avoidance for disgusting things, food, and action if against my religious beliefs; opposite of degradation

I vote because it is not only a privilege but, my civic duty. My voting principles are not based upon my individual preference, but on the effect, the selected candidate will have on the people in the sector in which they operate. I am not convinced nor moved by the speeches in a presidential race because it is only eloquent rehearsed rhetoric to entice the senses of the voters.  Besides my popularity vote holds no weight to the actual electoral vote which puts the candidate in office. I am Christian which means I I believe in a Savior, not politics to help me to utilize the gifts He has given me to be a vessel of His hope, love, redemption, and freedom to people in a confused and dying world.

Maybe just maybe my conversion was not due to a moral response, but a heart check.


[1] Wolfgang Mieder and Wayland D. Hand. “”(Don’t) Throw The Baby out with the Bath Water”: The Americanization of a German Proverb and Proverbial Expression.” Western Folklore 50, no. 4 (1991): 361-400. doi:10.2307/1499674.

[2] Jesse Graham, Jonathan Haidt, and Brian A. Nosek, “Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations.,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96, no. 5 (undefined): 1029-46, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0015141.

[3] Winston Churchill, “Quotes Falsely Attributed to Winston Churchill,” accessed April 4, 2019, https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/quotes/quotes-falsely-attributed/.

[4] Richard A. Shweder and Jonathan Haidt, “The Future of Moral Psychology: Truth, Intuition, and the Pluralist Way,” Psychological Science 4, no. 6 (December): 360-65, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.1993.tb00582.x.


About the Author

Shermika Harvey

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